Monday, February 28, 2011

Tennessee

I moved to Tennessee in 1999.  I spent nine years in the Volunteer State, and I loved those years.  There was so much change and growth and pain and laughter and learning during that time.  Coming back home to Tennessee is always a thing filled with mixed emotions.  I have had my heart broken and I have laughed until I cried here.  There are beautiful memories of teaching and mothering and church and weddings and music.  There are things I would like to forget, mistakes and hurts and loss and embarrassments.  And I can be driving down these familiar roads and cry for seemingly no reason, feeling the little shreds of grief that remain.  I meet with friends and I drive away feeling incredibly blessed to have had those relationships for so long.  Tennessee feels like home and yet doesn't.  But for the past few days, I have been home again.  It has been comfortable and fun and a little hurried.  And here is what I have been spending my time doing.

Visiting friends
Driving
Dodging tornadoes
Listening to Johnny Cash
Eating steak and spaghetti
Being surprised by a boy
Shopping
Picking up where I left off with some of my best friends
Laughing about sleeping in suitcases
Going on a date
Answering a million first date questions
Falling in like with a boy
Saying goodbye to a boy
Intending to workout but shopping instead
Buying a sympathy card
Having coffee
Holding sweet babies
Taking five million hipstamatic pictures
Eating pretend pancakes with a 3-year-old
Eating sweet potato biscuits
Talking about life
Talking about death
Talking about diets
More driving
Trying out a new HDR photo app for my iphone
Hugging old friends
Seeing people I love from my old church
Shopping for non-Elvis souvenirs
Listening to break-up stories
Missing friends I didn't get to see
Missing friends that are no longer here
Missing a boy that's in Texas
Hugging a homeless man named Pedro
Taking Pedro's number... he is single, girls

I was supposed to go back to Texas this morning.  Tennessee is determined to keep me here one more day with all of its tornado watches.  And so I slept in and enjoyed the sound of the storm.  Tomorrow I will get back to my new life and new friends and my new relationship, remembering the old ones and being thankful for what I get to keep.  But for one more day, I will be here.  And this will be my song.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

34 Things I Will Do Before I Turn 34



I am a birthday announcer.  My entire family forgot my ninth birthday, and so I learned at an early age that I was responsible for my own birthday happiness.  And so I announce.  In preparation for this year's big day, which to be honest feels a little scarier than the ones that came before it, I am making a to do list.  I plan on updating you on my progress, complete with photographs when and if I remember to take them.  With some of these tasks, I need suggestions, so feel free to throw yours out there and help me on my way.  If you have your own suggestions for goals to add to the list, I am happy to consider those as well, even if it puts me over the 34 mark.
  1. Travel to Nashville, Tennessee.
  2. Lose 5 pounds.
  3. Write two new songs.
  4. Clean out my car... no, seriously.
  5. Get a pedicure.
  6. Listen to an entire Joni Mitchell album.
  7. Give $20 to a complete stranger.
  8. Go to the drive-in movies.
  9. Carry on one entire conversation in a British accent.
  10. Go on a date.
  11. Eat steak and spaghetti at Demos' restaurant.
  12. Give away all clothes that are too big.
  13. Give away all clothes that are too small. 
  14. Delete at least 5 Facebook friends that regularly annoy me.
  15. Fast for a day.
  16. Try some form of seafood to see if my tastes have changed, even though the thought of it makes me gag a little.
  17. Do yoga in the park on a sunny day.
  18. Ride in a convertible (Craig, this requires your cooperation).
  19. Watch one scary movie.  Not gory, just scary.  And I will take suggestions here.
  20. Skype with friends in New Zealand.
  21. Throw away most of the ex-boyfriend cards and letters that are taking up space in boxes.  Don't worry, I will keep the funniest ones for blackmail purposes.
  22. Listen to my ipod on shuffle for an hour WITHOUT skipping songs.  
  23. Make a list of things I will do before I turn 35.
  24. Unsubscribe to most of the store emails that I receive.  I never, ever read them. 
  25. Call my grandmother.
  26. Send out 5 handwritten letters.
  27. Find a new podcast that I love.  Taking suggestions here as well.
  28. Write two more blogs.
  29. Buy myself a birthday present.
  30. Have a picnic lunch. 
  31. Go visit the kids that I used to pick up for church on the van route and invite them to come back for my birthday Sunday.  I miss those kids.
  32. Have people over to my apartment for dinner.  Like more than 4.
  33. Play at a park, with or without children.
  34. During the song service at church, replace one word of a hymn with a swear word and sing it loudly to see if anyone notices.  This was my brother's suggestion, lest you all think I am going to hell.
So please stay tuned as I keep you updated on my progress.  And for those of you who are wondering, March 13.  Mark your calendars, friends.  Happy Birthday to Me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

He's Just Not That Into You

I was housesitting/babysitting for my sister Sunday night. She had four television remotes, and it seems that not one of them actually controlled the television. I just love that. I had taken my computer, but I could not connect to her wireless internet. I forgot to bring a book, so I did what any girl would do. I used my laptop to watch her copy of "He's Just Not That Into You". I read the book long before they made the movie. The movie is kind of horrible as far as morality goes. But the principles in the book are far more accurate than women want to believe. When a boy is not calling or texting or asking you out, he is just not that into you. This is almost always the case. I haven't always known this. I was naive. I used to be hopeful when a guy didn't call. I made reasonable little excuses for him in my head. And then life happened. I was abandoned by a fiance (you can read about that here), was lied to multiple times by other guys, was left waiting for phone calls that would never come.

I blame Ray.  Not completely, of course.  Other jerks had come before him.  And after him, for that matter.  But Ray threw me off.  He was handsome.  Oh my, was he handsome.  I admired him at church from afar.  He was faithful to attend on Sunday mornings, but he always came with an incredibly pretty girl.  So I kept my distance.   Ray was roofer and a powerlifter.  This meant a great tan and the most fabulous manly muscles.  He was gorgeous.  And I remember the night I got the news that he had called.  I was downtown Nashville at an outdoor Sister Hazel concert with my best bud Elisa.  I called home, and my brother told me that Ray had called and left a message.  I know I danced a little dance at the thought of that.  He called back the next day, I found out that he and the supermodel girlfriend had broken up, and we planned our first date.  I could not believe that someone so good looking was interested in going out with me.

We went out for several weeks, maybe a month.  He kept calling and asking me out, and I kept saying yes.  He was fun and easy to get along with, and we seemed to have an equal amount of attraction to one another.  He knew how to build things and fix things, and those were always my favorite kind of men.  Then he told me he was going on a weekend trip.  He was traveling to Alabama to visit his dad.  This seemed like a reasonable thing to me.  He had a cell phone, and I foolishly assumed that I would hear from him over the weekend.  So we said our goodbyes, and I set out to spend the weekend without him.  Friday night.  No call.  Saturday.  No call.  This didn't make sense to me, considering we both had cell phones.  My not-yet-jaded mind began to make excuses for him.  I was hopeful that there was a reason for his lack of communication.  I thought through every possible scenario.  Maybe he lost his cell phone.  Maybe he lost my number.  Maybe he forgot his charger, had no cell reception, or was abducted by aliens.  By Sunday I had reached lunatic status.  So I did it.  The thing that most girls have done but never confess to.  I did the crazy girl house drive-by.  And you know what I saw?  His car.

It turns out that my handsome muscle man Ray had gone to visit his dad in Alabama with his ex-wife.  They drove her car, and he clearly knew how this information would be received by me, which is why he failed to mention it.  When he returned home on Sunday, I made my decision to break up with him, which will be a whole other story for another time.  Ray didn't seem to think that his behavior warranted a discussion, much less a breakup.  And for the first time I realized that it was possible for me to actually date someone who didn't like me enough to be honest.  He was just not that into me.

There were others, of course.  Other guys who failed to call when they said they would or failed to make moves or never asked me out.  And I tried to figure out what they were thinking.  Oh the time I have wasted talking to girlfriends, analyzing conversations and playing a million games of "He loves me, He loves me not".  So incredibly exhausting.  Thankfully, I am over this.  Mostly, anyway.  I still get sucked into the game occasionally, but I always come back to the truth.  It's the truth for me, anyway.  If a guy is not calling, not texting, not asking me out, not communicating, it is not because he is intimidated by me.  It is not because he has been hurt and is scared to try again.  It is not because he is waiting for the right timing.  It is not because he is shy.  It's just because he does not like me or he doesn't want to date me.  And while that truth can sometimes hurt, there is freedom in it.  I do not have to plan or plot or scheme.  I don't have to think to myself about how long I should wait before I call a guy because I don't call guys.  I don't have to think about the best way to pursue because I don't pursue.  You might say that's lazy.  I say it's smart.  Energy efficient, even.

For those girls who like the game, you are welcome to it.  You can do all of the work of thinking through what a guy might be thinking.  You can have a thousand conversations, and have your best friends assure you that the boy you like does indeed like you back.  Maybe doing the work will get you a boyfriend sooner.  I hope so for all of the effort you are putting into it.  But me?  I will be lying on my couch, bundled up in a zebra print snuggie, watching a million episodes of Friday Night Lights on Netflix on my new 42" flat screen television, and not thinking twice about who is not calling.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Enjoying the Ride

Indiana. Winter 1986. This Texas girl had never really seen snow. Not that kind of snow anyway. I instantly decided that it was beautiful and that I was a fan. My dad was behind the wheel of the our 1984 Suburban that pulled our 32 foot travel trailer that we called home. I am sure that none of the five O'Dell kids were buckled in with seatbelts. It was 1986, and back then apparently people didn't worry about their children being ejected from vehicles in case of a wreck. I am sure that the five of us kids were all hanging out, singing songs, playing a horrible arm-biting game to test our tolerance for pain that we aptly named "Harder, Harder, Stop!" We were strange kids.

We were headed from Grand Rapids, Michigan back to Texas, where icy roads and snow were rare. Our suburban was behind an eighteen wheeler on the interstate, and my dad decided to pass him on the left. When he changed lanes, our vehicle ended up behind another eighteen wheeler. This created a vacuum, of sorts, and our travel trailer began to fishtail from side to side, swinging the back of our Suburban with it. At this point, I was resting in the back of the vehicle, and I could see nothing of the danger outside. I felt the motion of the Suburban, and I let out an exuberant, undulating, "WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!". I loved it. I was having the time of my 8-year-old life. Meanwhile, my father was trying to regain control of our out of control vehicle, working to prevent an accident and probably our death. Two people, experiencing the same thing, reacting very differently. It's funny how a little perspective changes everything. I didn't see any problem, and truthfully, even if I had, I probably would not have known how serious the situation could have been. I was a kid. I was only eight. I was carefree. I knew my Father was in control, and I was just enjoying the ride.

Today I woke up to another day of inclement weather here in the great state of Texas, and I am still impressed with the beauty of snow. I am looking out my bedroom window right now, and I am thinking that it will be fun to go out in it once I am properly fed and clothed. Over the last few weeks, maybe months, I have been struggling a little. I am sure that you have noticed that my blogs went from funny to serious, but I promised to be honest from the beginning. And whether you like it or not, I am keeping that promise. But God has been reminding me, in a thousand little ways, that He has it figured out. He is in control. He has a plan. All of the things people tell us, and they don't seem to mean much until God chooses to generously remind us in very specific, God-like ways.

Yesterday I got out of my house. I traveled to Dallas on the train with my brother, and we had fun. You can't really be with my brother Craig and not have fun unless you have serious problems. We ate beef tips and noodles, and turned our noses up at the tomatillo soup we ordered. We shopped, met up with one of my sweet girlfriends, and we had Starbucks. It was nothing spectacular, but as we sat on the train and headed home, I thought to myself that life is good. I am blessed. I have Jesus and a job and friends and family and adequate money and health. I have a fun life that I am very thankful for, even in the midst of times where I don't see exactly where it's headed. And you know what? I don't have to know the way. I don't have to have the map. I am not going it alone. I am traveling with my Father. He is in control, and I am just enjoying the ride.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Than You Can Handle



I can't tell you how many times I have heard it.  Hundreds, probably.  It is always spoken with the best of intentions.  A Christian cliche.  A platitude meant to comfort others in times of hardship.  God will never give you more than you can handle.  Tell that to the mother who has buried a child, to the woman whose husband has left her with two children to care for alone, to the man who lives with a verbally abusive wife and constantly feels like he is lacking.  I assure you, it's more that we can handle.  


In August of 2004, I became a mother.  Married only nine short months, and I became a mother to my nephews Canaan, Cameron, and Connor, ages 4, 2, and 1, respectively.  The day that I got them, I was filled with excitement.  I was made to be a mother.  I have a beautiful, wonderful mother that loves children and taught me to love them, too.  I grew up believing that motherhood was wonderful and honorable.  And so, when I buckled those three little guys into their car seats cramped into the back seat of my Ford Explorer, I thought that I had this figured out.  Four months to mother three kids.  No problem.  Only I was wrong.  I was tired and stressed.  Three months into the four month mothering stint, my marriage took a huge turn for the worst.  More than I could handle.


Four months turned into almost three years.  And 5 months after my sister gave birth to baby Cody, my brood of three boys turned into four.  Those of you who didn't know me during this time might have a hard time imagining it.  I jumped right in, though.  I potty trained, mixed formula, bargain shopped, built forts out of blankets, finger painted, enforced nap times, sewed halloween costumes, read bedtime stories, spanked tiny bottoms, cleaned up vomit, rocked sick babies, and did about 3 loads of laundry a day.  Throughout those three years, I struggled with exhaustion, resentment, bitterness, and a roller coaster marriage.  I had a love/hate relationship with my sister, with motherhood, and with my unexpected lot in life.  More than I could handle.


In June of 2007, I packed up a Uhaul trailer with beds, blocks, action figures, books, and boxes of winter clothes.  Everything had been sorted and purged.  Donations had been made.  And the little rooms that held babies were empty.  I drove from Tennessee to Texas with my boys, my parents, and my sister.  I helped unload their things and carry them into the new home where they would live with their real mother and father.  And for several days I stayed, helping them to get adjusted to their new life, praying that this transition would be smooth for them.  Then I left.  I cried as I drove home to Tennessee with an empty minivan that had become unnecessary.  Let me assure you, it was more than I could handle.  


Three weeks later, I separated from my husband, and the grief that I felt from the loss of my life as I knew it was more than I could handle.  During that time, I remember having tea with a girlfriend, and we talked about this very phrase.  She had battled cancer, and was dealing with a blood disorder that mimicked cancer.  We were both grieving different things, and we both had more grief to come.  But we came to the same conclusion.  Throughout life, we will always be faced with things that are more than we can handle.  There are the big things... death, divorce, cancer.  And then there are the small things that seem like they will overwhelm us... loneliness, unmet expectations, and the guy that decides that he can't date you, for whatever reason.  They are more than we can handle.  


The apostle Paul knew about these things.  He had a thorn in his flesh.  The thing he couldn't handle.  He asked God three times to remove it.  To get rid of it.  To ease his pain.  To make it humanly bearable.  And God answered him with the words I have read over and over and I never tire of.  I never tire of them because I have lived them.  I have experienced them.


And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 
(I Corinthians 12:9,10)


I tell this little story not so that you will feel sad for me.  There is nothing to feel sad about.  I was blessed to be mom to Canaan, Cameron, Connor, and Cody.  I am so thankful for those three years.  I tell you this because there are always times where we feel like we have been given more than we can handle and we think about this little phrase we have always heard and we can feel like God has failed us.  Like he has let us down by giving us so much to carry.  But he didn't promise bearable or manageable.  He promised sufficient grace.  He promised that His strength would be perfect in our weakness.  He promises that the power of Christ will rest upon us during the times that we feel like we can't take another step.  If we could handle it all, we wouldn't need Him.  So memorize these verses.  Tuck them away in your brain.  Make it part of your thought processes.  When you have more than you can handle, when you are weak, you will know where to find strength.






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