A Frou-Frou Woman in the Land of Natural Beauty

Zoey--a muggle that prefers to ease into the morning on my chair. As soon as I leave it...
Zoey–a puggle that prefers to ease into the morning on my chair. As soon as I leave it…

For my dear friend Sheila who encourages me to have fun with my writing.

She knows my life right now. Thank you kind and sassy woman. 

The day begins in the dark. Six or so. Steve making coffee and Zoey stretching her legs and easing out of her crate. (Zoey and I like to let the day happen slowly.) Two cups of coffee. CBS morning news. Steve and I discussing the day’s plans:

Him: What are you doing today?

            Me: Hmmm. Laundry. Maybe going to the library. (A lady of leisure . . . eesh!)

He kisses me goodbye and I settle into my morning routine. A shower with music pouring out of my iMac promising that God will make me brave or that I don’t need man’s applause—just Jesus who loves me like I am (I think Bridget Jones’ Diary). After making the bed and throwing in some laundry, I shoot downstairs with my make-up baskets in hand to watch Gilmore Girls.

Yes...I have baskets of make-up. It's bad.
Yes…I have baskets of make-up. It’s bad.

It’s right before I apply eye make-up that I start to question my sanity. Why am I even applying make-up? Who cares if I wear eyeliner or not? I’m in Colorado…land of the natural woman. BUT, my natural state kind of scares me. I am so vanilla; in fact, I’m the whipped cream on a vanilla milkshake. My eyelashes are white. My hair is turning white. My eyebrows are disappearing. AHHHHH! This whole aging thing could go a bit better. Back to the eyeliner and blackest black mascara…

All right…I’ll come clean: I’m a frou-frou woman. I am a woman who loves beauty products living in a state where women look awesome in their leggings, t-shirts, and fleece vests wearing little to no cosmetic enhancements. Maybe it’s because I’m from Tulsa, which is only six hours from Dallas (aka the capital of frou-frou) that make-up and hair products are so essential to my aesthetic comfort. Send me into Ulta and I’m liable to spend an hour examining every color of blush Smashbox makes, playing with different brands of lipstick in order to determine the creaminess level, or lately—studying a variety of concealers all promising to “perk up” tired eyes. I need an all-over percolating concealer.

After an hour scouring Ulta (or Sephora), I might end up with a $6 L’Oreal lip balm. (I’m not working right now so I don’t feel comfortable indulging too much.) Maybe when I find that job I’ve been looking for I’ll treat myself to a MAC lipstick in the

Lipstick. It's a mood addiction.
Lipstick. It’s a mood addiction.

perfect brownish pink…

Today I’m going to work at my church. I’m doing some data entry and then printing and folding bulletins for Sunday’s service. God is using me to help in some way, and I’m so grateful. No irony in that statement at all. It is pure delight to work with these beautifully gracious and faithful young people who love Jesus with their words and deeds. They remind me of Christ’s words to women (via Holy Spirit via Peter) in 1 Peter 3:

            “What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair (WHAT? But I love the smell of my Aveda Control Paste), the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way…” (The Message Bible).

Inner beauty. We talk about it all the time, but my love for all things cosmetic may keep people from noticing my scary outward appearance! I think maybe…just possibly… my fairly neutral make-up may encourage folks to notice my inner beauty because they won’t be so distracted by my scary-vanilla-albino-rabbit appearance! (Mild justification for full baskets of eye shadow and lipstick?)

Regardless, as a tribute to Colorado and as recognition of my co-dependency on cosmetics, I think I’ll leave off the eyeliner today and flaunt my inner-beauty! Wait…I shouldn’t flaunt? It should be perceived as part of my Christ-like character? Shoot. This is hard.

 Cue music: You make me brave…

OUT OF COMPLACENCY, INTO DEPENDENCY

Near my walking trail. It's rural.
Near my walking trail. It’s rural.

*It has been extremely difficult for me to write after finishing my thesis; I’m always wanting to use APA citations, and my creativity seems to have flown the coop. This is a long, tedious effort to get back in the swing of things.

And the LORD God said to Steven: “Take thy wife, thy puppy, and all thy belongings and head west to the land I will show thee.” (Severance, Colorado)

Did Sarah kick and scream when Abraham said, “let’s go”? Well. . . I did. I was as mad as a wet hen. Tulsa was my home. Family, friends, colleagues=history. Comfort. And a touch of complacency. Just a touch. Really.

Everyone kept telling me how great it was—you know—Colorado—mountains—skiing—hiking—fresh air.

As for skiing—Tried it when I was in my 20’s; gave it up for Lent.

However, I do love mountains, so after I quit kicking (silent screaming continued for a while) and accepted the inevitable, I laid down some ground rules for Steve and God:
1. I must have a house west of I-25
2. I must have a mountain view
3. NO TRACT HOMES!
4. No linoleum must ever touch my feet.
5. No builder’s grade carpet (I would not give up my 50-year-old hardwood floors for tacky carpet).
6. No split-level or two-story homes need apply.

Yes, yes. . . I know. I’m blessed to have a home. I sound so materialistic. In the words of Idina Menzel–“Let it go!”

Then I met our realtor, Scott, and he showed me a total of five houses within our price range. That was it. I’d scheduled three days for looking at houses and only needed one. Seems the oil and gas boom in northern Colorado meant more folks moving in and fewer houses available. Prices went up and up and up and bidding wars ensued.

Lesson: Don’t lay down ground rules.

The Reality:
1. The only houses west of I-25 in Ft. Collins within our price range were split-level, dingy basement, one-and-a-half bathrooms, no-closet-space homes.
2. Mountain views were 50K extra.
3. Tract homes east of I-25 were more affordable.
4. Only two houses were available that wouldn’t require massive renovation and cleaning. One backed to a busy road in Greeley (where the wind wafts the scent of meat processing plants through the town). The other was clean. Good location. Nice quiet neighborhood. A two-story with finished basement. Great storage. Clean. Horrible builder’s-grade carpet. Linoleum in kitchen and bathrooms and 3’ x 4’ square entryway. No mountain view. BUT an incredible garden in the backyard and three full bathrooms. Great sized master.

We bought it the second one.

The Move
Steve moved out first. He started work at a church in September. I stayed behind to sell the house, pack, and finish my master’s thesis. The house sold in 12 days, so I moved in with my parents to finish writing my thesis and moved out in November.

I learned so much during the time with my folks. Certainly researching the effect of optional single-sex classrooms for boys

View from my "tower" at my parent's house. I worked on my thesis there.
View from my “tower” at my parent’s house. I worked on my thesis there.

struggling with literacy was an eye-opener and a very difficult research topic (one I’d chose for myself—no excuses!); however, the real growth came from just being around my parents and watching Christ in action through their lives. Blessed.

More Reality: Identity Crisis

I’m a teacher. It’s my identity. My teaching consumed me—about 60-70 hours a week (to the chagrin of my hubby). Teaching provided me with wonderful colleagues, terrific students, and an outlet for my creativity. Every week I’d look over lesson plans, re-work them, integrate some newer ideas, and grade papers. My reward? The appreciation of my students and their parents. It was never monetary. It was, however, a source of pride. I wanted to be an exceptional teacher. I loved having a great reputation. It sounds so conceited, but it’s brutally true—I valued my reputation and identity as an exceptional teacher.

Vanity, vanity. Poof. It’s gone.

Now I’m unknown. I apply and apply for adjunct teaching positions, but I don’t know anyone who knows someone. No connections.

And I miss my daughter and my parents and being only 3 ½ hours from my grandson.

But I’d become complacent. I see it now. It’s Windex clear to me now.

My complacency looked like this:

  • I figured that once I finished my master’s degree, someone would hire me based on my recommendations, reputation, and connections to wonderful teachers.
  • I figured I’d eventually find the right church and get involved.
  • I figured I’d start feeling stronger and be able to bike and lose weight and get healthy (I had to quit teaching for a year due to major arthritis issues and need for disk fusion surgery—worked on master’s while recovering).
  • I figured I’d start having weekly dinners with my parentals and with my daughter and her hubby.

I figured a lot of things, but didn’t take action on any.

Complacency.

And then God said, “Enough already.” Maybe. Who knows what God is saying in the heavenly realms concerning his millions of children?

Now I’m living east of I-25, have no mountain view, walk regularly on linoleum and builder’s grade carpet. AND I’m at peace.

Linoleum isn't the end of the world. Just miss my hardwoods.
Linoleum isn’t the end of the world. Just miss my hardwoods.

Dependency.

Severance, Colorado is on the eastern plains. When the wind sweeps down from the north, we get a nice whiff of a giant sheep ranch. The tiny town’s motto: “Where the geese fly, and the bulls cry.” The geese I get. The bulls weeping? Ah. Interesting story. Bruce’s Bar in Severance (an authentic “hole in the wall”) is famous for Rocky Mountain oysters—thus the bull’s cry. Ouch.

When isolated from friends and family and familiar places, you can keep kicking and screaming (I did), get really depressed (I did), or learn to trust your heavenly Father (I’m trying).

I began to live in God’s Word. I meditated on it day and night. I found a Bible study class in Ft. Collins. The ladies are precious and the study consumes much of my time. I found a church—Mountain View Community Church. Stevie and I love it. We are getting involved, and I am the volunteer print woman. I am now running bulletins, printing whatever needs to be printed. Using the folding machine. Stuff I learned to do as a graphic designer for South Tulsa Baptist Church in Tulsa eight years ago. I am trying to be useful while I look for a teaching position with a local community college or university.

I have no idea what is going to pan out for my future. None. I’m learning to walk by faith and not by sight—and it’s stinkin’ hard for a control freak like me.

What I know: God is the source of my strength. It doesn’t matter whether I “know someone” or have “connections”—He is my connection.

Kitchen tables are not for eating--they are for studying!
Kitchen tables are not for eating–they are for studying!

On the front of my Bible study notebook I have inserted a printed page that reads:
“If I do not stand firm in my faith, I will not stand at all.” It’s from Isaiah 7:96.

I recite it several times a day. It’s still lonely and isolated. I don’t have any friends yet—just some acquaintances. But God is my anchor and He holds me steady against this changing and sometimes overwhelming tide of change.