Beached on the Beach4/30/2008
This is the lengthy hysterical (which was me at the time)...OK historical account of the trials and tribs surrounding our arcane 6 month hiatus in Florida. We had initally planned on going down there under the auspices of doing tree-work and clean-up after the hurricanes of 2005. We were to stay in a rental house that my brother (who lives in FL) was fixing up. Due to every conceivable malfunction, dysfunction, and mis-fire conceivable, things did NOT go as planned. Here is part of that story and some of what I learned from being beached on the beach.
In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.
When you lie down, you shall not be afraid; yes, you shall lie down, and your sleep shall be sweet.
Living authentically in this wisdom and this truth is such a beautiful yet difficult place to be. I haven’t been a Christian for very long myself, and I admit that the first few years have been rugged for me. I know what it means to be tossed to and fro on the waves of fear, doubt, anger, and confusion. But now after about six years or so, I’m beginning to get a taste of what this feels like—and this taste is so sweet. Yet it has been very difficult and such a challenge for me to truly let go in the many areas of my life. I admit that I have gotten to big boulders, mountains, in my path and stopped dead in my tracks and refused to budge. I have cried out and complained incessantly to God—this just can’t be right, Lord! It’s not fair, it doesn’t make sense, I’m too weak, it’s too hard, this just can’t be! There have been times when I’ve turned right around and felt like running in the opposite direction. I’ve thought to myself, “If this is what Christianity means for me, forget it.”
I knew how to maneuver before I made this decision to follow Christ. I had friends who agreed with me and allowed me to just be the way I was without lifting a finger to change whatsoever. It wasn’t a bed of roses, but I knew the rules and how to survive and I could just get along and have ‘fun.’ Since I turned away from all of that, it’s been lonely, and difficult, and so confusing. I have felt so disconnected and nobody seems to really comprehend the intense struggle going on inside of me—not even myself!
So, like Gideon, I have gone back to God countless times and have said, “Convince me, Lord, because I don’t see it and this just can’t be right.” I have asked God to convince me in so many ways, upside-down and backwards. I have laid that fleece out more times than Gideon ever thought about doing.
Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand. Proverbs 19:21
This is the refining process. It’s usually not very pretty. And it is a never-ending process. But something deep within my being says, “This is it and you’re going to have to go through this, so let’s get going.” And like a slow, stubborn mule, I reluctantly, haltingly clop forward. I wish that I could say that I have followed like a trusting little lamb, but for me and my attitude lots of times, ‘mule’ is a much more accurate description. I have had so much baggage to contend with and see my way clear of, and God has been so good and so faithful. The situation in which we found ourselves down in Florida was one of the worst I have ever encountered.
All of our plans had completely fallen through and we were stranded with no money and no place to live and no way to get back home to Maine. I can’t adequately describe how bereft, humiliated, dejected, and scared I felt at that time. We had a huge falling out with my brother down there that still isn’t completely mended, and at that time had me totally turned wrong-side-out. My head and emotions were reeling with questions, anger, self-pity, and terrible hurt. “How in the world could this have happened?” was the question that scrolled through my mind non-stop. But God began to work one miracle after another for us down there. It was as if He was saying, “you just hold onto Me and I’m going to exceed all of your broken, hurt, doubtful expectations.” And you know what? He did—one after another.
We went to a public beach and my husband I just sat there in forlorn disbelief at the turn of events while the children laughed and splashed in the waves—euphoric and oblivious to our dire straits. It was the first week in December and Christmas was just three weeks away. As I sat there watching the children and abjectly tossing sand onto my feet, I commented to my husband that maybe if we could find someplace near the beach, he could take our car to find some work and I could let the children play by the ocean. I had a feeling this was nothing but wishful thinking, but I was ready to avoid reality at the moment. My husband said that he was going to talk to one of the lifeguards and ask if they might know of some place along those lines that we could stay. The lifeguard? It would never have occurred to me in a million years to ask a lifeguard something like that! A realtor, maybe, but the lifeguard? Sure enough, the lifeguard mentioned he knew about some old lady who just had a stroke and had sold her beach apartments. He said there might be some way we could stay there temporarily.
All I can say is "God bless lifeguards." So here’s a nice bit of practical wisdom: if you’re ever stranded in a resort-type place, go ask the young locals who make it their sole ambition to live as close to the action as cheaply as possible. I should’ve remembered this from my Vail days yet it had entirely escaped me. However, not being twenty-five anymore and having four small children in tow had significantly altered my perspective of things.
However, I was far from blessing anybody later that day.When I saw those condemned apartments surrounded by mansions and expensive condos, I was even more depressed. (If you've read Train-wreck Finds the Rails, then you'll know why this was so depressing for me...and humbling. Not only had I been kicked out...accused of 'squatting' by my dear family member...but in all my vanity and visions of my former life of the "Rich and Famous," I was convinced that I should be in one of those mansions - not this dump!) We found these run-down 1940’s bungalow-style apartments that were going to be torn down sometime in the near future, and that had actually been quite charming in their day. See my virtuous attempt at seeing the positives?? It turns out that many of the locals (except for the ones who considered them an eye-sore) were quite fond of them—and everyone including the uppities (myself included) coveted its location.
Admittedly, they did have potential and lots of stuff like furniture and all sorts of furnishings left behind that we could salvage and use...another attempt at virtuosity here!
[Here's an aside before I continue. To grasp the full impact of what you're about to read, please keep in mind that we're talking South Florida here. Generally speaking, people are leery they're going to get scammed one way or another.To rent some place usually requires major upfront deposits and most people typically are not into giving total strangers any type of a grace period. I was still reeling from the fact that my dear family member had just exhibited these same sentiments toward me. According to a couple of cops we got to know down there, calling cops and lawyers on people is a somewhat common South Florida past-time. I just hadn't absorbed this fact at that time]
And that’s where we ended up staying. The leasing manager who lived off-premises (but had fixed up one of the mini-units for himself and his wife) didn’t require us to put down a deposit and allowed my husband to do some painting to pay the first month’s rent. They lowered the rent for the first couple or three months to fix up the place.
[Here's another aside: There was actually alot more to this I suppose I should probably explain. My husband was going to these people's house an hour away to paint, which left me and the children in this hurricane-ravaged dump with nails and broken glass all over the premises. The beach was covered with man-of-wars that had stung our daughter...twice...so I was in no mood to get to the beach. We were in one of the mini-units waiting for him to get some railing up on the balcony so we could actually move into the upstairs apartment. It was a mess...I was a mess...it was one, big mess!
In this sorry state. I called one of my friends in Maine to expound upon all my woes that had just transpired in the past 3 days. Now this is the totally freaky-deaky part. During the course of this conversation, somehow, someway, completely unbeknownst to me, the precise portion of my conversation with my friend where I was describing the ramshackle conditions of the place we were in found it's way to the landlord's wife's answering machine. Yes...the landlord's wife's answering machine. I have absolutely NO IDEA how this happened. And that was ALL that was recorded - just that part of the conversation (where I was being quite descriptive, I'm sure) about my dire circumstances. This lady was a Southern gal from Louisianna and had a log home in Colorado with 15 horses. That's a round about way of saying we hit it off when we finally met! Anyway, she heard this bit of conversation I was having with my friend about this place we were in.
The next morning as we were driving to their house - I was going to drop off hubby and take the kids to a park - she called our cell phone and asked if there was anything that she, personally, might do for us. We kindly told her no and that they were already doing plenty for us. When we pulled up in the drive, she came running out with a card in her hand...waving it in the air... and said she just had a Christmas card for us. Then she hopped in her little sports car and raced off. Now back to the story]
A few days later, that man’s wife who had only met our family one time—just once—privately, out of the blue, gave us a Christmas card the next day containing a check for $500 in it. I was blown away. She had initially been opposed to renting us the place because of the children (she thought we might sue or something) but evidently had a change of heart.
After thanking her profusely for her card, she said to me, “That’s for your new place, just rip that sucker up and put whatever you need in there—just make it cute!”
That’s what we did and it turned out incredibly cute! We loved that beach house! I naively figured that only desperate people like us would choose to live in that place, but little did I know South Florida and beach-front property. It was a good thing we arrived on the scene when we did. There was only one large 2-bedroom unit upstairs with a spacious living room and kitchen which was the one we took. All the rest were efficiencies on ground level. Other people continued to move into the other apartments and not long afterward the place was filled. We made friends, had cook-outs, and endless ping-pong rallies. The beach, only 30 feet away, was gorgeous and we went to sleep and woke up to the sound of the crashing waves.
If you will turn (repent) and give heed to my reproof, behold, I [Wisdom] will pour out my spirit upon you, I will make my words known to you.
So what did I REALLY learn out of all that? I could say things like beware of anyone boasting of great real estate in Florida. Or being a snowbird is for the birds, but that's not really what I've gotten out of our whole Florida fiasco...that wasn't really a fiasco. And that's what I REALLY learned. I learned that life is not always going to be tidy, and predictable, and easily-orchestrated, and go directly as planned. I learned that life just ain't like the movies where everyone's given a script to follow and the perfect entrance and exit is always made. I learned the importance of asking forgiveness and how difficult it is to actually forgive...genuinely. I've learned that I have to KEEP ON forgiving...even when others don't see things exactly the way I do or even think they NEED to be forgiven.
I also learned that it's the messy things in life and how I handle the mess...and what I learn from the mess...that's WAY more important. I think what God showed me is that it's WITHIN the mess that He really shines the brightest...just like that Florida sunshine!
For more on the Beach House
These gorgeous photos were taken by our dear friend, Amy, who lived below us in our beach apartment. Not only was she supremely tolerant of the constant pitter-pat of feet above her head, she captured some beautiful memories for us!
Amy's cool products are here
When I mentioned that I'm a train-wreck on legs, I was not joking! We're talking highly factual, easily document-able information here. I didn’t always admit that I was a train-wreck on legs. In fact I thought I had it pretty well together and spent a whole lot of years propping up my high-achiever, very-impressed-with myself kind of life I was attempting to lead. And basically surrounded myself with others doing the same thing.
It wasn’t until some major dents and dings of events began to penetrate the armor of my happy-go-lucky, do-as-I-please lifestyle that I began to ask some of those serious questions….ya know, some of the BIG questions….like “is this all there is to life?” kinda questions….and “what in the blankety-blank am I doing here?” kinda questions. The underbelly of my façade was revealing itself to me in ways that were increasingly more difficult for me to ignore—or laugh off.
One day in my early thirties, college-graduate working as a hostess, single, and having just spent a long sleepless night under the neon lights of one of those sober-up tanks in the downtown Dallas jail struggling through the remnants of another hangover, I concluded that my life at that point was pretty much one….big….fat….zero.
Now let me clarify a bit. I hadn’t been driving drunk and I wasn’t arrested. I had been out with some friends in my perky little suit and designer shoes drinking way too expensive black martinis at some nouveau shi-shi bar. The cops actually thought that I was some attorney so they didn’t hassle me too much. But that’s all just semantics and geography. A jail is a jail is a jail. Drunk is drunk is drunk. And I knew that. And I hated it. Something in my life, my ideals of what I thought life was supposed to be was going completely haywire. It was spiraling toward pathetic and yet I didn’t know what I could do about it. I had no idea what I needed—or even wanted. All the things I thought I wanted were looking more shallow, and plastic, and cheap, and ridiculous with each passing day.
Somewhere buried back in my sweet sixteen youthful naiveté, there was a wholesomeness…a pureness…a goodness that I perceived and that I wanted in my life. I had adored babies and children, and I loved the idea of being a wife and mother. But somehow I had grown to a point where I barely glanced at kids and mostly tried to avoid them. I also had done much thinking and studying about God back then but as I went into my senior year of high school and then to college, I basically blew all that stuff off. By the time I was immersed in college life, all the deeper things in life were….well, pretty boring…plain-Jane vanilla…unexciting. Besides, I needed to take care of myself and that meant a career—a glamorous one, of course.
I also wanted to travel. So as soon as I graduated, I headed for California which is what every fresh-faced college-grad does who sorta wants a job/ sorta wants to party. I spent the summer living in West Alki beach with my college roommate and her boyfriend who had just landed a job with Boeing in Seattle. That was a fun summer but not so great in the finding-a-job department, so through some connections I became a manager for a posh athletic club in Vail, CO.
From there I spent the next 8-9 years living my version of the high-life: Caribbean island vacations, Banff Canada, fancy ski resorts, Sonoma wine country, owned a yacht, antiques, followed friends to wine tastings, horse events, horses races, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, pretty much the whole Town & Country deal.
But there was always this lonely, empty, hollow void that followed me around like my unpaid credit card bills. So after a bitter break-up, and a few months hiatus licking my wounds in Australia….well, have you ever heard “when two trains collide—matrimony?” Or “matrimony and twins all in one breath?” Yes, my husband and I met (in a bar—a swanky bar, of course) and he was what some refer to as a back-slid Christian. A quite young and handsome back-slid Christian, I might add. And I was still a bar-hoppin’ basketcase. Let me just say that our relationship, our marriage, is living, walking, breathing proof that God does exist--and that He can and will make beautiful music out of manic mayhem if given the opportunity to do so.
While I was still a basketcase pretending to know it all, my husband did have a really deep love for Jesus Christ that was buried somewhere under his own confusions and disillusionments at the time. And what this young, handsome guy saw in me (11 years older than him, by the way) is still a freak of nature in my mind. But since I’m the Romantic Mom now, I’ll just say it was a miracle! We just totally fell for each other. We went camping. We went for long walks. He continually told me how I needed to clean up my life. And I just kept on ignoring him. And we were inseparable at that point—and always will be. Believe me, I’m not being smug here. I’m not even being romantic (if that’s possible). We’ve done everything in our power to chase each other off and It just ain’t happenin’! I guess we’re both just too stubborn to quit. Plus, he keeps trying to convince me that he adores me—but I don’t believe it—not even for one minute!
Then one day not long after the twins were born (1999), I just up and decided that I was going to stop playing mind-games with God and just believe what the Bible said…literally. It was a regular ol’ day, middle of the week, and I didn’t mention any of this to anyone. I decided, out of the blue, that if this is what He says, then I’ll just believe it. I decided that I would give God another chance in my life—which, in the first place, is so entirely presumptuous—He gave ME the chance…after chance…after chance…after blessed chance. It demonstrates, once again, how conceited and arrogant I was still—even after so many humbling blows I had endured by then. I would give God another chance. Ha!
But He was gracious with me as He always is. After that point, it didn’t happen all at once, I did begin to change. I began to understand things that I never understood before. He began to teach me what love is—what it truly is. I was never able to get it before. And we managed to get through situations and problems that would have destroyed us otherwise. Four years later, after our fourth baby was born and right before we moved to Maine, at my request my husband baptized me in our hot tub in TX—right where I had birthed our baby the week before!
We’re still on this journey. We’re still learning and growing. And our love grows for Jesus Christ everyday. That’s what strengthens me so much in this walk, this path, that I’m trying so hard to stay on. For a long time I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t see what this living, daily walk was to look like. But the more questions I ask and the more I grope and grab onto Him, I see it all more clearly. Not everything…and not everyday. But that’s OK. And I’m ever so grateful that I finally at least get that much! It’s the daily-ness of this walk with my Savior…give us this day our daily bread…and that’s all I need…and it’s enough…it’s more than enough!
Time is like a railroad train;
A one-way ticket – no turning back.
And the prayer of every passenger
Is to stay securely on the track.
But, there’s victory over fleeting time,
Anxious moments, fears and strife.
Just trusting God to lead our way
Brings decades of abundant life.
John and Edna Massimilla
Going Green alternatives without compromise
Clean and Green It's the way of the future and there are some radical ideas floating around out there! We're bouncing around in green, green, and more green concepts and products ourselves right now. In fact, we're so excited about green that we've started an entire web site dedicated to all shades of green because this is a new frontier--and we LOVE new frontiers! So check out Green Pioneer
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This is me, Debbie, otherwise known as the The Romantic Mom...WORKING...my version of it anyway! And eagerly awaiting your quips and comments! Yep, hair in a ponytail, no make-up me. If you were to pop in at pretty much any given time, this is what you'll get.....I'll apologize in advance!
I stand in utter, unreserved, and unabashed awe of farmers and homesteaders. They are my Hollywood celebrities. I hang on their every word, look, stance, glance, and utterance. Why? Because they're not only horse whisperers, they're also chicken whisperers, goat whisperers, and cow whisperers. They can fix anything with baling twine. They never, ever sleep late and never, ever lose their sense of humor!
If that weren't enough, they possess a knowledge, wisdom, and character that renders me completely useless in about a nano-second. I become some babbling, bumbling, wimpy, hair-brain in their presence...I realize that's not too difficult so we'll just stop there. Would you like our Homesteader of the Month to whisper in your ear?
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Yesiree, by all means, I am a Christian. I would never have meandered off into this upside-down, don't-know-which-end-is-up kinda lifestyle, if I hadn't by some totally illogical, completely unexplained freak of nature invited Jesus into my heart. You'd best grab a cup of coffee for more of the nitty-gritty on this topic! Go ahead and click on me over there fillin' God in on just what's goin' on down here!
In Maine, Spring creeps in slowly... awakening under remnants of ice and snow... still frosty nights... and brisk chilly days.
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A Winter Journal
I welcome you to come enjoy the cold winter season with me and my family as we hunker down against the cold north wind...crafting, reading, journaling...but also venturing outdoors for some sledding and snow fun as we revel in a Maine Winter Wonderland!
I welcome you to enjoy the Spring season with us as we thaw from the cold, stretch and leap into the warm season... to plant seeds, pick up projects, and revel in the first signs of green! Let's spring forth into Spring!