Saturday, August 21, 2010

The More Things Change...

I realized this week that I have moved four times in 13 weeks.
I moved from Alabama to Florida.
From Florida to Missouri.
From Missouri back to Florida.
And from Florida back to Alabama.
You would think by now I would have this packing thing down but I don’t. I still have to sit on my luggage to be able to zip it.
But the important thing is—it zips.

Aside from my constant state of unpacking and repacking—I’ve had an amazing summer. I never dreamed I would have the chance to move to “the big city” (as Ma calls it) and work for such an awesome company. I never dreamed I’d meet so many AMAZING people in the short time I lived in the Midwest. This summer was full of new experiences and taught me a lot about myself.
Two questions have kept popping up recently, and I’d like to address both of them here:
Question 1 from Missouri: Do you miss home?
Yes. While I was in STL, especially those first six weeks I missed home terribly. I had just moved 800 miles from the nearest person I knew and I was homesick. Generally when I’m not happy I play the piano or walk around the farm. Since I had no piano or farm—I spent a lot of time walking at the conservation park in Chesterfield…until the grass got so tall I wasn’t sure if big foot was creeping around the walking path or if it was just a mammoth rabbit.
But the short answer was yes—I was incredibly homesick.

Question 2 from Florida/Alabama: Do you miss Missouri?
Yes, I miss Missouri. (To answer your next question: No—I don’t plan to move back.)
This summer was an amazing experience—and after I realized that I wasn’t going to die from the homesickness I experienced those first few weeks, I really began to enjoy myself. Heck—I kinda hated to leave. I made some AMAZING friends (from all over the place—not just STL) and made some great memories.
No one likes change, me especially, but the changes I underwent this summer have shaped who I am and have pushed me toward the person I want to be. They are helping me achieve my dreams. They reassure me. They grow me. And in the change memories are formed—invisible attachments to my heart. So it was with both joy and sadness that I left home—both homes—to tackle the new changes coming my way. I miss both the Midwest and the South.
I’m not sure of the author but I believe this quote says it best: “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.”
Life is about change—and my melancholy/homesickness this summer reflects that. But change is a must—without it we don’t grow.
And if we aren’t growing are we really living?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Secret of Friendship (Bluebell not required...but it helps!)

I have the best friends in the ENTIRE world. No, make that in the entire HISTORY of the world.

Who else has friends that would drive 4.5 hours just to bring Bluebell Ice Cream to one that hasn’t tasted the goodness of that silky dairy substance because she’s been stranded in a city where people believe ice cream should have egg in it*

Yeah, I can only think of one person with friends like that—ME!

A motley crew: Gator, Tiger, Seminole

On a more serious note, I absolutely love my friends. I have four very close friends and only one of those that I usually see on a regular basis; that all changed this summer when I took off on my Midwest Adventure. I was in a new place and had to make new friends; which was awesome—because the friends I made are amazing individuals. I’m just so blessed.

But last night, after 756 miles and 12.5 hours of driving on minimal sleep—I was not expecting what busted through my door---Carly and Shelley.

Carly, Me, Emily and Shelley after a long night of driving

My best friend (and cousin) Emily, along with my fiancĂ© and parents had been hiding the fact that my best friends from high school were making a flying trip from the Swamp to surprise me with four flavors of ice cream. And not just any ice cream—Bluebell Ice Cream—which flows from the banquet table of Heaven and is packaged somewhere in Texas. What ensued were epic conversations about armadillos, love and how to jump off a side mount battery. (Trust me—it’s best if you don’t know!)

Amidst the giggles, random dancing and laughter we discovered something that folks have been searching for all of their lives; people have died trying to understand this—hearts have been broken because of this… and we figured it out over four flavors of ice cream.

We discovered the Secret to Friendship.

Now I’m not just talking about fair-weather friendship. I’m talking about long lasting “I’m still your friend even if you are being a butt-head” kind of friendship; the kind of friendship that gets people through the hard times… through doubts, cold-feet, break-ups, busted windshields and fear. This friendship isn’t for pansies. This stuff has grit. And that grit is what makes us into better people—it polishes out the rough spots.

My friend Shelley is what I like to call a word-smith. If there isn’t a word or phrase that fits what she’s describing she’ll create one. It doesn’t matter that it’s not “technically” in the dictionary—she created it and used it in a proper sentence therefore it is now part of the English language.

One such phrase is “friend-jealous.” One of Shelley’s more practical words—it is used to describe old friends who are jealous of new friends that a mutual friend is making. For example, I moved to St. Louis. I made new friends. One of my old friends is jealous that I have new friends. Therefore this old friend is “friend-jealous.”

Fortunately, I don’t have that problem with any of my close friends; from our ice cream laden discussion tonight we determined this is just a small part of the secret to our friendship.

You see my closest friends and I come from similar backgrounds but hold very different views, standards and make decisions in ways that often times the others don’t understand.

I mean can you honestly expect two aggies, a pageant girl, a drum major and a slightly punk-rock chick that wears cowboy boots to agree on ANYTHING?

The truth is we don’t always agree but we are always open to what the other person says. And if the other person makes a bad decision we don’t judge them. Not saying we don’t tell them what they did was stupid—we just don’t base our friendship on the bad decisions they happen to make.

This openness makes it easy to come to each other without fear. It doesn’t matter if I’ve made a stupid decision, am worried about something or have just acted like an undesirable equestrian animal, I can still come to my friends. We don’t have a friendship of fluff. We have a friendship of grit. We can call each other out on mistakes and we can offer them a hand to help them get back on their feet. We polish each other. We are better people because of our friendship.

Because of this gritty and open friendship the miles that are between us don’t matter. Other friends we’ve made don’t significantly impact our relationship. Our friendship has no fences—we can roam and grow however we need and after our roaming we can always come back to each other. We have a friendship of freedom.

Freedom to be who we are without apology.

Freedom to make decisions and not scorned because of them.

Freedom to live and fail.

Freedom to love and lose.

Freedom to grow.

It is in this freedom that we discover our differences and similarities. Through these differences we are refined. Like stones being polished by grit and water and emerge shinning with glimmering colors that reflect who we are and who we are becoming.

The gang minus Codie--our resident drum major

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Friday, August 13, 2010

Life is bittersweet

Life is a bittersweet journey.
Mine is no exception.
There are days when I am so restless that I can’t WAIT for a change of scenery.
Then there are other days when I just stand still…because my heart aches for the past and each step toward the future is one step away from what I miss and who I was.
But, life is a journey and we must keep walking. Turning around has never been an option and watching life go by gets rather boring.
So take the next step. It is scary—but keep walking and know we never walk alone.
Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. Prov. 19:21

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Life, Love and the Pursuit of...

**Warning**  I ramble a lot in this post. If you are looking for a blog post on agriculture, peanuts or Bluebell Ice Cream check back in a few weeks.

My grandparents influenced my life a lot. My best childhood memories can be traced to their back porch. We spent many afternoons in the Florida heat listening to stories Ma wrote for us grandkids. Ma has always had a flair for storytelling and she always seems to know what to say at the right time—no matter the situation.

Lately, people have been asking me a lot of questions. Questions like “What are you going to do after college?” “Where do you want to work?” “What is your dream job?”

Because of this, I have become a skillful liar. I’m GREAT at BS. I can give a vague, yet satisfying answer. But the truth is—I have no idea.

Ma always told me, “If you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. If you want to be a ditch digger—Jillian, go to it. ‘Cause there ain’t nothing worse than dreading having to wake up in the morning.”

And that’s all I want—is a job that doesn’t take years off of my life and that I enjoy.

However that’s not always the push I get from society… or friends or teachers. The emphasis seems be on going out (away from where ever you are now) and changing the world. (Que deep motivational voice: "Go forth and conquer!")

While I do want to be successful and all that jazz—sometimes I stop and wonder how happy I would be if I gave up my Southern (and sometimes redneck) roots and moved to the city. If I found a happening job, made lots of money and had 2.5 kids that were ballerinas and peewee football players--would I be happy? Would that satisfy me?

Talking with a friend yesterday, also dealing with the same issue, it occurred to me that “success," contentment and happiness aren’t always equal. She told me, “Jillian, if I could be happy in a hut in Africa helping others, gosh dern it I could be happy back home helping people…I’m learning you don’t have to leave to be a world changer—you just gotta be one where ever you’re at.”

This struck a chord with me and I have figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

I want to be happy.

Now, that definitely doesn’t answer the billions of questions I’ve received about my future occupation, but it clears something up for me. It reminds me that my happiness doesn’t lie in what money can buy or how successful I am or if my life satisfies other’s expectations of me. My happiness lies in doing what God created me to do—and though I still don’t have a job title for that (heck—it may not HAVE a job title) I know that it’ll include what I love.

Like Ma said, ain’t nothing worse than dreading waking up in the morning.

Therefore, if you’re looking for an employee that loves talking to folks, driving tractors, taking pictures, social media, cooking, working cows, planning banquets, working with old people, working with teenagers, serving others, moving feed, selling merchandise and occasionally flirting with customers—give me a call. I’m the girl for the job.