The Next Chapter

Hellllloo, everyone! Everyone who reads this, even if it’s just one person, share my joy. I’m so happy to be here. April 26th 2013 marks the first night Tristan and I spent in our new apartment. It does feel like I’m starting over again but I’m thankful I get to start over as me instead of the me of 6 years ago. I’m truly blessed. And now that I feel lighter and don’t feel like I have to try so hard just to exist, I’m slowly coming back to the things that used to make me happy – before the huge mess that was 2009-2011 happened. If you don’t know about the last two years of my life, you can catch up here. But if you do, read on.

Our new apartment is a reasonably sized 2-bed, 1 bath space sectioned off from a 3 apartment building, squeezed into place on a little one-way street in west Philly. Ours happens to be at the back of the building and can only be accessed from an ally (which I like), essentially invisible from the street. I loved that – it was one of the many things that I liked about this one in particular.

We started seriously looking at places to live in March, of course we had always been looking. Every time I went out I eyed houses like they were shoes on a shelf at Ross or some place, for that perfect “pair” to call my name but I wasn’t too serious about it. I didn’t want to take my “shopping” too seriously because the last thing I wanted after losing the last house we lived in was to take matters into my own hands; I wanted God to be the authority on this one. So I waited and prayed – always looking but never “picking up and trying on”. Though in March it hit us that 1/3 of our marriage had been spent in a dark, tiny space under someone else’s home. While I will be forever grateful for my time spent in darkness and silence – we both knew that the end was near. We started looking on our own – deciding not making any decisions until we had a walk-through and prayed about it. At first we thought we could actually buy something, neither one of us really wanted to rent again but the events that followed our first walk-through helped us learn just how much we weren’t ready for that. Starting over in that way is a little frustrating to me, but at the time I knew and I believe that God knew that I needed to be shown the deep end to decide on what I knew was right: that I wasn’t financially or emotionally ready to take the plunge. Several more misses later I had started to except the idea that I might be in that basement for another year and that it might be better for us to stick it out that long…but then (I love the “but thens”). We found an offer through the church, not only that, but through one of my teammates on the worship team which I had waited and prayed on for a year before I considered joining; praying that God would put me on the stage if He wanted me there but I wouldn’t go by myself.

We saw this apartment at the beginning of April. I liked it right away but I was determined NOT to make any snap decisions. So I waited some more, about 2 weeks more and I still felt the same. I had prayed for a perfect home in season and it was just that: the size, layout, number of rooms, location – all were perfect. It was (and is still is a bit) dirty, neglected and smelly but I hadn’t had to clean a home in years so I didn’t mind – in fact I think God knew what I really wanted and that I really wanted to be a homemaker again. He gave me a home that covered all the things I asked Him for and many things that I did not.

Needless to say, I’m writing this from my new office right now. I’m amazed at this, at everything and I can only give the Lord all the credit. I just can’t explain this any other way. I want to share some verses that got me through some 800 days of silence and waiting on the Lord for a new home. If you made it to these words and don’t believe in God, read them anyway and may you be blessed (or whatever you choose to call it), and if you do, be blessed my brother/sister!

[Jesus said] “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. – Luke 12:6-7

…Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.
“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. -Luke 12:22-32

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later…

But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.
– Romans 8:18 & 25-27

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. – Lamentations 3:25-26

To cite a few! I added the emphasis because these are the things that really stood out to me and still encourage me when I read them.

So now, as I’m getting settled in my new home I want to put a heart-felt “thank you” out into the blogoshpere for anyone that prayed or wished me well. I look forward to writing much more frequently as the next chapter of my life begins.

My new office :)

My new office :)

Powerless

This week I was powerless, quite literally.

This home (basement included of course) was without power this from Monday evening to yesterday afternoon on account of hurricane Sandy. The internet was out even longer. I’m writing this because 1) I’m happy to have my Internet back and 2) The pitch black end to my October made me think of some things.

It seems like the hurricanes have followed me up the cost. Having grown up in the south I have been through too many of these things to remember and I figured that Sandy would be no different. Even as my Philadelphia-native friends were preparing for an unfamiliar (for them) bout with the storm, I brushed off the need to prepare for anything. I knew what “category 1” meant and exactly what that entailed. I also knew that the power would probably go out. I just didn’t count on it being out for days.

I was right. Sort of. We got little rain and it was windy. Some trees fell (not on houses! Whew!) and some branches broke in the night and landed in the yard. And it was dark; very, very dark for almost 3 days. And though we didn’t get the worst of the storm by any means (prayers for NJ and NYC), there was still the difficulty of having no power in the house and a lesson to be learned for me in the process.

I had been thinking the past few days about panic, not the kind to be taken lightly but the, “I’m going to die” panic. I realize some people have never had that feeling, they’re blessed. I had the misfortune of coming face to face with panic during some of my first open water dives. [Scuba diving] as fun as it is, there’s a overwhelming sense of being very close to death in the moments when the water is deep and the light fades. When I was about 15 I dove down into my first underwater cave and it got very dark very fast. I was about 60 ft. down and maybe 30 ft. inside when I lost all light and in that second I felt it. It was pure fear, the kind that makes your bones feel cold. At once I lost all sense of direction. I became very aware of my frailty and the millions of gallons of cold water pushing in on my lungs. My breath was the only sound I heard and I was completely blind. My mask began to fill with water and I thought I was done. I hung there in the void feeling not only panicked but completely alone, and powerless to stop the fear.

I thought back to the cave while I descended the stairs into the basement yesterday night. I saw the stairs going down but I underestimated the bigness of the darkness and once again I was there in the blackest dark. It had swallowed me. I thought about my encounter with panic and how I had fought against my body to keep calm in the face of nothingness. Because it wasn’t the cold, or even the dark that scared me so bad. It was the loss of direction and with that, the loss of hope. It was uncertainty.

Obviously I did make it out of that cave. I remember I had never been so relieved to see the light. I was exhausted when I finally reached the surface; but I made it.

When you learn to dive, one of the first things you learn, that is reinforced throughout your training is, “don’t panic”. Because when you’re under there, surrounded my so much water there are too many things that can go wrong. The last thing you want to do is let yourself panic. That day, I had successfully felt panic and ignored it. I got out. I thought my way out, despite what my body was screaming at me.

Since then I have to leaned to accept my own powerlessness. I was powerless to make the electricity flicker back on. I couldn’t make the darkness disappear but I had power over my attitude. Again and again that is my lesson: Jackie can ONLY control Jackie. That’s it.

I also learned (again) that thinking I know everything is a sign of pride and that would not serve me well if this (or worse) happened again, in this case preparing for the worst was a good thing that I foolishly disregarded.

“Pride goes before destruction,
and haughtiness before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18

Even so, the wonderful promise of Romans 8:28 came through! All things work together for good. We all made it though the storm safely (and so did our food)!

[EDIT]By the way! I’m in the process of redoing this site and moving some things so I apologize if it’s looks a little “undone”![/EDIT]

Southern Trip: The end of Summer

Last month I went down south for 10 days to see my family and friends. It was a good trip; pleasantly fast flights, good food, hanging out with friends and shopping! Nothing too crazy, just your routine visit. Except that the last weekend in August my mom and I drove to Florida to see my Gram! So I was in South Carolina for about 6 days with my parents and my other kitties :)

end of summer trip

[1] When I got to my parents’ house my cats were happy to see me. This is me giving my Max a tummy rub. He’s gotten so fat! But I was so happy to see that he and his sister were doing well.

Stella’s in the lower right hand corner sitting by the door. She would NOT have her picture taken =/ lol my little princess.

[2] Pretty much the first thing I did was hit the beach with one of my best friends EVER. I do miss the beach. My parents’ house is about 20 minutes from the coast verses Philly which is a couple hours. So I spent Tuesday and Sunday of that week lounging in the sun.

[3] My parents took my to my favorite, favorite sushi place when I got in. This is my FAVORITE roll, Spicy Double-Tuna; cooked tuna inside, raw tuna on top with spicy sauce. YUM.

[4] On the way to Florida, my mom and I always stop at the Florida Welcome Center (I’ve made many trips to FL as a kid) where they give out a free cup of juice, orange or grapefruit. After getting my cup of juice, compliments of the Florida farmers, I nearly spilled it when I saw this big cardboard display with minions on it! Apparently, Universal Studios was advertising a new Despicable Me ride (I love that movie, can’t wait for #2!!!). My mom took my picture with them ^^ and we were on our way! (Too bad I didn’t go to Universal this time)

We had a nice visit with my Gram (mom’s mom), as always. She always gets me goodies from the thrift store where she volunteers a few times a week. One of my favorites is the picture to the right of me and the minions. It’s a mirror on one side and the other is this! Cute, huh? Being a cat lady I sure do appreciate it.

We ended up leaving early in the wake of hurricane Issac which pretty much ruined the weather for the rest of my stay in SC. I flew home on the 30th. My mom had to ship some of my things behind me since we had done some shopping while I was there. All in all, a blessing at the end of the summer.

Hopefully the next time I travel south my sister will be back in the US and I’ll get to see her as well.

Now, even though it’s only quarter to eight, it’s dark outside. The leaves are beginning to change colors in places, which makes me excited for sweater-weather, pumpkin spice lattes and velvet-red leaves. Bring on fall!

June: Month of creation

What a long time for me NOT to be blogging! These posts were weekly (or bi-weekly) but last month was such a blur I didn’t do much writing.

I can’t say that June was a super “busy” month for us. Tristan and I have been working on web projects, as we do almost constantly but in the month of June I got creative for the first time in a long time, in other ways I had forgotten.

june

[1] I did some drawing in June, coupled with a little Photoshop…Just practicing my “Americanized” whatever-you-want to-call-it drawings. I don’t feel like it super important for me to practice drawing since I decided I wanted my novel to be a novel but I think it’s good to have it in my arsenal of talents.

[2] My major excursion in the month of June was a trip with my mother-in-law to Doylestown to see the famed Fonthill Castle. I was totally blown away by the architecture and the sheer genius of the construction. If you aren’t familiar with Fonthill, the entire structure is concrete save some mud, hay, and wood used for the impressive archways inside (Google it, it’s really cool). Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures inside.

An extra special treat was that our tour guide actually knew the people that lived there after Henry Chapman Mercer who built Fonthill as his dream house, passed away. She told us stories about what he was like and a more detailed summery of how he built such a structure. Needless to say I’ll be making another trip with the hubby. Having no house of my own makes me that much more appreciative of houses in general so I was thrilled to visit a 100+ year old mansion like Fonthill.

[3] Another thing I created in June: clouds!

This year was the first time ever that our church had VBS (Vacation Bible School). Again, having no home of my own [to decorate], I happily signed up to be a decorator for the program. The theme was SKY, which is right up my alley and I was excited. I ended up making a LOT of these clouds out of cardboard, plastic bags, fabric, and fluff with my friend, Olivia. It was a good time. We would hang out on Chestnut Street afterward, hence the frozen yogurt (which was delicious).

When everything was put together before VBS it really looked good! What a pleasure to serve!

Now I’m thinking:I may not be in the best place in my life right now but I’m sure in a good place to be useful.

[4]This is the first photomanipulation I’ve done in, literally years. Nothing special but I did have fun doing it. If you’ve been to my art site at all you’ll see some more of these things. The last one I did before this was in 2009 I think. I started doing these in high school but eventually I grew up and they (among other things) faded into the background and fizzled out.

Hooray for falling in love with an art form all over again.

First [half] of May and New post ideas…

This month is just going by so fast!

I haven’t posted in a while, I know. Actually, besides being super busy and dealing with our small car crisis, I have been thinking of new things to post like documenting my journey in throwing away my pointless stuff and simplifying my life, making room for new things that I will actually use/enjoy – like finishing my wardrobe, which is currently (and has been) incomplete due to lack of $$. OR my painting the walls, or doing another “things that make my life easier” post. Any ideas?

Anywho, here’s what the first half ( o_0;;;) of May looks like:

first half of May

[1] These past few months have been weird because of the on/off, hot/cold…ness but I’m finally starting to see a lot more color outside! Beside these big, white beauties our climbing ROSES are starting to bloom all over!! I stayed home watching the flowers bloom because my car was in the shop basically all week! But at least it’s been warm enough to sit outside the past couple days so I can enjoy them.

[2] I took this recent pic of my hair (and makeup) last week. I’ve been sort of documenting my hair growth in pictures since I started growing back out last fall. For the longest time (since I was 17) I had a pixie cut, and I loved it! But in October I decided that it was time for a change; everything else in my life changed, why not my hair? So here’s what it looks like now. It’s getting so pretty that I’m now having a hard time understanding why I cut it off in the first place.

My goal is a long, angled bob with the longest point (in the front) barely touching my collar bones so I have a while before the length is right to go and get it shaped. Getting there!

[3] Earlier this week when it was colder (and rainy) I did some baking. This cookies came out really well! I was surprised at how tasty they were. I had this instant oatmeal mix on my pantry shelf that sat there forever because I didn’t know what to do with it so I decided to make it into something edible. I hate oatmeal in the traditional sense, Tristan’s not a fan either (I have what I call “texture issues” with it), but oatmeal cookies I can do. I found a recipe online and substituted sugar for the mix and it worked!

I feel more and more confident in the kitchen every day that I cook or bake. I’m delighted by this because I never thought I’d be such a foodie. I did NOT grow up with everything made from scratch. My mom usually made things with the help of a store-bought mix or something else that came in a box. I LOVE “box” cooking too, I grew up that way, but it’s nice to start stepping outside the “box” to see what I can invent something that we like.

[4] My mother-in-law and I both were busy this week, it was appropriate that we finished out the week in Chestnut Hill. Today was my first time eating at Cake and I really enjoyed it. It’s like eating in a greenhouse and there’s a flower shop/boutique that is connected to it. Definitely going again sometime.