THE DOOR FLIES OPEN IN THE NIGHT
Fifteen months ago I moved into the townhouse after finally reaching a settlement in what was a miserable, challenging, difficult and prolonged divorce process. I was concerned about what it would be like to downsize from the 3,700 s.f. custom house I used to own, where I had picked out every single thing, from the custom real cherry wood cabinets to the covered back porch to the fixtures, and yes, even the hinges. The townhouse, which is significantly smaller than what I was used to, seemed to be the perfect fit for me, nonetheless. It offered many things I thought would make me happy: granite counter tops in a spacious kitchen which boasts enough cabinets to house my dishes; hardwood flooring and tile in the public areas; a community pool; a neighborhood lake; a walk-in closet; a weight room; a loft area for my home office; storage above the garage for my holiday decorations; a covered porch; a garage; a private patio; and the two things I really wanted, a gas log fireplace and a separate whirlpool/shower.
However, it did not take me long after moving in that I learned that many things were not as they seemed. The back door requires a special trick in order to get the deadbolt to latch, and now that it has gotten to be extraordinarily cold, it is pretty much impossible to latch from the outside, so I must pull my vehicle around to the front, go back through the townhouse, go inside and lock the deadbolt, then exit out the front door. A minor inconvenience, it would appear, until I come home well after dark and the door is standing wide open. Or when I am sitting watching TV late at night, and suddenly it flies open, leaving me to wonder if someone is attempting to break in on me.
The master closet, although technically a “walk-in” closet, presents a huge ordeal each day, as I had to place a baker’s rack inside it in order that I would have a linen closet. Though I sell houses for a living, it never once occurred to me that there would ever be a residential dwelling built that does not contain a single linen closet. My clothing, purses, and shoes are all askew, because I have to inch my way in, close the door, then make my selection before squeezing back past the baker’s rack.
While it is nice to have a two car garage in which to park, it is accessed via the patio, and though there is a covered walkway, that does not prevent the wind and rain from blowing in on me as I am headed out to a big appointment. The front porch is too tiny to sit comfortably and enjoy passersby of which there are seldom any – everyone pretty much stays indoors here, even in pretty weather, which defeats my idea of meeting a lot of new friends. The back patio, though it has a privacy fence on either side, also has three HVAC units that pretty much continually hum whenever I attempt to sit out and enjoy the stars. Oh, yes, there are only two tiny little openings through which to view them, anyway. The mailman will not deliver the mail if anyone is parked in front of your mailbox, and due to lack of adequate parking, this is often the case. Instead, he leaves a nasty little note, which pits neighbors against neighbor due to the fact that sometimes one is expecting a really important piece of mail.
The exercise room is very tiny, and the pool is visited primarily by families, which made me miss my own little family, so I seldom went. The lake is fun to walk around, but I have to avoid the swamp on certain nights, as the stench is pretty much unbearable, and besides, there was an alligator sighting there.
The whirlpool is all right – EXCEPT that the water heater does not sufficiently supply it. Oh, how I miss my old whirlpool, which allowed me to soak away stress in hour long baths, due to the 80 gallon water heater I had installed when the house was built. I’d be happy if I could just get enough really hot water to fill this tub once, let alone replenishing it like I used to do at my old place. And the fireplace that was supposed to keep me warm on ultra cold evenings such as this one, when the temps will dip into single digits? Well, I finally figured out how to light that pilot light, but every single time I light the fire, it sets off the smoke alarm. No amount of calls to my property manager has been able to get this issue corrected. Oh, yeah, I cannot really cook meals for people, because the oven also sets off the smoke alarm. I had to open the window in sub-freezing temps the other night just to cook a frozen pizza!
Now, do not get me wrong – other than these issues, it is a really nice townhouse. Great, very convenient location. (Except now they are doing road construction on the road leading to the neighborhood, which will surely negate the convenient location due to the traffic delays.) Lest you think I am a chronic complainer, an extremely negative person, and someone that is unable to cope with the simple, everyday problems in life, keep in mind that within a two year period, I personally experienced a majority of the items on the list of life stressors. My score was so high on that test that the results declared that there was a 90% chance I would get ill in the near future. Additionally, the doctor that performed sinus surgery on me during my divorce declared that it was a wonder I was still standing, based on all that I had gone through. He, along with my attorney, strongly urged me to seek some counseling, but other than a few sessions with an Employee Assistance Counselor, I preferred to let God be my counsel.
I could end this story on a note that says, “Be careful what you pray for!” I could tell everyone about how I used to walk around the lake in my old neighborhood, then go out and look at the dismal rental houses available in our area, and break down and cry, because none of them was anywhere near what I was accustomed to living in. I could tell you how I prayed, over and over, as I walked around that lake, for God to please send me a place similar to, but smaller than my house, complete with a neighborhood that had a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a lake. How I prayed earnestly and diligently, yet had just about given up on finding such a place when I got a call from an agent telling me about this one. How God DID listen tom and DID ANSWER my prayer, in pretty much every detail, right down to the area of the county where I THOUGHT I wanted to live. All of that is the TRUTH. That is exactly how it happened! At first I was SO grateful, and praising God for this blessing. But then I realized that, though I WANTED this place, it is not exactly what I NEED. In addition to the laundry list that I have already enumerated, it is too small. I HATE my home office so much that I have never even finished organizing it, due to the fact that there are NO windows in it. I do not have a yard for a puppy. Or to throw a frisbee or play croquet. Or host a cookout. And the brand new grill I bought, hoping to have a barbecue for my friends? It is too heavy for me to lift over the steps from the garage to the patio by myself. So, I decided this was definitely NOT the place for me to remain long term. And I began searching for another one.
I had THREE false starts, where agents had rentals lined up for me, but something happened a the last minute that they fell through. Meanwhile, I have been living for months amongst boxes of packed dishes, china, etc., because I THOUGHT was moving three MONTHS ago. I had a holiday meal at my townhouse without my holiday napkins, and my grandmother’s Christmas punch bowl sat empty in a packing box, defeating a long standing family tradition. Never a depressed person in the past, it all began to overwhelm me, as I could not find a suitable rental in the area I have decided to move. I began to question God, and question myself. I THOUGHT He had placed on my heart to move to that part of the county, but nothing was forthcoming. Did that mean I was wrong about wanting to move out that way? Or that He was trying to teach me a lesson in patience, which has never been one of my virtues.
FINALLY, after a couple of failed attempts to “fix” the situation and persuade people who had their homes listed for sale to lease to me instead, I found a place! Okay, God, I get it – you did not want ME to go FIND a place, but wanted me to WAIT ON YOU instead. I will try to do better. I THINK I hear God laughing at that one, but I do not know, maybe that was just thunder instead, ha ha.
Last night I started back packing the things I had yet to pack. When I got to my son’s room, I broke down and wept. Tears of sadness for a failed marriage – though I KNOW divorce was the ONLY option I had, I HATE to fail at ANYTHING. Tears of remorse for making my son move again – twice in a year and a half. While he is usually away at college, only lives with me part time, and has assured me he understands, it makes me feel as if I have FAILED at being a good mother, because it was so very important to me that he and my daughter still have a place to come “home” to, despite my life transition. I cried because, in my stubbornness, filled with self-pride, but mostly just embarrassment, I had turned down every offer of help to move me last time, and now, here I am again, spending my evenings once again packing up all of my worldly possessions. I cried because I was a proud homeowner for 26 years, and now I am throwing my money away on rent each month. I cried because, for over three months I have had to tell my son to please call me before he comes home from college to visit, because I am not sure what my address will be. I cried because my life has not turned out the way that I planned.
I cried from all of the stress associated with not knowing where I would be calling home for the next two years. I cried because, though I have a LOT of friends, in that moment, I felt all alone. I cried because my personal struggles of late have kept me from being the friend I usually am. I cried because the whole process has brought out a negative side I did not realize I possessed. I cried because I felt so spoiled, knowing that there are people who have no clean water to drink, no heat, and not even a roof over their heads. Like me, they do not know where they will sleep the next two years. Unlike me, they do not have the resources to settle anywhere at all. And that made me feel like a terrible person. But that was not all. In addition to the housing situation, I have had issues concerning my kids to deal with, issues concerning friends, and in December alone, I knew THIRTEEN people that died. Thankfully, none of them was close to me, but I was close to many of their relatives, and when my friends hurt, I hurt with them. I cried some more because, unbeknownst to anyone (yes, sometimes I keep things to myself), I was awaiting some test results that would let me know whether the prediction on that Life Stressor test was accurate. I had a good, old-fashioned Pity Party.
And then this morning, I tried to elicit some sympathy from an extremely patient friend who has been more patient with me longer than I deserve. I have, on occasion, as do most of us, inadvertently and unintentionally taken out my frustrations on this friend. Why do we do that? Is it because we feel so comfortable with them that we think it is all right to let it all hang out? Or is it simply that the pressure release valve has to allow some steam to escape before it explodes? This very kind and patient person gently reminded me to look at the MANY positives in my life. They were right. Suddenly I felt not only embarrassed, but ashamed that I was not strong enough to keep these things from making me less than my best self. How does one properly apologize for one’s less than acceptable behavior? I did my best. I hope it was good enough.
This evening, having had an opportunity to reflect on everything during the day today, it hit me as to what the REAL issue is: the townhouse and all of it’s little quirks that the Landlord cannot seem to get properly repaired are not really what has frustrated/aggravated/discouraged me. It is the fact that this represents my own inability to “fix” certain things in my life. And I have always been a fixer. Growing up as the oldest child in a dysfunctional family, then later being employed as both a customer service manager and a property manager, I am accustomed to being able to “fix” things. It is what I do. If there is a problem in a group setting, I am the one that springs into action to try to rectify whatever is wrong. And it frustrates me to no end that, though the Landlord has tried multiple times to fix it, the smoke alarm still goes off whenever I light a fire, making the fireplace I yearned for useless. Though he has adjusted the deadbolt multiple times, the door was again ajar when I came home from the gym this evening, making it a little scary for me to go inside alone in the dark. Though a personal friend came over to work on the water heater, and at least there is some hot water, I am not in a position to install a larger unit, because I do not own the place.
Interestingly, God led me to visit a Church Sunday before last where there was a guest speaker. They told everyone in the audience to put all of their prayer requests onto a piece of paper, then place it in a sealed envelope, and address it to ourselves. I did so, and one of the requests was for a good rental house. Voila’! Within a short time, the house I have been wanting appeared available to me. Actually, it was available all along, but since it was not “perfectly” in line with my vision, and a tad more than I wanted to pay I had been overlooking it. I was able to negotiate the price down into the desired range, and have decided that perhaps it is not vital that I have a community swimming pool that I won’t go to more than a handful of times, anyway. I still have a few prayers on that paper to be answered, and time will tell – I had the foresight to use my office address on the envelope, so hopefully I will see that paper again.
After that Church service, in which I felt that the preacher was at one point speaking directly to me, my companion and I went to the visitor’s reception, something we do not usually do. We had to go around the room and introduce ourselves, and I said that I have felt like I used to have several active ministries, but I feel like I have been wandering in the dessert the past few years. He said to me, “God put on my heart to speak to you when I was up on stage, when I said that about ‘Feed My Sheep’.” I told him that I recognized that right away, because I felt I was there that morning by an unusual invitation that I had viewed as a Divine Appointment, and that verse had been the premise of a Women’s Conference that I had headed up once upon a time. I definitely have the “gift of gab”, and speaking , writing and teaching have always come naturally to me. I wondered when my ministries along these lines would be restored, if ever. This preacher assured me, as he spoke to me on the side as we were leaving the reception, that 2014 is going to be the year of restoration for me, that God is going to replace the things that I have lost. I loved that thought, and I have been clinging to it: I long for that Church home, that ministry, that special relationship, a home of my own, etc. He somehow knew, when he was up on that stage, without ever having met me or being told, that I used to speak to women, and that is why he said “Feed My Sheep!”, even though it was basically sort of off topic from the guest speaker’s speech.
But the thing that spoke to me the most that the preacher told me was this, “It is time for you to let go, and trust God with your problems. You do not have to try to fix everything.” I looked at him, startled, as this was another thing he could not have had any idea about me, and I asked him, “How do you know that I always try to do that?” His reply was, “I just do. Trust God, and this will be your year of restoration.”
Those words came flooding back to me this evening. I took ownership of all of those past hurts again last night. I felt the sting of the fact that there were so very many things that I am incapable of, in my human state, fixing. But the pastor’s words came back to me today to remind me that I do not have to try to fix any of them at all. That is God’s job, and if I will just trust Him, He will give me restoration. I do not expect him to give me back that lost relationship, nor any of the exact things that I have lost. Think about an old car that has lost its luster – it is not longer in its original state. But after restoration, due to better paints and materials and processes, the car looks much better than it did after it became dilapidated, and yes, even better than it did when it was brand new. Whatever you need to have restored, TRUST HIM – you do not have to fix it yourself!!!
And thus I pray for some friends of mine who have also lost things in the past few years. A couple of them are also under major Life Stressors. I pray, earnestly, diligently, and steadfastly, that they will also quit trying to fix it themselves, and trust in Him to do it instead. Note that the Pastor did not tell me to trust in God to HELP ME FIX IT, but rather to trust HIM to fix it.
As for that door that flies open in the night – the one that sometimes, no matter how hard I try to keep it latched – I need to realize that it will be fixed, in time. I just hope that my emotions, which also sometimes fly open in the night, even though I have tried so hard to keep them in check, will also be fixed in time – by Him, the Master Carpenter.