Wednesday, September 14, 2016

And The Hits Just Keep On Coming

Let's recap the past week, shall we?

My car started making a noise of death while driving 70mph on the highway. I brought it in for repair, and $450 unexpected dollars later, all that was done was airing away some brake dust and resurfacing my rotors.

I discovered that even though I'm making a slightly higher salary here and working more hours than I did in New Jersey, I'm actually taking home less pay than I was before moving. It's now been four years since I've been able to save any money whatsoever. Regardless, I truly love my job. It was just a major buzzkill to find this out, and I'll have to re-budget accordingly.

My neighbors and I have come across two gigantic dead mice right outside my trailer, as our extermination process continues. Three holes inside have been patched (one in my bathroom wall that was eaten through) and countless traps set. I have yet to sleep through an entire night here, and I run on fumes daily after hearing said rodents parade around inside my walls every evening at ungodly hours.

Today, I somehow ended up with a nail in my tire. Thank God my landlord's son and neighbor were able to plug it, and I pray the plug stays in because my tires are brand new, and I obviously can't handle another automotive expense.

On top of all this, there continue to be serious health concerns in my family that I of course can do nothing about, not even hug the person because for the first time in my life, I'm not a short drive/train ride away.

Sorry to be a Debbie Downer. Some lovely things have happened in the past week too, such as beautiful photo shoots and shared laughter with coworkers. I just felt it necessary to pen these adventures down as I have been. I hope to one day look back and think nothing of this nonsense. I've only been in Georgia for a month and a half, and I feel like I've already dealt with a year's worth of junk, honestly.

What doesn't kill you, right? To be continued...

EDIT #1: Ooook. Can y'all please pray for me? If you read this blog post, you know the week I've already had. This morning, another tire (not the one we plugged) is totally flat. Can we like redo this whole week please? Or can I go on vacation or something?

EDIT #2: Jesus is so worthy of some praise right now! I can count on one hand the number of people I have on my side in Georgia (my neighbors and coworkers), because I don't have any other solid, established friendships yet. And *thank God* for them. I rarely ever ask for financial help; it just doesn't sit well with me, even if I'm in need. Without me asking, my neighbor paid for my tire patch + full tank of gas this morning, and my coworker is treating me to lunch today + pest control service for my resident mice. I am beyond grateful to the point of tears! I've been through so much in a short time and often feel very alone here, but through it all, God is faithful <3

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Place Prepared

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?" -John 14:1-2 NIV

Jesus is talking about Heaven here, but I find myself applying the heart of these verses to my life right now. During worship at church yesterday, I was overwhelmed by the thought of God preparing a place for me in Georgia. He knew I would follow His lead. He could have orchestrated my job transfer then stepped back, leaving me to my own devices to figure out the rest.

But that's not what a good Father would do.

He prepared everything for me - from my vintage trailer, to my incredibly kind neighbors, to my joyful coworkers, to the friends I'm meeting, even to the little details in each day that He knows make me so happy, like freight trains and water towers and warehouses.

I can't help but be overcome with emotion by this! The God of the universe, the One who made the heavens and earth, loves me this much. Enough to take care of everything in advance and walk with me in the present toward my future with Him.

If you're wondering how I know Jesus is real, just look at my life. It's new, it's exciting, it's blessed - not by my own hand but only by His.

Take a moment to reflect on how God has prepared a place for you up to this point in your life. What do you think He might be preparing for your future?

Friday, August 26, 2016

This is Hard

It's been one month since I moved down to Georgia, and I've been going nonstop every day. On top of working, I visited six churches (some several times), explored parks and restaurants, attended singles events and worship nights, and took care of all the necessities associated with moving. And I've done nearly all of this alone.

Multiple people have praised me for taking such a big leap of faith, moving nearly 1,000 miles away from home to a new city with no friends/family waiting for me. Being the confident, independent woman that I am, I've replied in stride saying, "It's fine, everything's fine, I've got Jesus, I'm fine."

Today, I am not fine.

Today, loneliness and homesickness have caught up with me.

I want to walk to the beach, and I can't. I want to hug my parents, and I can't. I want to get ice cream with my best friend, and I can't.

This is hard. This is really hard. I desperately desire good friends here, and good friendships aren't often made in an instant. They take time, they take cultivating. But I want them now. I just want everything to be ok right now.

I don't want to do fun things alone anymore, because they're not always fun that way. I've been a "lone wolf" for most of my life, and it's getting lonely.

I hope things change soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My First Week in Georgia

The adventure continues! If you read my last post, then you know how bumpy the road was to Georgia - and my first week was par for the course! I can only laugh at these stories and rejoice in the fact that I've taken them all in stride. I can be a fairly high strung person, so practicing patience is an accomplishment to be celebrated! Let's take a look back at some of the hilariously awful events of the past few days, shall we?

While not really funny and more so just added fuel to my exhaustion, I started work at my new job only two days after moving into the trailer. I figured the South would be much slower paced than the East - boy, was I wrong! I've been going nonstop all day, every day. As someone who loves to check things off my to-do list, I've been extremely stretched as it's become clear that there will never be a blank post-it on my desk. Full throttle from the first minute! I've missed several scheduled breaks for that reason. Learning how to navigate between two supervisors (with much expected of me from both) has been really challenging. I still have several hours of online training to do, a website redesign, 2.5-day staff retreat in Augusta, three-day conference in Atlanta, and another three-day Advisory Board training which will take me all over the state (Atlanta, Macon and Valdosta, to be exact). And this is just over the next month and a half, on top of regular duties!

Add heavy work load to my constant running around after leaving the office, taking care of everything that needs attention from utilities installations to car inspection to bank account opening, all the tedious stuff that comes along with a big move. My eating schedule is off, and I haven't slept through the night yet! Been up 2-3 times every night (even with NyQuil!), which majorly sucks and doesn't help my cause.

I know I promised funny stories, which are coming, but it's worth mentioning that on top of all of this, there have been some serious health concerns in my family. Anxiety about that paired with lack of sleep/energy led to a mini breakdown at work one day. Lots of tears. Like crying five different times that day tears. Did I really need to have my period during my first week here, too?! Sorry, guys. Ladies, you understand.

Onto more "you just have to laugh" things - rather than waste precious time, I called Chase bank about opening accounts with them before actually going to my local branch, so I'd know exactly what I needed to bring. Made the list, prepared the materials and drove over. Went through the whole process and found out I couldn't have my Georgia address listed on the accounts until I got a Georgia driver's license. Ok...so, I got my driver's license the next day and found out you only have 30 days to get a license plate, too.

I spent an entire lunch break at the license plate office only to find out that I couldn't get mine until I got emissions testing done, plus there was a $488 fee for my car. I'm sorry, what? Yup. Georgia charges all new residents a special fee for their car, 7% of the car's value, which for me was nearly the cost of rent! Not exactly an expense I was prepared for. Welcome to Georgia.

Circling back to my bank accounts - they were finally opened, but I had to wait a week to get my debit card in the mail. In the meantime, I started transferring money from my old TD Bank accounts (RIP - really wish TD was in Georgia so I wouldn't have to go through this), and even though my Chase rep said I could do that with no problem, my Chase accounts got suspended not once - but twice - because they didn't think it was me making the transactions. More headaches!

Moving on to utilities. I called the gas company to have them turn my gas on while I was at work one day. I had been turning off the air conditioning before I leave for work in the morning, because there's no sense in racking up an electric bill when nobody's there. I came home that day to find that not only did the gas company turn my gas on, but they also turned my heat on. And left it on. Full blast. In a trailer. In Georgia. In August. It was 500 degrees when I walked in, and the heat even blew out my hallway light above the furnace! I called the gas company livid, and they promised to give me a credit on my account. Fun times!

After thoroughly researching internet companies and finding that Comcast is by far the best when it comes to speed, I discovered that they don't service the trailer park (of course!), and my only option was AT&T at a much lower speed. Feeling a bit defeated and praying the service wouldn't flash me back to dial up days, I scheduled installation - which took over 4 hours. I ended up having to call out of work, which was actually a blessing to get some rest (and scoot out for my emissions test), but still. Four freakin hours. At least I have internet now!

Other silly little things that were more annoyance than major issues - this month is the first time ever in my nearly 15 years of being a Verizon customer that I've gone over my cell phone minutes. Mainly from being on hold for way too long with utility companies (forgot to mention I had to call AT&T *three times* because they had my installation info wrong and kept saying they fixed it but actually didn't) and others such as Geico - which gave me a heart attack when they said my new car insurance rate would be higher than what I paid in NJ. That ended up being bogus thankfully - but just another minor nightmare!

Congrats, you've made it to the funniest/best part of this blog post. The bugs. My first week in the trailer was plagued with angry ants that somehow still broke through my cinnamon and Raid barriers. I continue to have a twitch because it constantly feels like they're biting me! The real kicker came one night when I was standing in the kitchen, and a roach came out of nowhere and crawled up my leg. Yup. That happened. I somehow kept my composure, beat it to death with a rolled up t-shirt, and called my neighbors to come pick it up because I didn't want to touch the carcass. Ho-ly smokes.

My saving grace in all of this, aside from God's actual grace, was that my dad and stepmom visited this past weekend. They helped me relax and set off bug bombs in the trailer that have, for the most part, kept things at bay. Though there's now question of possible mold spores floating around. But ya know. Can't win em all. Even funnier (though not for them - sorry Dad and Nan) is that my bad fortune seemed to rub off on my parents as they ended up in a super moldy hotel room. Even after moving to a second room, that one also had spotty internet and tv, a broken phone, car alarms going off in the middle of the night and cigarette smoke coming up through the air conditioner. Could any of us catch a break?!

I've typed all of this out partially as an "I can't believe this was actually my life" memoir for years to come and mostly as a reminder of how incredibly good God is. I spoke to my best friend on the phone a few nights ago and mentioned that through all this, Jesus is refining me. He's helping me become a better woman - one growing in patience, wisdom and humility. Conveniently, three areas I really need help in! If I had stayed in New Jersey, perhaps I would have been spared from what feels like endless stress, but I know that I wouldn't have changed. I wouldn't have silly opportunities like this to be challenged in the best ways. I know every day and every experience will be worth it. Can't wait to become an even better Elyse than the severely sleep-deprived girl I am now :)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Home Sweet Trailer

Never thought I’d find peace in houseplants, but looking at them is just about the only thing keeping me together right now.  Houseplants and Jesus Christ Himself. The past few days have been beyond exhausting. I can’t believe I start my new job tomorrow with no time to rest after moving from New Jersey to Georgia, but I didn’t expect things to go down they way they did.

I had visited Georgia about a month ago to try and find a place to live. After checking out eight apartment complexes and discovering that most places worth living in are way over my budget, I found an opportunity through the Airbnb home I stayed at during the trip. The owner offered me her 2-bedroom basement apartment for as long as I needed it, with all utilities included and a great rent price in a beautiful neighborhood. I returned home to New Jersey with a sigh of relief. I had scheduled only a few days to get settled between my move down and work start, but that was no matter because I had found a place, and settling in would be a piece of cake…Right?

Exactly two weeks before my move, the owner of said home texted me (at 11:05pm, no less) to say she changed her mind, and I couldn’t live in her place at all. Awesome. Let me try and find another apartment I can actually afford in a matter of days (while still living 855 miles away) before I get down there. I had a feeling God’s eyes were on me, seeing how I would react and how hard I would lean on Him.

I found an extremely outdated little house on Craigslist and called about it. The landlady said someone beat me to it, but she and her husband also own a little eight-lot trailer park with two trailers currently available. I practically begged her to hold them for me, and she agreed to.

I tried my best to enjoy my last days in New Jersey with minimal anxiety (not an easy feat), considering I now trust no landlady’s word and didn’t have any photos or even an address of the trailers. Leap of faith? Definitely.

My mom was incredibly kind in driving my car down with me – all 16 hours in one shot on Wednesday. We packed the car to the brim and even so, I didn’t arrive with much stuff and had to buy several items. I called the landlady of the trailers on Thursday morning, and she invited us over.

The trailers were manufactured in the 1960s and 70s, and it was incredibly clear that they and their furnishings have not been updated since then. Character? In spades. I wasn’t crazy about the first, larger trailer we viewed on lot #7. It had some black mold on the ceiling, so that was a no-no, and it’s situated right next to Henry, the resident rooster. Over to trailer #3 - the smaller, cheaper option.

I’d imagine if That 70s Show was still filming, they could start doing episodes in here (spoiler alert – I’m living in it). Plaid couch with leather belt straps on the side (was that seriously a thing?), dusty lamps and strangely printed kitchen chairs from who knows when, yellowish brown carpet. Woo wee! Regardless of the outdated d├ęcor, I needed somewhere to live pronto, and the trailer’s rent price will allow me to actually save money, something I haven’t been able to do for years. I signed the lease, and mom and I went to work.

It took 12 HOURS split over two days to clean and set up the trailer. No joke. Dust and cobwebs everywhere, dirt and grime streaking down the walls, stains, broken furniture, water damage, rust, cracks – you name it, I’ve got it! The place was (and kinda still is) a vintage dump. I continue to discover more nuances by the hour, like how the showerhead sits at chest level, and I’ll have thighs of steel from squatting to wash my hair. I honestly feel like I’m living out a comedy movie, because it’s everything you’d expect the southern trailer park experience to be, complete with chickens/rooster on site and loud freight train whistles across the street.

I will say what trumps any ridiculous thing I’ll have to deal with for the next 12 months is the people. My neighbors are quite simply amazing, especially Bill and Ann in #5 who have come over several times, checked in on me and helped me set up a ton of stuff around the house. I’m extremely grateful to have them looking out for me!

There are a bunch of other little details from the past few days like how my trunk lock broke and I waited 3 hours for its repair, how I’m going to hate having to pump my own gas, how terrible Georgia drivers are (seriously, worse than NJ/NY which I didn’t think was possible), how much I love Waffle House, how much extra furniture is taking up space in here that I don’t need but landlady charges to remove and store it, how much I cried after dropping mom off at the airport yesterday. But I’m here, barely rested yet grateful for God’s provision. I’m nervous about starting work but excited for this new adventure that will no doubt produce interesting stories, as it already has! For now, I give you an iPhone photo tour of good ol’ #3 in all her glory… (sparing you the “before” pictures!)

My tiny bedroom. The closet to the left with the curtain hanging down is where old, unnecessary things that were sitting in the trailer go to die and never be seen again.

My one window in the bedroom and various cooling devices.

Looking into the hallway from bedroom.

Bathroom with cleaning supply closet on right.

My darling tub frogs!

My shower made for people 5'3 and shorter.

Bathroom counter with lovely sink stains and extra storage cabinet on right. Little fan is for airing out since there is no circulation in bathroom - window in shower is broken/taped up!

My office (hottest room in trailer - temperture-wise, not hippest place to hang out-wise) that doubles as dressing room - it and bathroom have sliding doors instead of regular doors!

Desk I might sit and work at on not-90-degrees days. Added full length mirror to door.

Main closet with clothes, shoes, etc. Drawers also used for clothes.

My happy living room corner. Folding table for eating and reclining chair that folds up on right.

My beloved houseplants that are so pretty they deserved their own picture.

The couch. *The* couch. Bought the pillows. Lamp and table are vintage originals!

Funky reclining chair and my new standing lamp.

Entrance with my cute new welcome mat and little table to drop my bag, etc when coming in.

Dining room and kitchen as seen from living room - also with sliding doors!

This corner of the kitchen makes me cranky, because I don't need that second end table nor the dresser at all. Would prefer they be taken out, so I can store my bike there when mom brings it down in November. But as mentioned, landlady charges for furniture removal AND storage monthly! Yarg.

My medieval-ish kitchen chairs. I like that little island counter but microwave pretty much takes up the whole thing as you can see.

Fridge looks way less rusty in this pic than it actually is haha!

Scenic views of the dumpster and wood pile!

Where the magic happens.

Henry, the resident rooster in his way-too-small pen, in my opinion.

My backyard. Is that country or what? Landlord's crop farm.

The girls! We're allowed to go in and sit with them, which I will most certainly be doing.

Freight tracks across the street. I had hoped to catch a train. Maybe next time!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Georgia On My Mind

These past few months have been rough.

I lost my apartment and moved back in with my mom, my small group/Bible study dissolved, and I began to question what in the world God has planned for this now-30-year-old single lady. Certainly this wasn't it, right? Longing to regain independence, feeling hopeless about my finances, wondering if I was at the "right" church for me, succumbing to anxiety and depression, considering quitting photography for the umpteenth time, knowing darn well that I have much more to offer than I'm actually giving - but how, where, when and to whom?

I was able to escape my inner turmoil for a bit when Mom and I went on vacation to New Mexico at the end of March, which I absolutely loved. It was there that I started to wonder if I should abandon my home of three decades and move out of state. Of course, it would have to be arranged by God, because how would I even go about doing that? I love The Salvation Army and wouldn't want to give up working for such an awesome organization. Could I keep my job somehow?

One night in Albuquerque, I posted in a national Salvation Army Facebook group for my "counterpart" colleagues (employees in other states who do similar work - website, social media, etc.) to share if they've ever transferred their job within the Army. When asked where exactly I wanted to go, I responded that I honestly wasn't sure but probably somewhere in the West or South. I also mentioned it was something I would consider in the next year or so, certainly not expecting what would come next.

Within 24 hours, I was invited to apply for jobs at The Salvation Army in California and Georgia. In a whirlwind week, I completed initial interviews, with agreement from the West and South that I was a top candidate for both positions.

I went from crying on the floor in my mother's house just a few weeks prior, desperate for God to make a move on my behalf, to being presented with two amazing options for new life. Interestingly enough, the last time I cried on the floor was during the only period I lived out of state (very briefly in Brooklyn), and that day also led to new life - my salvation.

After much prayer and counsel as well as follow up interviews, I thanked California for their consideration and decided to pursue the job in Georgia. It has been a long process - 2 months from when the position was first presented to me, to when I recently received an offer and accepted. I am tentatively moving down during the last week of July and visiting the Metro Atlanta area this coming Saturday, June 18th through Wednesday, June 22nd to hopefully find somewhere to live.

I'm both excited to start a new chapter and terrified to leave all things familiar. New Jersey is home and always has been. I even have a freckle shaped like it on my nose! But staying in my comfort zone is a surefire way to stay stagnant - which is exactly how I've felt for the past several years. I have to believe that God has a greater plan for me; one that may feel uncomfortable for a while (I'm already prepping my family to receive weepy phone calls) but will launch me into my destiny and help refine the woman of God I desire to be.

It's very fitting that this past weekend was an annual church retreat in Ocean Grove. I really needed time with the Lord, away from all the details of my upcoming move. Not only did I worship more freely than ever before (and man, did it feel good!), but I also had a vision of me of Jesus dancing in a field. This may sound weird, but it actually felt like He was my boyfriend - which is a label I've never used for Christ, though others have, and I totally get it now. The vision was all about trust and being in love with someone who can truly take care of you. Falling into someone's arms who can and will hold you up. If I could unflinchingly trust Jesus that much in all areas of my life, imagine what it would look like! If I were to learn on Him and not myself, surely things would skyrocket past my wildest dreams. This relationship is what I want to carry with me down to Georgia and for the rest of my life.

Here's to answered prayers, friends. Here's to new beginnings <3

"I'm learning that it is more valuable to step out in faith for God to use me than to hide away somewhere in my Christian walk where I won't risk a bump or a bruise." -Chrystal Evans Hurst