May in Review

The salty air caught me off guard. Had I been away so long from my ocean that I had forgotten? It’d been over a month since I trod on these sands.

I breathed in the the sweet ocean scent as much as I could. While the cool breeze kept me from sweating, the sun’s warmth comforted my aching soul. This month’s focus was letting go of anxiety, which has proved to be quite the task. I needed a time out from my worries, and the Atlantic coast was my drug of choice.

I skimmed through an old magazine, pausing every few pages to take in the scenery around me and to let my mind wander over the small breaking waves.

I tried to absorb as much sun as I could. It was as if I was solar powered, with my lights dimming from the lack of beach in my life. For a few moments, I was content. My worries were on the mainland while I was on the island.

I wish I could have bottled up that moment to relive it every so often.
Burdened with an anxiety disorder and selling a house with my husband, who is ill equipped to do so in my eyes, letting go of anxiety was difficult.

Long story short, we sold the house. My worrying did nothing to help this along, surprisingly enough. Our new house has 2 issues: a bum window and some flooring that is warping at the seams. I’m doing my best not to freak out. And then my parents, high strung perfectionists from the Midwest, have made our house a stop on their east coast road trip a few weeks after we move. What could possibly go wrong?

My rescue passage, Psalm 130, is written in German next to my computer at work. I’m slowly memorizing it. I whisper it to myself during the day. Some days, that was the only thing keeping me together. My feverent prayers for a buyer were replaced with a groaning spirit of prayer. I didn’t know what or how to pray for my situation. The Holy Spirit knew. My walks turned into a jumble of prayers and thoughts that went off on tangents. My prayer life reflects the current state of my old house: stuff everywhere, staged for packing, with no real order. And my bathrooms are disgusting. I’m not cleaning until the terminal clean for the new owners. I don’t have the time. Nor the patience. With my routine and way of life interrupted, rest has been scant.

I also started a part time job on top of it all. Because, yeah. Money.

My awesome non-medicated brain can not let go of the anxiety. Even the counselor said I can only contain it: I have tools to stuff it back into its box so its tentacles don’t invade other areas of life and rob me of the joy of living. Psalm 130 is one of them. I did my very best to beat the monster of anxiety into submission this past month – sometimes I was successful, other times I was not.

I leaned hard on the Lord this month, sobbing incoherently into His robes. I am ready to move on from this season of life.

Pennies

One of the ways the Lord reminds me of His presence is to give me pennies. I was frightened at how much money was going to be lost on the first house we sold many years ago; in front of a cheaper competition house, I found a penny: in God we trust. Our house sold soon thereafter, and while we did lose money, it all worked out in the end.

I find them just about everywhere, and recently it seemed as though I was in a drought. It had been quite some time since the Lord gave me a penny.

And then, we bought this house.

Once the deed was recorded, my husband and I arrived at our new home that same afternoon. We found 2 pennies before we even walked through the front door. One was my birthyear, the other was a year that was one of the worst of my life. The first few times we went to the house, we’d find another penny. My husband found one on the driveway – my birthyear again – as he went back to the car to get things. He swore it wasn’t there before.

We found one in the dirt in the backyard. More on the porch. I’ve lost track of how many we found and where. Just when I thought we’d found them all, as I was painting the moulding in the kitchen a second time, I found one jammed underneath the moulding. I had to wedge it out with a screwdriver. I’m pretty sure I would have seen it the first time I painted. It was the year I gave my life to Christ – I thought my heart was going to burst.

Despite the fact that I was not 100 percent on the purchase of this property and my anxiety peaking about it at every step, I am so encouraged that this is and will continue to be a blessing from the Lord. How will the Lord use this house to further His kingdom and bless those around us? I don’t know yet. I do know I need to be more hospitable than in the past. My pastor wife friend and I have already decided to do tea party nights at each other’s new houses. Hopefully we can use this house to host others and be that beacon of His Glory for everyone who enters these doors.

As it says on the penny, in God we trust.

Writing Challenge Day 25: Your 21st Birthday

I turned 21 in my first college apartment junior year. It was a Wednesday.

I had my first sip of alcohol the previous year: a house party in my boyfriend’s basement initiated me with Mike’s Hard Lemonade and lemon drop shots (shooting vodka and chasing it with a lemon wedge covered in sugar).

The night of my birthday, I went to TGIFriday’s with a friend of mine from church who was 22 and regarded alcohol like me: an occasional indulgence. I ordered my favorite, a Long Island iced tea, served in a glass that could only be described as a bowl on a stick. It was watered down, I didn’t even catch a buzz. We had a great dinner too.

My mom bought me a premixed mudslide in a bottle for a birthday present. It was a glass bottle – I still have it – and I use it for meter food (read: change for the parking meters).

I had a party at my apartment a few days later, my fridge was stocked full of Mike’s and other like drinks. My underage sister came down for the festivities – she was by far a more experienced partier despite being in high school.

I enjoyed being 21 – and not having to pay someone else “handling charges” to pick up liquor for me. I was never a big drinker or partier – I’ve never blacked out and all the crazy stuff I did in college and beyond I did stone sober.

Every now again, though, I would love to tie one on, like the old days.

Writing Challenge Day 24: Something You Miss

My college roommate once said she could not fathom how anything mattered in her life until after her first child was born. Since I was only part of her pre-child life, I took offense. The part she so hastily discarded as rubbish is, and always has been, near and dear to my heart.

It was at State University that I learned how to live. On my own terms. That was a luxury I did not have in the house growing up.

And I miss that college life.

I miss the moments of self discovery, learning more about myself and how I interacted with the world.

I miss the reckless abandonment of cross country road trips, spending 2am in a diner, and sipping vodka cocktails on the apartment steps after a long week on a Friday night.

I miss the boys – friends and the ones who would wake up next to me in the morning – where are they now? What are they doing? Are they happy with where life took them? Do they think of me as I do them?

I miss the relaxed schedule of classes, without the drone of a long workday, of which pivots everything else in my life.

I miss my sanctuaries of the coffee shop, the running trail, and the 18th story lounge of my old dorm that towered over the city. All of those places shaped me as a writer and provided a sounding board.

I miss the smell of the stage where I worked for slightly more than minimum wage. I can’t recall the scent I used to revel in; I’ve been away too long.

I miss having friends readily available. Now, I have to take in account distance, jobs, husbands, children – the list goes on. Gone are the days of hanging out randomly.

While I am more comfortable in my skin now than I was back in the day, I miss the person that was me. I miss the people my friends were before jobs, family, and life events changed them. I’m much more jaded now than I was – even though I’m childless and driving the same car I had in college. Even I haven’t escaped the sands of time.

While I lost my roommate to the abyss of motherhood and career, a college friend I occasionally hung out with – we ran in different circles – is now one of my closest confidants. She’s the one I call when the pain gets too much to bear. She knows all about the storms rocking my world, and I share in hers. I miss I didn’t make the most of our time when we lived a few moments away from each other; and now a 10+ hour drive separates us.

I’m perpetually stuck between what was and what is. I miss that old life so much, but I am thankful for where I am now, healthier in all aspects of life.

I just wish I could go back and visit once in awhile.

Writing Challenge Day 23: A Family Member You Dislike

Let me start by saying I do not dislike any family members. I’m very proud that I am not in a rift or avoid any of my kin.

That being said, there is one family member who I am not happy with right now. This person is a parent of a child in desperate need of counseling due to the extreme severity of the child’s mental health. They got on their soapbox with great fanfare about how they were a champion of doing the right thing by bringing in professionals; several months later, the words ring empty. Luckily the situation which caused all this uproar has calmed down, but I know the volcano is only sleeping; they think it is dormant. I pity anyone caught in the lava flow of the next eruption. Yours truly will probably be one of the casualties, because I care too damn much.

So be it. The child is worth it.

I live too far away and cannot become that meddling relative in matters of which I have no jurisdiction. I can only support from outside. And they know – the whole lot of them – I am always here to listen, help, and do. And unlike all of them, my actions and my words are one in the same.

May: Let go of anxiety

My focus for the month of May is to let go of anxiety.

It’s a tall order for a GAD sufferer. I’m starting a new part time job on top of my normal job. I used to have anxiety attacks doing this same job several years ago.

I went to college for this job. I have well over 10 years experience. I need to stop freaking out about everything all the time. I need that confidence boost from April.

While my house is under contract, the deed is still in my name. Our buyers could back out, which is my biggest anxiety trigger right now. Nothing is final until the ink dries on the closing papers.

With the new job, my home life is changing. I’m going to be in a new neighborhood, with new neighbors. My day is going to have new rhythms: there will be things I do there I didn’t need to do at this house, and vice versa. The anxiety of not having a routine – or a place that feels like home – is rough and uncomfortable, like a wool sweater.

Let go and let God.

I’ll keep repeating this until it sinks through my thick skull. How do you let go of something that causes your hand to paralyze around something you cannot drop because it may hurt someone?

I don’t know either, but this month, I will wrestle with it.

April in Review

April proved to be a month that was loaded with opportunities for confidence. We bought another house and plunged further into debt. The confidence to carry that took quite a bit of gumption to pull off, especially as we closed on our new house and the reality of how much I owe literally hit home. But here I am, still going strong. Even more so that we have a buyer under contract.

The money situation really bothered me, so instead of fretting over it and waiting for disaster to hit, I proactively sought a part time job. This job is one I held previously and left because the stress was too much with the panic attacks that followed. But the money is really, really good and the management deck is reshuffled; I’ve been reassured by a trusted supervisor things are better than what they were back when I was there. I don’t have a sunset date on this gig, but I know in my heart it is only for a season. While it looks like our house will sell, I am still taking the job. The money coming in will fund my upcoming adventures, investments (stocks and house projects), and above all, used to further the kingdom of God. That will be determined as the Holy Spirit dictates.

I lacked confidence in a couple of areas: our new garage floor was in a sorry state of grime and dirt. The cleaner I bought was complicated to use, and my test patch only frustrated me further. And so I stopped. Not so much confidence there.

I did find myself consistently praying to God for provisions, a buyer, and friends who are struggling against unfair odds. My relationship deepened with the Lord this month for sure. I completely relied on Him. I pray this does not go away when things get easier.

With all the big life stuff that hit me this month, I feel I did pretty well with confidence. I hope this carries over into the months that come.

Rolling On

With my self imposed spending freeze, as now I own 2 houses, I have become stricter than I ever have with money. No treats for myself, no indulgences (unless there is a gift card involved, Hello Starbucks!). I’m not drinking alcohol, not getting ice cream, not eating at restaurants. I spend money on food – sometimes I stop at the local grocery store for lunch – and gasoline outside of household expenses like electricity. Heaven help me if anything goes wrong with my old car.

This upcoming weekend our neighborhood is having a yard sale. We have many items to sell as we’re downsizing. A friend of mine who is always getting rid of things is also coming to man the yard sale with me like last year. I’ve always made a big breakfast complete with mimosas, which we sipped while people perused our wares.  My friend is pregnant and I am not drinking right now, so our mimosa breakfast is out. I thought I would make cinnamon rolls from Trader Joe’s – the best cinnamon rolls this side of a bakery. But then I talked myself down from that: I do not need to spend the money on breakfast for friends (under $10, but still). I’m on a spending freeze. They are also on a tight budget as well with the new bundle of joy arriving soon.

But as soon as I had squared all that in my mind, I felt a nudge from the Lord: maybe it was more of an eyeroll. “Make the cinnamon rolls.”

With our current house, and the new house, I strive to make it as hospitable as possible. I promised during this spending freeze that I wouldn’t become a miser, and it would not dampen my hospitable home, no matter how much I had in the bank. I may not be able to serve steak and bottles of wine to my friends, but I would do something budget friendly.

And so, “Buy cinnamon rolls at Trader Joe’s” appears on my to do list this week. It is a kind gesture and they are heavenly! I even texted my friend, “Does your daughter like cinnamon rolls?” as her pregnancy has dictated what she can eat. She responded the baby loves cinnamon rolls and is kicking with joy at the prospect of them!

That made my heart happy.

And I am so thankful I have a God, who despite entrusting me with 2 houses on faith and an hour glass of savings, told me to buy cinnamon rolls.

Like Led Zeppelin once immortalized in a song: “And I just keep on rolling along with the grace of the Lord above.”

Writing Challenge Day 22: My Morning Routine

Since taking this new gig, my morning routine isn’t exactly what I need it to be, but for the moment, it works.

I wake up at 0500, saunter downstairs, and feed my inpatient cats. Bathroom and teeth are next. Lately, I’ll find myself taking a 8+ minute nap under an Afghan before feeding the cats. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of a weird dream, and I need a few moments to straighten out my thoughts.

Next, I check my phone and the news/Twitter feeds while my coffee is brewing. Once my coffee is ready, I sit on the deck (during summer) or my sitting room (during winter). I spend these quiet moments in contemplative prayer. My favorite devotion is Pray As You Go, 13 minutes of pure bliss: coffee, quiet, Jesus.

After this, depending on what’s on the day’s docket, I’ll work on my German/French lessons, correspondence, tidy, etc. but only for a few minutes. Then it’s shower, breakfast, and run out the door for work at 0700.

Once my world stops spinning with this house buying stuff, perhaps I’ll extend my bedtime and wake up a bit later. I miss that extra hour in the morning to write. I need to adjust. But with everything else, I feel perhaps I should keep at least one routine normal.

Writing Challenge Day 21: Your horoscope and whether you think it fits you

I’m a Libra – the scales.

Ironically it fits me quite well. I’m always trying to find balance in life. I’m a peacemaker, as I’m quite good at seeing both sides to a problem. Trouble is, I’m terrible at making decisions. I will debate everything ad nausium. I’m often up in the clouds with my thoughts, but I’m fiercely loyal. I can be a social butterfly when I so chose, but I’d rather be alone, writing.

And right now, my scales are swinging wildly.