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31 Days of My Life as Shebraham: Day 7

I’d like to think of myself as older and wiser now, after my early adventure days, really I’m just more raw.  No more show, no more perfection.   Truth is, this recent season has been the hardest journey yet.  Yet as Anne Lamott says, “It gives me hope for things to be scary and to find a way for them to be funny.   I think that’s what my message usually is: If I can get through it, you can.”  

So why Shebraham?  Though I’ve traveled the world, even lived in Asia and Europe, my most recent international move has been different than all of the rest.  Along the way, I find myself identifying with the story of Abraham in the Bible.  In the first book, Genesis 12:1, we read, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”  As I have jotted down my writing notes over the years, I kept coming back to name “Shebraham” as my own “Abrahamic” journey.

When I met Chris, he had recently quit his consulting job to start Tegu, a toy company in Honduras. His mission was to create jobs there, and he was preparing to move to Tegucigalpa.  I found myself drawn to his adventurous nature. I wanted more of that. Though I had recently started my own adventures, I was impressed by his initiative not only to move to a third-world country to fulfill a social mission, but also to create something out of nothing with Tegu. My logical self preferred to have a safe and predictable life. In contrast, his true spontaneity and calculated focus was refreshing.

Within a year, we were dating, and a year after that, we were married. So five years after I fudged my vow never to move for a man, I was packing for my honeymoon and future life in Honduras in two suitcases.  In all the excitement, I didn’t really know what it would mean to “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

31 Days of My Life as Shebraham: Day 6

I was still a child, Target shoes and all.  Sure, I had heard of miracles.  Thought I believed in them too.  Throughout my early years of faith, I prayed for miracles.  Childlike prayers–“God, if you get me off this roller coaster alive, I swear I’ll never swear again.”  I didn’t know real sacrifice.

Yet, when I’m finally tested to give up something good, this love, I wrestled.  I fought.  I held on to my silly shoes (to this day) as some defiance towards God.  As if I showed Him, “I’ll obey…BUT.”  Even now, I hate surrender.  Therefore, I excuse myself, like many of us, to say “If you don’t feel like it, you don’t need to.”  Says who?  Me?  Who am I to tell God what He can do, how He can do it and when?  Have I learned nothing from those who have gone before me throughout Scripture?  Can I rebuke God?

In my childish way, I kicked, I pouted, I cried.  I wore myself out.  Slumping down in my corner with exhaustion, I gave in to my battle with God.  I look over those prayers, over seven years ago, and I see that my heart wanted God.  I wanted what was right.  But I fought it.  I didn’t want to give into what was right.  I wanted both–my way–and His.  Unfortunately, many days, my way is what comes first.

I remember challenging God, asking that if this relationship would end that He would bring this man love again.  I knew it would be only a miracle to open that door to what God had planned.

It was.  Almost four years later, he remarried his wife.  I look back now, not in pain, but in true joy.  Knowing that God showed me then, anything is possible.

31 Days of My Life as Shebraham: Day 5

After ten months of scrambling to find work, I was offered a job at the church where I had interned.  The position was tailor-made for me, more than I could have hoped for. As I finally settled into my new life, I knew it was worth the fight. It was the first time I thought, “This is where I’ll stay.”

LA was invigorating.  Every person, restaurant, new hotspot was a discovery.  And not just for me.  It was a new culture.  There was too much to see and the city sprawled so we meet friends out, not in.  And whether the local barista or your lunch friend, it seemed that people were looking through you.  Turns out many were looking to see if a celebrity or their next big break was behind you.  Be famous or stay interesting for fear you might lose your short-attentioned audience.

Then I met him.  He was different than the rest–a local who had a steady job, was older than 25, and was in the seemingly one percent not looking past you.  This was a rare find.  After a few dates, I knew.  Then, “We need to take a break.”  He was urged by church leadership to put things on hold because of his divorce.

A month went by without contact.  I journaled, prayed, scoured the Bible, cried and wrestled with God.  This made no sense.  That was years ago, surely God didn’t mean this!  But with everything disclosed, I knew in my gut that God was calling me to obey, even when I didn’t know the end.  I hated it.  So I laid him on the altar, similarly to Abraham with his son, Isaac.  My heart ached.  We both knew it was right.  For some reason, that made it hurt more.  It seemed unfair.

One Sunday, our church was partnering in an event with TOMS.  I stood in the back as our pastor called us to donate our own shoes in that moment.  My shiny, unsupportive $10 Target shoes glared at me.  Arms folded, I forced myself to fight off my swelling heart, moved by compassion.  “God, what more do you want from me?  I’ve given you the one I loved, I’m keeping the damn shoes.”

31 Days of My Life as Shebraham: Day 4

Within a week, I began a short-term internship at a church in Pasadena.  Older than all the other interns by a good five years or more, I was overqualified. But it was a way to get my foot in the door in the big-wide world of Los Angeles. And I wanted to learn from this community of believers and influential leaders.

It was a season for memory-making.  Everything was new.  I was eager to experience what I could.  I might have been the only person in LA willing to drive from the Inland Empire to Malibu just because I could.  I remember chatting excitedly with the Verizon employee getting my new LA number and he smirked, “You’re not from around here, are you?”  Was it that obvious?

My roommates and I just went to The Fray concert in Hollywood, still on a high that we just met Isaac Slade by chance after the show, we agreed to cruise The Boulevard.  At a stop light, I turned to the car next to me–politely smiling and nodding, as any courteous Midwesterner would do.  The driver smiled and rolled down his window, “Pull over.”  Yeah, right.  I drove on.  Simultaneously rolling to the next light, he waved us over again.  Always game for a good story, I was curious.

The stranger got out of his hair salon decal-covered car.   Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen with THIS guy?  He announced, “You have fabulous hair!” This was not the greeting I expected.  “I do hair for Bono,” he continued. Okay, now we’re talking.  That’s amazing!  He gave me his card and disappeared.

Pleased with yet another LA story under my belt, I drove away, my head haughtily held high.  A few moments of silence slipped by, then my roommates confessed, “Cindy, he didn’t say Bono.  He said porno.”

31 Days of My Life as Shebraham: Day 3

I may have started my adventure, at least geographically.  I was wide-eyed and had the whole world ahead of me.

As the end of my teaching experience drew near, I considered staying another year.  But with now with a taste of “something new,” I had to find my next fix.  This time with a bit more of my comfort zone.  Joining a friend in Ohio, I started working for a church while pursuing my seminary degree.

I was with friends.  I could speak the language.  I spent my days with college students, leading Bible studies, serving as the local women’s university basketball team chaplain and playing flag football.  I don’t think a job could get better than this!

I was still naïve yet thought I knew everything.  I didn’t know heartache.  This was the season for my first love and first break-up, with others to soon follow.  Each one more mind-boggling than the previous, assuming “It wasn’t me.  It’s their loss.”  As if I had nothing to learn.

“Guard my heart,” they told me.  It was more like a stone wall and moat.  No one could get too close.  If they did, I had my perfect image and my hidden controlling nature to ensure everything went according to plan.  This way, I wouldn’t get hurt.

As part of this, I vowed never to move for a man. Yet this one…I thought I would marry. It was his dream to move to LA and begin a brilliant career in film. So instead of following him, I left first. I’d start my life in California, then he would join me.

But as the moving date neared, I began to wonder if I was being foolish. I was leaving behind friends and a promising career. A few days before I hit the road, he and I had an in-depth conversation. I wanted some things to change before we took this next step. I wanted to be certain, once again.

The conversation revealed that we did not see eye to eye, and the day before my departure, we ended our relationship. My logical self kicked in, with a need to prove to others and to myself that there was no turning back. I could do this.  I headed west.

31 Days of My Life as Shebraham: Day 2

Though I often never veered too far from the “logical next step,” I always saw myself as someone who stood out from the crowd.  Maybe that was influenced by my towering height, starting in kindergarten!

In college, I majored in education because it would lead to a “good job.” I went the extra mile, adding another major, minor and certifications just to ensure that I would be particularly marketable. My priority has always been “the next accomplishment.”  Yet as graduation drew near, I knew I wanted more.  I was dying to have an adventure, my own adventure.  I decided to go to China for a year.

While my friends had stable jobs and solid incomes lined up, I packed my one suitcase and traveled across the world.  I didn’t know anyone.  It was my first year teaching which ended up being more like an annual-long game of charades.  I didn’t know the language.  My mom feared I might meet my future husband and never come home.

That year resulted in my craziest experiences to date.  Let’s take my diet that year which included: chicken feet, blood clot (apparently a “must-have” for teachers who might inhale chalk dust), monkey brain and rabbit head.  Yes, I remember that day vividly when I thought I was sitting down to a nice, end-of-the-year picnic which included a bag of fried chicken.  Yet to my dismay, I open the bag to find a bunch of rabbit heads.   It was the year I tried breaking and entering for the first time when we were locked out of the girls’ junior high dorm we were all living in.  Yes, for one year as a college grad, I lived on the same floor with a class of sixth grade girls.  And I also learned that year that karaoke is illegal within a certain vicinity of universities.  So I found myself hiding from the police while simply singing the Titanic theme song.

I had no idea what the future held but this was my first leap.  Yet this was my adventure.  I was a six foot blonde in China–my year as a celebrity.

Little did I realize, it was the beginning to my life as Shebraham…fifteen years ago.

31 Days of My Life as Shebraham: Day 1

Everyone has a story.  This is mine–my Shebraham adventure.

I grew up in a small suburb outside of Chicago.  What I’ve known is comfort and stability.  Though this did not mean peace and quiet, in a household with six children.  Those moments were more likely discovered sneaking under my bed or reading in the treehouse that Dad built.  I’ve been very grateful for my life as I know it.  I was never in want–except for the occasional real Barbie doll or Cabbage Patch Kid or even something that wasn’t a hand-me-down.

Though one thing I do know as the youngest, I struggled to find my own way.  I was prone to look to my older siblings for my path and decision-making.  By my teen years, I feared veering too much from the comfort and stability that I had always known.  Which led to taking the easy path, falling into decisions that seemed like the “obvious next choice”.  This influenced my desire for perfectionism with everything laid out for me before taking the next step and my need for control.

Yet, during my high school years, I wanted to explore the world, experience an adventure, live a life outside of the comfort I had grown used to.  But I didn’t apply that yearning in my Spanish classes, rather spent that time chatting with friends, thinking “When will I ever use this?!?”

Little did I realize, that fifteen years later, I would desperately need it–not only Spanish, but also the ability to take the road less traveled, to move out of my comfort zone and to learn to let go of perfectionism.

So here I am, on Day 1 of this writing journey.  My first attempt at practicing the daily discipline of writing and sharing it with the world.  Funny how that same perfectionism of earlier years is creeping up, telling me, “You can’t share.  You have no website.  You’re not ready.”

Let the adventure begin!