There’s a Monster at the End of this Post*

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I feel like I blog a lot about stress. Or more accurately, more than I should because I don’t want to be seen as a whiner.

Let me clarify here that I’m not talking about real stress like being responsible for keeping a baby alive or having a mortgage. Just the fact that I have time to blog at all should testify to the non-seriousness of my stress.

I’m talking about about the stress that comes from dealing with my own flaws and the flaws of those I love. The situational, inescapable windmills turn giants** of day-to-day life.

I have a friend who, when she gets heated up, likes to run. Something about the endorphins and knowing that her already beautiful self will now look even better in a bikini gives her a release and a high that she swears to. I tried this once. I was going through a situation that I can only call a reverse Princess and the Frog, where I had kissed a charming prince and then he turned him into a frog. I set off on the nearby running trail but within minutes I was walking, red-faced, making mental notes to ask my doctor about adult onset, exercise-induced asthma. (And by ‘ask my doctor’ I mean ‘search WebMD’)
                                                     
Exercising, with all its benefits, did nothing to quell my ever-rawing nerves.

There was also a point in college that I tried out this thing called ‘retail-therapy’ that sounds soooo much cuter than it is. I had a friend who tutored me in the world of designer fashion and called $300 purses ‘investments’. While I thought I was watching my worries disappear with the swipe of some plastic, they were really just multiplying. It took years to crawl out of months’ worth of debt (which I’ve finished, thankyouverymuch). The only reason I’m not more ashamed  is because this was 2006 and most of America was doing the exact same thing.

If feels like stress is non-transferable. 30 Rock quote: Jack: “The head of the stress ball division hanged himself…”

Last night I found myself browsing Craigslist ads for apartments in a city I may or may not be moving to. In the middle of comparing the cost of a furnished apartment to the cost of moving, and looking at my tiny budget for this imaginary situation, it suddenly occurred to me: maybe I bring some of this stress on myself. Maybe the stress is just a symptom of something bigger: my resistance to truly trust God or, as a blog I recently read put it “give the apple back to God” referring to Adam & Eve.

God has taken care of me very well so far in life, so why do I always become convinced that this is the time God will fail me? Let Jesus take the wheel? Carrie Underwood, I wish it were that easy.

*If you get the literary reference in this title, let’s be best friends.

**If you get this literary reference, NERD ALERT!

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Here are plans B, C, D, E, F, G, and H

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So, I gotta be honest. I’m pretty sure if you took an x-ray of my abdomen right now, you would find this:

Tomorrow night is the night that prayers will materialize for better of for worse. I go up to Louisville to meet with the Commission on Ministry and they’ll decide exactly what they think of my crazy ideas of going to seminary and getting ordained. Maybe this is what boyfriends feel like when they know they’re going to propose to their girlfriends. I’m laying it all out and praying that I have the g
race to handle whatever comes back at me. (And to make it more awesome, I could get a ‘yes’, a ‘no’, or a various range of ‘maybe, ifs’)

Someday I will laugh at how much this messed with my nerves. But until then, I’ve reassured myself by listing some alternate career plans I can pursue if they give me a big fat ‘no’ , and for you today, ordered them from most to least likely.

1) Trucker. I know how to drive a stick Burgundy Semi Truckphoto © 2008 Thomas | more info (via: Wylio)
and I look good in hats. Isn’t that most of what it takes to be a trucker? Plus, my Papa Dale was a trucker, so it’s in my blood.

2) Airline Hostess.  My senior year in high school, I was three votes away from winning “best smile.” The girl that did win is now an airline hostess. I think that’s my cue.

3) Funny-things-on-internet-finder for the Today Show. I’m pretty sure the Today Show has someone on payroll who’s only job is the click through StumbleUpon to find the most entertaining/poignant things on the internet to air on the show. I think I would be awesome at this job. 

4) Professional house-sitter. Not only do these gigs sometimes pay really well, but if I found gigs year-round, I’d never have to pay my own rent or utilities.

5) Open a consulting firm for consulting firms. I’ve never quite understood how consulting firms stay in business, but they do, and really well. I’ve never met a poor ‘consultant.’ So if everybody needs their advice, who’s around to give them advice? (this girl!)

6) Apple Salesperson. Even though I hate going to the mall and can’t sell things very well, I never miss a chance to pop into the Apple Store. And with how happy all the employees seem, either they pay ridiculously well, or there’s some sort of happy juice in the water. Either way, sign me up!

7) Produce and star in my own TV show. Think 30 Rock meets Vicar of Dibley. If Tina Fey only knew the monsters she was creating when she wrote Bossypants. Does anyone know how to contact Lorne Michaels?

8) Gold-digger. I love feminism and all that jazz, but as long as old rich men fall for it, I think gold digging should be considered a legitimate career choice. (but notice it was last on my list)

Ultimately, this post is just a long-winded way of saying: please pray for me! Please pray for the Commission on Ministry. And please pray that we all can listen for the Holy Spirit. (and please pray that I won’t spill the bottle of Pepto Bismol I’ll be nursing all day)

I Guess this isn’t the First Time God Used a Flood to Change Somebody’s Plan

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So yesterday morning, doing what’s become part of my daily routine, I read Rachel Held Evans blog, today dealing with how to be happy when you’re growing and it’s about the journey and not the destination. You should read it here. In fact, I highly recommend it or the rest of my post will make no sense.

I was really looking forward to this week. The hustle of Easter was over but the joy lingers. There’s a royal wedding. And most of all, Tuesday evening I’d finally get to meet with the Commission on Ministry to get some sense of if and when this calling from God will get to translate to seminary and someday stable life. It’s the meeting the last 10 months have been building up to — a meeting I’d get to leave with a solid sense of what the next few years, and probably the rest of my life, will look like.

But Monday evening I got a call from my rector: the meeting had been canceled due to flooding in Louisville. It’s one of the worst calls I’ve ever received, and I can make melodramatic statements like that because I’ve never received a real bad news call like someone I love has suddenly died or my parents are getting a divorce or all the grocery stores in town have quit stocking Nutella.

If you’d had a stethoscope to my chest you would have heard my heart sink, which came out as the most unlady-like “ugh!” I could muster. The next hour or so was filled with a despicable blend of cynism and self-pity. How bad could this “flooding” be? (pretty bad, as it turns out) How long will it take for them to reschedule this time? (Probably not that long) This is only my life they’re dealing with here! (Cortney, if you want any semblance of control of your life, you’re in the wrong business. Get used to it.)

Luckily I had good friends around who both comforted me with their tear soaking shoulders and reminded me of the hard truth: discernment can’t be rushed. And that made me remember Rachel’s post that I talked about earlier and realized that the past year, I’ve been absorbed in an arrival fallacy, thinking once I knew something, then I’d be happy and my life could really begin. Maybe that’s what makes the journey so disheartening: the speed bumps and the check points and the toll bridges. While I must never loose hope that my journey will place me where I need to be, it’s senseless to imagine that these speed bumps and check points and toll bridges will ever end.    

At least I still have this royal wedding to look forward to. Unless that’s going to be canceled, too.

Dreading vs. Embracing

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Have you ever had something that you’re worried might turn out horrible but it ends up being not just fine but fabulous? Kind of like if two people were running at you with flashlights and you thought “Oh no! That car’s about to hit me!” but it comes and not only is it not a car, but it also happens to be your two best friends? That was my weekend. Let me expound:

This is a picture of a lot of people having a fun time all thanks to me! That’s me on the far right.

I organized a camping trip. I organized it well enough to convince a lot of people they wanted to come. Okay, others helped on that. We were all looking forward to our time at the nearby Mammoth Cave National Park.

Except, if you remember, last week, the Democrats and Republicans in Washington DC were playing chicken with each other regarding the federal budget. Every news source I used spoke of a possible, no likely government shutdown. Said shutdown would mean that Mammoth Cave National Park would be closed.

Quickly, I formed a plan b through the generosity of some co-workers. But I think the real stress came when I wasn’t sure when/whether to turn to plan b. There were so many considerations and I spent all of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday waiting for a new headline over that giant picture of Obama and Boehner. We ended up having to go for plan b. What a week!

But then I imagine that crazy stress that I haven’t even had to think about yet: Applying for a mortgage. The loss of a close family member. Working a full day and coming home to kids who, even at their best, are pretty demanding.

It seems like stress never really rescinds. This fogginess and confusion just continues and it’s a matter of either embracing or dreading it.

With that in mind, I’ll give you one guess about what I chose (read=try) to do… embrace!  Dread just adds more stress and it feels like that’d be fighting fire with fire. Or fighting a rain storm with my water hose. Or fighting a caffeine addiction by having my 6th cup of water… wait, bad metaphor. I do that one. Anyway,

Because after all, it sometimes turns out fine and fabulous.