July: Break Dead Plant Cycle

I have a brown thumb. It is neither green nor black: plants either thrive or die for me. Most die, to be honest – but I have a prayer plant and several succulents still alive and prospering. Fruiting plants are my nemesis: they will make green leaves, flower, and fail to produce fruit.

The Dovecote is a blank slate in terms of landscaping and I am excited to get a design and plants in the ground. I doubt it will be this month due to travel and the heat of a Carolina summer.

I have a small garden of potted plants and so far they are happy. I hope to steward them well enough to break this cycle of dead plants and add them to my landscape design. I transplanted some ground cover (ajuga) and I am making every effort to water and check in on them. The smaller house I hope will draw my attention to them and not get lost in the shuffle.

My marriage, like some plants, has begun to wilt. It’s been a struggle lately, to the point of where we’re arguing even after a good day.

We need to break this cycle and restore the browning leaves and parched soil. I want bountiful green leaves, deeply seated roots, and soil conditions that encourage growth.

I want life to blossom on all fronts.

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.

Unless

“Show me how it ends
It’s alright.”
(So Cold by Breaking Benjamin)

In 2005 when I finally decided to get my personal life together and focus on the Lord, I was listening to a lot of alternative rock, like Breaking Benjamin. That spring, the line from that song resonated with me; I heard the line as, “Show me how it ends, it’s alright?” Who was I going to be in December? My fear was nothing will have changed and I’d be fighting the same battles. It wouldn’t be alright. Everything would be for naught.

That December I was a changed woman, and set sail for the east coast.

I find myself in the same situation this spring: we bought another house. We need to unload our current house, as now we are carrying 2 mortgages. The house has been on the market for nearly a week, with mild interest. We’ve already discussed lowering the price. We have to have allowances for carpet, probably windows.

I am freaking out. I’m having trouble eating with the anxiety attacks.

Friends who know the house assure me it will sell fast. A good friend of mine said the most comforting thing: I will be provided for. I am a faithful servant of the Lord and that will not be forgotten.

Oh, Lord, help us!

My Dad, who is an expert at doomsday scenarios, hit me with line of questioning as to why we didn’t have a contingency clause. Ever since that conversation, that large rock has returned to my stomach.

I find myself praying for less. It is such a weird concept in this world of constant needs and consumption. Lord, please take this portion, as I want to live with less stuff and more You!

To combat my brain going into overload, I’ve decided to pray the offices. It’s Catholic (sigh), but I do think it will help me reroute my thoughts/anxiety/energy. I divided the clock into quarters (0000-0300, 0300-0600, 0600-0900, 0900-1200, etc.) During these blocks of time, if I am awake, I will stop and pray. It will be for my house to sell at a reasonable price, and quickly. For my friends who are struggling with loss of a spouse, loss of dreams with spouse. Praise for a blog friend who’s years of prayer came to fruition this past weekend via a diamond solitare. Praise that I will keep going and serving where the Lord leads regardless of my real estate portfolio, debt to income ratio, and earthly needs/wants. In the meantime, I am on a spending freeze.

I need to have faith that He will provide. I just wish He could show me how it ends, I hate not knowing.

Is it going to be alright?

April: Live with Confidence

One of the perks of living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is that you second guess EVERYTHING. Whether I am buying a house, a pair of socks, treating a patient, or making a life altering decision, my brain whispers, “Are you sure? What if you’re wrong? What if the exact opposite is true/better? How will you know? You need to think/pray/freak out more about this.” I am paralyzed by indecision and worry that my choice is wrong, either fundamentally or factually.

This month is going to require some confidence.

Heck, my entire life could use some confidence.

I’m closing on my 3rd house this month.  Yup – for those of you keeping score at home – I have owned more houses than cars (3:1). I have decisions to make about paint, decor, and where the silverware drawer is going to be in the kitchen. I have cleaning projects, landscape projects, and painting projects all lined up; most of them will be put on hold until I can unload my current property to conserve money. This is my new home, I have to own it and the decisions that come with it.

The loved one with an alcohol addiction combined with a new house that I’m 85% sure I like has been a bit more than I expected to be dealing with at this point. Nonetheless, the Lord shall provide.

I found this book about making decisions with a Christian-centric mindset, and it was like a breath of fresh air for me.  The basic principle was, “What does God think about non-moral decisions? How do I know God’s will for my life?” Mr. DeYoung proposes just to do something, much akin to throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it will stick – the fleeces we depend on are more out of our culture than the Bible. The Bible has much to say about living, but does not specifically address major life decisions such as, should I marry this person?  Should I buy this car? Obviously, seeking the Lord in all things, but sometimes He doesn’t give a clear answer. And so we act. The Lord will provide.

What does living with confidence look like? I’m not sure yet.

I need to pray about that some more.

Change & What Follows

My new gig is nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced in my field before. It’s embarrassingly easy.

The first couple of weeks were nothing but solid stress. There was a large stone in my stomach, even while I wasn’t at work; that seems to be subsiding now. My two employees under me had the task to train me. One of them was so Type A it was nearly suffocating. The other was so Type B it was comical. I learned a lot from both of them, though. Luckily, I do not work with them on a regular basis; they only cover me when I am out.

I work alone in a glorified closet.

In between seeing a fraction of the patients I saw at my old job, there is a lot of free time. As a contract employee, I do not have to conform to the rest of my office mates. I exist for one job and I’m the only one in the building who can perform it. Everyone has been nice, but distant. I can’t figure out if it’s office dynamics, me being introverted, or if I’m disliked. I’ve been advised to keep a low profile as the office can be a bit of a shark tank. Nonetheless, I am left to my own devices.

At first, the free time seemed nonexistent, as I was trying to get my feet underneath me. Now I’ve settled in to a comfortable routine, with the things I was fretting over are now on autopilot. Or at least I think they are.

I’m taking this time to read news stories, watch my Twitter feed, write, and read. It’s an introvert’s dream. As soon as I get the funds, I’m purchasing a 20lb kettleball weight to work on my flabby arms. I started doing push-ups on the countertop and walking on a trail at lunch. I’m going to use this time to get myself in better shape and work on my writing. And I’m very excited about that!

In other exciting news, my husband and I got a buyer’s agent: we’re officially house hunting to downsize. I have a sense of peace about this. I’m only a little sad to lose my dream house. It’s so much to maintain, inside and out: as we get older, it will only become more of a burden.

And so everything is changing again. As the leaves are in the bud stage, with pollen everywhere, spring is here. And like the trees, I believe I am coming into season as well.

Bring on the summer.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)

March: Do it with Prayer

I’m not much of a prayer warrior.  Truth is, I often get distracted by my own random thoughts or shiny objects.  It’s part of the reason I have embraced the contemplative prayer movement: extremely focused prayer for a short amount of time.  While looking through my list of objectives for 2017, “Do it with Prayer” fit well with March.

We have decided to sell our house.  It was at the tippy-top of our price range when we bought it in 2010, as the market had bottomed out.  We are comfortable here.  The house sits on a nearly an acre of woods and meets of all our needs.  Financially, we are doing just fine; heating and cooling this place takes a toll on those extreme weather days and I’m often freezing, but other than that, we’re not selling because it’s a burden.

We’re selling to downsize.  We want more money in the bank, less time with the upkeep, and cheaper utilities/taxes.  We have dabbled with the minimalist movement and our priorities are not what they were 7 years ago.  As life moves, we change.  And so because of this change, we’re moving.

Our current neighborhood can best be described as “variations on a theme.”  Our neighbors are nearly 90 and they just installed a chair lift, with the 2 staircases that lead to the living areas of our house.  My husband turns 50 in the next couple of years, and while he’s more active than a few twentysomethings we know, eventually, that will catch up with him.

We haven’t found a house to move into, although I found the perfect house a few blocks away – it’s significantly cheaper than our house, but still more than I was willing to pay.  But, it looks perfect from the real estate website.

And so, do it with prayer.

Praying for a house.  Not only a house, a home.  A home that I will more than likely die in or at least age significantly in.  We don’t want to move again.  The Lord will fulfill all my needs; I just need a smallish/cheapish house.  Where will that be?  And when?  And do we try to purchase it before we sell our mansion?

Also, I find myself still suffering from anxiety attacks at my new job.  The job has basically put me out to pasture in my profession: I do a fraction of what I went to college for and often find myself with loads of free time, which I plan to use for writing.  Nonetheless, I am freaking out about a temperature of a refrigerator.  I’m in charge of making sure the refrigerator stays at a certain temperature, and it was acting wonky the past couple of days.  I adjusted it, but I’m not there to monitor that adjustment.  If the temperature falls out of range, it could compromise the expensive contents of the refrigerator; contents that are essential to my job performance.

And so, do it with prayer.

Today I am praying for a new place to live that is far below our means.  I’m also praying for a refrigerator to maintain it’s temperature.  I gave my troubled niece a Bible for her birthday.  She started attending a church.  She has a scripture in her bio on Twitter.  I am praying for her salvation and for her to journey with the Lord.

So many heavy things.  So many trivial things.  C’est la vie.

Through this journey, I wonder how my prayer life will evolve through this lens.  Will we find a house?  Is my refrigerator happy?  Will my niece turn her life around with the love of the Lord?  Will my anxiety die down to a smoldering ash instead of this inferno in my chest?

And so, I do it with prayer.

 

February in Review

February’s theme was to engage with others.

I made an effort to meet up with friends on a weekly basis, and it became very difficult.  My stress level with my new job was off the charts; my trainer was an intense Type A and I needed the alone time to calm down and recalibrate.  I also had a long text conversation with my niece, which was awesome and unexpected.

I was appointed to a church leadership position that requires – you guessed it – engaging with others.  I wouldn’t have agreed to it if it weren’t for this month’s theme.  In fact, that was the only reason I agreed to it.  This should be interesting to see how this turns out.

And so…..onto the next!

January in Review

My theme for January was, “Learn to move forward.”

I felt like I had been stuck: drowning in anxiety, floundering at a job that caused much anxiety, and doors kept slamming shut every time I sent out my resume.  The last job I applied for said I wasn’t qualified.  It didn’t even phase me.

What did moving forward look like?

Apply mercilessly for jobs.

Stop dwelling in the past.

Be confident, for the love of God and all things holy.

Go to where the spirit of God lead.

Do something different.

And so I did.

One night after a particularly bad day at work, I sat in my car and went to a job website with the only criteria being the town I live in.  And I scrolled.  And scrolled.  I happened upon a gig in my current field with a company I had never heard of.  Long story short, I start the new gig in 2 weeks (during the process I had about 4 mental breakdowns, but I am growing….).  So much for a career change, but perhaps this is a stepping stone to something new.

My confidence is better than it has been in awhile.  The anxiety comes in waves, but it’s not nearly as debilitating as it was even a few weeks ago.  I’m not even sure what changed, besides my outlook.

I took on our church’s Twitter account, my first technical communicator gig, pro bono.  I am learning as I go with that as well.

I’m excited where I am headed professionally and spiritually in 2017, even if I am scared out of my wits about it.

So here goes!

2017: This year I purpose to….

As someone who did not make any new year’s resolutions last year, as I was fighting for emotional survival, this year I wanted to be more purposeful.  In the past, I had always done my one word, which I think is a great tool – I loved the simplicity about it.  But this year, I feel I need to do something deeper and with stronger guides than the past.  I stumbled upon this blog and decided to make it my year-long project for 2017.  Each month I will chose a phrase to make my focus.  Here’s what it looks like:

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My goals for 2017 look inward and outward, and most of all, reflect the Light of the Lord.  It  took me awhile to come up with these – I kept changing the wording on some – others popped into my head, as I felt a nudging from the Lord.  I know what I want these statements to become in my life, but the Lord usually turns that on its head, so this should make for an interesting year, especially the one about growing grapes.  I’ll probably grow something else entirely.

It’s already looking interesting: we’re getting a nationalist in the White House.  How will the US play on the world stage with this regime change?  How is Europe going to change?  We booked a reconnaissance meeting with a realtor: our 2100 sq ft house is big for just the 2 of us – we’re been floating the idea of downsizing to a smaller house and paying it off within a few years.  Our huge house comes with a lot of property too – it is a lot to maintain.  We’re not selling out of desperation: we are selling because we choose to change our lifestyle, possibly careers – who knows what will become of it.  In my own little world, my loved one who was silently struggling with alcohol addiction decided to stop drinking and seek the help of a professional counselor.  I am overjoyed, but guarded: these things are not fixed overnight or guaranteed.  Nonetheless, I am so thankful and happy that this sordid chapter may come to a close.  I’d like a new job, but in the past year, I’ve been rejected 4 times and currently have no prospects.  There’s a family-sized hole in my heart.  How will the Lord fill that?  I’m taking on a project at church that is out of my realm of expertise.  So many questions, so much potential.

What better phrase to start January with than this:

Learn to move forward.

  • Stop dwelling on what was or what could have been
  • Do something new
  • Don’t get hung up on worry
  • Acknowledge mistakes and then let them go

Moving forward.

Number 35

I turned 35 today.  It kinda snuck up on me, this mid-thirties business.  I swear I’m still in my twenties, but my legal documentation, not to mention the fine lines under my eyes, say otherwise.

I started out the day with a grande pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks (it’s free when it’s your birthday!) and a fancy donut from one of the local shops here.  I took my collective 1,000 calories and sat down on the beach.  The Atlantic was choppy and  I was glad I brought my jacket with me.  The sunbathing days are over for now.  Despite that, the sun was shining and I was in my happy place.  I talked with my mom and wrote in my journal – which had been neglected since last spring.  I took stock of my 34th year, and wrote down my hopes and dreams for the 35th year.

When I was 34….

  • I began writing a book detailing the 20+ years of genealogy stories and trees I have rolling around in my brain.
  • I applied for 3 jobs that are out of my area of expertise in hopes of a career change: thus far I’ve been rejected, and am now awaiting to see if #3 will hire me.
  • I learned how the mind of an addict works on the fly.
  • Roadtripped with my sister-in-law, niece, husband, friend from college, and myself.
  • I started a technical writing certification program.  It was time to put some energy into a passion.
  • I learned how to crochet and improved my craft.  I’ve come a long way from my drunk spider mode, but I still have so much to learn.
  • Discovered the lifestyle of contemplative prayer, and how it fits so well with my worship style.  It is so different from what mainstream American Christianity offers, it was like jumping in the ocean on the hottest day of year: so refreshing!
  • Began rock climbing again, and met some very cool people along the way.
  • I learned French (I started with nothing), where I can read simple things, but cannot actually impress anyone from France.
  • I kept up with my German studies through video, lessons, and reading the Bible.
  • I watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls.
  • Rediscovered one of my favorite authors of all time, Alister MacLean.
  • I started this blog.

As for 35….

  • I want a new career.
  • I want to nail my capstone project for my technical writing certification.
  • I want my crochet projects to benefit the homeless and others in need.
  • I want to expand on the contemplative prayer lifestyle, connecting further with the Lord.
  • I want to travel out into the western part of the USA.
  • My husband and I have been contemplating an exit plan, perhaps moving away from the beach.  The current job situation went from bad to worse with him.
  • A European adventure is on the horizon:  every time I go to Europe, I am inspired to do something and I wonder what this trip will bring.
  • I want better control over my anxiety and lack of confidence.
  • I want to identify and express my emotions better.  I really sucked at that when I was 34.
  • I want to write my book, finish the stories, finish the trees, get an editor/manuscript.
  • I want to surf.
  • I want to open my home to friends, strangers, and those in need; even if my husband is upset at the idea.
  • I want to be a better wife by growing closer to my husband and reflecting the Lord.
  • While a family is not in the cards I was dealt, and my heart is so tender in that spot; that the Lord may fill it with what He so desires.