I am sitting in my darkened apartment in West Los Angeles crying. I don’t tell you this to gain empathy, but more to share where I’m at and why the dam finally broke.
About a month ago, my life plan drastically changed in the course of one meal with some dear friends while on a short trip out to LA for a wedding. I shared that I was moving back to Tennessee from Arizona after the first of the year and within a day, they offered me a job to come back to LA instead, and within 3 days I had to give them an answer.
I wasn’t prepared for this change. For this unplanned plan that presented itself. But sometimes the Lord asks us to step out in faith before we’re fully prepared. Before we feel ready. Before all of the puzzle pieces have come together and before we can see the big picture. The unplanned plan.
A couple of days went by. Along with some “no ways.” Some holding onto the old plan. Some tears and hard phone calls. Some convincing and reminding that was needed. And after all that, I accepted the job. A new role that was literally offering me everything I’ve been praying and hoping for deep down. And now here it was being given to me on a silver platter. Even now, the thought of it chokes me up.
“What is actually happening?” was all I could say. It all felt too good to be true. And that got me thinking….
Isn’t that who God is? He is the God of too good to be true because HE IS too good to be true. So it’s only natural that is what He offers His children. But the problem is, when we’ve been tainted, it can sometimes be hard to remember His goodness. Sometimes hard to see it that way. To see it as a gift and not some trick or trap. When the shroud has been over our eyes for so long, we forget. I forgot. But with the help of my tribe, I was reminded. Thank God for memory keepers disguised as family and friends in my life.
So a couple days later, I accepted the job and would be going back to LA just two weeks later to train and look for an apartment and potentially a roommate. My parents jumped in the car with me and said (as they always do!) they’d go with me to help me out. And while I was training, they even offered to go scour and look at more apartments to see what they could find.
Sidenote: Here’s an example of the unplanned plan God had working behind the scenes. Now I know this is going to sound weird, but about a year ago, maybe more, I was praying and asked the Lord where I was supposed to live. At the time, I had just moved to Arizona to stay with my parents following the divorce, and what I heard in my spirit was, “Cheviot Hills.” Now, I had heard of Cheviot Hills, I knew it was in California somewhere, but I had NO CLUE where – I was thinking somewhere far, maybe past Burbank. I also felt like California was out of the cards for now, so MY PLAN was likely to go back to Nashville and establish myself more as a writer/director there before coming back out to LA. So, I tucked Cheviot Hills into the back of my mind and thought perhaps one day.
So back to my parents and I looking for apartments in West LA. Cheviot Hills came back into mind. I told my parents about it and they said, “then that’s where it’s going to be. Let’s go look.” So I looked up where it was.
If you type Cheviot Hills into Google, this is what it says: “Cheviot Hills is a neighborhood of single-family homes on the Westside of the city of Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1924, the neighborhood has been the filming location of countless movies and television shows due to its convenient location between Fox Studios and Sony Studios. The neighborhood has also long been home to many actors, television personalities, and studio executives.”
Whoa. I burst into tears. I couldn’t believe it. “Oh, Lord. You are good. You see me.”
So we went and looked. We actually tried to get in to see this one apartment we thought was going to be the one, three times, to no avail. We finally let that one go. It was a long four days – we were exhausted and had exhausted all our efforts when my parents left to head back home, I still hadn’t found an apartment. I was still going around to see places myself in the mornings before going in to train in the afternoons and I remember writing down an address to some cute little bungalow style apartments that we drove by and I said, “Gosh, I wish those were for rent!”
After my parents had left, I looked the address up and turns out there was an apartment in the building leasing after all. So I went and looked at it and remember it was so cute – it was indeed a bungalow from the 40s/50s with a cute little courtyard with citrus trees, hardwood floors, updated doors and blinds, a sweet vintage bathroom complete with retro tiles, an updated kitchen with beautiful Carrera marble and the place had plenty of storage space. It was everything I had asked for. The only cherry missing was a fireplace.
It was also in a perfect location a couple minutes from downtown Culver, a 12-minute drive to work in Santa Monica, close to the metro so I could easily take the train in, in case I didn’t want to drive. And guess what?? It too was smack dab in-between Sony studios and Fox Studios – either studio was at both ends of the main street this apartment was on. And to top it off, there was no security deposit and the first month was free! “Wait what!?!” Unheard of in LA. And the sweetest part was, when I walked out the front entrance and looked to my right, there is the Windsor Care Center of Cheviot Hills, and to my left, there at the end of the street is the tower for Sony Studios. Like a beacon. This was the place. It was like the Lord gave me a little nod and said, “I see you, Stef. And I’ve got you. Trust me and just wait and see. I have only the BEST in store.”
I burst into tears.
So I sent in my lease, my check and secured my new spot. It was official. I had a job and an apartment. Now I just needed to get my things across the country from Tennessee to my new home in Los Angeles, buy a car, and prep for the new job which entailed reading a 300 page technical book on post-production. How hard could all that be? Easy, right!?
Somehow my parents and I managed to do it. Just the three of us. Can I just say thank God for parents!? I don’t know where I’d be without mine. Likely homeless on the side of the road with all of my belongings scattered about. But thankfully, they would never allow that, so I managed to keep my belongings in tow, my head under a roof the past year, and we even managed to secure me a car to carry me back to my new home. Ka-ching!!!
I was well on my way. I had a job. Check. An apartment. Check. My things packed in a pod and shipped. Check. A car. Check. And insurance for everything in my life EVER. Half-check. So, just as a frame of reference, I’m going to give you a timeline of the past two and a half months of my life? I call it the “when my life changed timeline…”
- October 17-27th – I was out in LA for my friends wedding on the 19th.
- October 27th – My other friends who own a production company offered me a job.
- October 29th/30th – I accepted the job.
- November 9th-16th – I went back to LA to train and look for an apartment.
- November 28th – Thanksgiving week.
- December 4th-13th – I went to to Nashville to pack up my pod.
- December 4th-6th – Mom and dad and I packed up my pod.
- December 7th – The pod got picked up and that night attended a friends wedding.
- December 7th-13th – In the following week, I had to sell my leftover furniture, take things to Goodwill, move a washer and dryer by myself that I was donating, and see whatever friends I was able to. I also got super sick and basically slept for 3 of those days because I felt nauseas. I had to take my bike to be shipped, I had to help take care of my sister because she had a horrible migraine (she gets these often). I had to take her car to be fixed because the window got stuck down and it was raining and starting to snow in Nashville. I managed to squeeze in going to a friends Christmas house party.
- December 13th – Flew back to AZ on what would’ve been my 11 year wedding anniversary; 15 years together total.
- December 17th – 3 days later was the year anniversary of my divorce. Congrats???
- December 18th – My parents and I got back in the car to go back to LA to unpack my pod that would be arriving on the 18th, where we would have to get the keys to my apartment for the first time (which was a huge pain in the butt!), go buy supplies, clean the place, and rest.
- December 19th – Went to pick up a u-haul, take it to the pod storage facility, and load everything from the pod into the u-haul. Drive it back to my apartment, unload it all and then try to organize and start setting things up.
- December 21st – We drove back to AZ and got in at 1am.
- December 22-25th – Christmas week festivities with a house-full (and I mean 17 people).
- December 26th – Found and purchased a car.
- December 30th – Headed back to LA with the rest of my things to get settled and finish buying furniture items and unpacking.
- January 2nd – My first day of work at the production company.
- January 7th – First week under my belt. Officially dead.
Now do you understand why I’ve been crying? So here I am. A week into my new life and truth be told, it’s been a really hard week. Incredibly hard. Yes, it’s the start of a new year. A new decade. A new life. And boy did I choose to start it off with a bang.
I moved to a different state. I started a new job that has basically thrown me into the deep end with little experience and during their busiest time. It’s day 3 and I already feel like I’m drowning. I work 9 hour days, jet straight to a yoga class if I make it in time, come home, cook myself something to eat, sit in a half darkened apartment with half-unpacked boxes scattered across my floors, clean up after myself, try to write or read (if I don’t fall asleep), and then hop into bed and do it all over again the next day. Groundhog day. That’s what my new life feels like. An exhausting groundhog day.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “yeah, Stef, welcome to the party; the real world. The rest of us have been doing this thing our entire lives.” And yet I’m sitting here in my apartment writing this and the truth is simple. It’s not really the job or the apartment or the hectic life schedule, or the lack of unpacking and chaos of my apartment. The truth is, I feel…
Very alone. I’ve cried about it a few times this week and to my older sister tonight. I don’t know if that’s just exhaustion or actual loneliness, but I think it’s the latter and the former just exasperates it.
I can’t help but sit and look at my life and just feel sad. I feel sad and lonely. This is not what I thought it was going to be. Here I am. I’ve started a new job at a production company (in the field I want to be working in), living in my own apartment (personal space I had been craving for 3 years), and living back in California (something that was a down-the-road goal) and yet I find myself with a whole range of emotions and none of what I thought they’d be. Another unplanned plan that creeped up on me.
You ever feel this too? Funny how that works isn’t it? We think we want something and then we get it, and we realize it’s not as great as we thought it was going to be.
So here I am, sitting in the dark with boxes scattered everywhere and all I am thinking is, this isn’t it. This isn’t the thing I wanted. This isn’t fun. I’m tired. I’m lonely. I feel so unbalanced. There’s so much to do. How will I ever see friends with this schedule? Is this sustainable? Will I really get to do the thing I want, which is act and write and direct? I think it’s just a moment I’m having and that’s okay. I can let myself have it, but the deeper question I want to ask myself is, “What’s this all about, Stef? These sad feelings? This anxiousness?”
And while we’re on that topic of pondering and self-discovery and realization, I am also recognizing how triggered I am by things I didn’t even think would trigger me. I’ll give you a couple of examples.
Some friends invited me to a bible study tonight and since I have been feeling lonely, I thought it’d be nice to see them and hopefully meet some new faces. So, I decided to forgo my daily yoga class and head to the study. I was grateful to be there but by the end of the night, let me tell you, I wanted to run away from there as fast as I could. This place was so heavily saturated with Christianese (yes, that’s a real word in my book) church verbiage and vibes that I wanted to puke. That sounds harsh, I know. But bear with me. There was talk of how we “must send disciples out”, and “let’s put a number on how many people were going to bring to the Lord in the next year”. And “how many disciples we can make that can in turn make other disciples.” I mean…I just…
Look, here’s the thing…they didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t. They weren’t saying bad things. They were saying good things. They were saying the things the Lord placed on their hearts. Their intentions are good. They may have been saying things differently than I would have said them and perhaps they were approaching situations and people differently than I would have, but I found myself strangely triggered by it all and uber judgmental. My skin was crawling. I had to get out of there. Inside I was screaming, but I wanted to be polite so I stayed until the end, thanked my friends and left with little intention of ever going back to that gathering. I prayed about it on my walk home. “Lord, help me to calm down. I am clearly triggered.” Again, the question, “What’s this all about, Stef? Where’s it all coming from? What’s really going on?”
I know it has to do with my past. No doubt. Being heavily steeped in all kinds of Christian church culture. Being around inauthentic Christians. The facade. The half-deep feeling. My ex-husband was a pastor (yep, ex-pastor wife here!) and used a lot of that Christianese verbiage, sometimes just out of his schooled nature and sometimes as a means of controlling. Some of this Christian verbiage I used too. Maybe I still do sometimes. Who knows. But it also reminded me of the family dinner group I used to be a part of, which frequently brought up how we could be doing better as Christians, doing more. It often felt like there was a lot of pressure, a lot of shame and guilt and the feeling I got from this group tonight, raised a whole bunch of red flags for me.
This week I also came to the realization that my socializing habits may be a little out of whack. I think when you are removed from your normal life, from your usual week to week hangs with friends, and then you move to a new place where you’re no longer doing that, it can be hard. When you are living with family for a year, and mostly only seeing them and a couple friends here and there…let’s just say I have felt out of practice socializing, which is not something I would have said in a million years.
I sometimes feel like a doll on display. A very raw and vulnerable doll. Truth be told, this is probably more in my head than is actually true, but if I run into old friends who haven’t seen me since before my divorce, I feel like they look at me and they don’t know how to talk to me anymore. It’s like they wanna ask me questions, but they don’t know where to start, so they just don’t. And unless I bring it up, it just feels like they’re staring at me and there’s this big elephant in the room.
I don’t feel this with my friends in Nashville. Maybe because they know me more as someone separated, divorced, or single rather than married. And I didn’t feel it at all with anyone I met while I was solo traveling abroad. Curious. Maybe it’s the old settings bringing all of this out. The old friends. All things from my past. Maybe it’s even honestly something I am doing or putting out there; making it into more than it is. Overanalyzing everything.
There’s a good chance. Like 100% chance.
And then there are the new people I meet…that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. Especially with guys. See before, when you’re married – you can talk to anyone and be friendly and no one would read into it or think anything of it because you’re married. But when you’re not married anymore and you start to talk to someone, just trying to be friendly, it’s hard to know if you need to watch what you say or how you say it…
Any of my single girls out there understand this? Anyway, you get the picture…
All that to say, I am freaking spent. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. Just utterly exhausted. So all of this together, it’s seriously been a helluva week. And it’s literally week one. Someone send help! None of this was a part of the plan.
But the Lord continues to gently remind me, there really can’t be a plan on our end. Or, I guess there CAN be, but there SHOULDN’T be. Because ONLY HIS PLAN matters. And if we are willing to be open to the unplanned plan – the thing we can’t see – the thing that jumps out and surprises us. The unexpected door that is flung open…He has the most incredible things in store. Really He does. It may look different than you expect. But that just teaches us to adjust our expectations, to learn how vitally important it is to be in line with His will and His plan.
The unplanned plan. When we do that, we can jump in with both feet, fully on board, regardless of the packaging.
So here is my question to you:
Where is the Lord asking you to jump in with both feet in 2020? How is He asking you to fully get on board the thing He’s calling you into? Where is He asking you to be brave? I pray that we all may have vision to see things the way He does and to be prepared for the unplanned plan He has in store for each and every one of us this upcoming year.
So, happy new year! May your 2020 be full of wonderfully surprising moments and deeper clarity into what the Lord’s got in store for you.