The Professional Guest: First Assignment

Naples 50s pier

Say! This Professional Guest idea is really taking off! Last week I didn’t know where I was going and this week I do! For those of you who haven’t read my previous blogs,
1). my house is selling (a miracle),
2). I didn’t know where I was moving to, and
3). friends are offering me a corner of their house to live in for reduced rent.

Offers have come in from all over the country! It is very comforting and I’m checking them all out, pursuing all leads. Lots of good options but so far, nothing has felt “right.”

“I’ll know it when I see it,” has been my motto. One thing I know for sure, I can’t endure another long, dark, blistering cold Minnesota winter. Please God, no basements, plenty of sunshine and somewhere near water.

Meanwhile, my furniture is selling like hot cakes on Craigslist. Four items went last night. Two the night before. Several last week. For reasons I cannot explain, I’ve felt strongly that I’m supposed to unload everything. “But you’ve just redecorated!” my friends protest. “You might need furniture where you’re moving to.” I’ve been patient but I did toss up an “arrow” prayer mentioning to God that it would be helpful to know where I was going soon so I’d know what to keep and what to get rid of.

And then it happened. Another miracle. Again!  I landed my first job as a Professional Guest! When I posted on Facebook that I was moving but didn’t know where to, one of my Minnesota cousins jokingly posted that I could go stay in her condo in Florida for four months. Seriously, Bev? We talked and the more we talked, the more excited we both got. It’s in Naples and I just happen to like Naples very much. Someone is supposed to be checking on it every three weeks anyway until they fly down with the Snow Birds in November. Four months (rent free!) would give me a chance to get down there, scout out some job prospects, apartments, get caught up on some bills and get on my feet!

Was this another God thing?

I couldn’t sleep all that night. My mind raced. The ocean! The beach! Salty breezes! An-n-nd this means I REALLY have to sell everything I own (Repeat chorus: “But you just redecorated!”). My little Jetta isn’t going to hold much and I can’t bring all kinds of stuff into a furnished condo for four months. Besides, Bev tells me there are thrift stores galore in Naples. Let the hunting begin!

A week ago in my morning meditations, God spoke to me out of Psalm 92, verse 4. King David was exclaiming to God, “You thrill me with all you have done for me!” Thrill is a pretty big word. Synonyms include: feeling of excitement, stimulation, adrenaline rush, pleasure, tingle; fun, enjoyment, amusement, delight, joy, buzz, high, rush, kick, charge, wave, shiver, rush, surge, flash, blaze, tremor, quiver, flutter, shudder, frisson. For those of you who had to look that last one up in the dictionary like I did, it’s late 18th-century French for ‘a shiver or thrill.’

When was the last time I felt thrilled by what God had done for me? Too long. Not that God isn’t thrilling. It’s just that my life hasn’t been for many years. It’s been hard. Really hard at times. Mostly my fault. So this thrilling part is, well, thrilling!

My journey to find true, thrilling freedom began years ago but was really given a boost during a trip to London two years ago. There I was inspired by beauty, history and culture every day. For two weeks, I was in hyper-drive, absorbing, taking in, measuring detail and feeling awestruck. When I came home I was nearly catatonic for two more weeks because I had left the doldrums, traveled to crazy beauty, and returned home filled to bursting. It was a thrill, a real kick in the pants.

I learned something from that trip. Find things in God’s world that keep you excited. Remove anything in your house that does not excite you. Even remove the paintings in your house that don’t inspire you. Don’t let people talk you out of something you love (i.e., something that is good). Then, hum the song, “That’s the way, ah ha, ah ha, I like it, ah ha, ah ha.” (Cue KC & The Sunshine Band.) 

Consequently, my old, dowdy home decor became insufferable. Something had to be done. I sold all my old furniture and redecorated my living room in a completely different, distinctly up-style look, everything purchased from thrift stores, consignment, second-hand shops and garage sales. Champagne taste on a beer budget and it worked. Everywhere I looked in my home was now beauty to me.

Outward changes had been made. I was still facing inner demons, however: unresolved grief, paralyzing fear, worry, debilitating anxiety, addictions and depression.

(Dim scene change. Cue Elgar’s Cello Concerto 1st movement Adagio Moderato.) 

In April of this year, I was brought to my knees by the realization that I could not fix my life, my wrong choices; neither my past nor my current condition. I had driven my friends and most of my family away. Lonely and isolated, I was also broke. My darling young son sent me a card with a five dollar bill taped in it and a note that said, “Hi Mom, here are $5. I wanted to give them to you because I love you. I hope the Lord uses them as an encouragement. Love, Garrett.” Awww.

Others sent me money gifts, prayers and encouragement and with each gift I could pay one more bill. But I was crushed emotionally, spiritually and physically; completely helpless, strangling in debt and sad beyond words. I could not figure out how to change my life. There are people who still hold me to my past. I didn’t want to live anymore…really. Not like that. So I surrendered. Waved the white flag. Told God it was Him and me now. No one and nothing else mattered.

And life began to change very quickly. Even more amazing, I became fearless. When you’ve been to the bottom, there’s not much else worse that can happen to you. The only way to go is up. My brother said, “Sheryl, what if every fear you’ve ever had all happened to you in one day? Then you could face them all at once, get over them and move on.” Anxiety began to melt away. I started walking regularly, dropping a little weight, breathing deep and feeling better. The “old” Sheryl had died. Now it was just the “new” Sheryl—alive, courageous, filled with joy and optimism. The operative word became “Restore,” present tense. Restore the years the locusts have eaten. Restore my soul. Restore my health.

My house sold without being on the market, covering my underwater mortgage and then some, delivering me from one big chunk of my debt. I’m off to favorable climes and for at least four months, free of some big financial obligations. That’s a lot of good “f-words.” Anyone who knows me, knows that my happy place is the beach, the ocean, and sunshine. Life is now becoming one big adventure with God. He can take a truly surrendered soul and pull fifty strings at once to make things turn around.

I heard a speaker once say, “Someone is always observing you who is capable of greatly blessing you. Every day you are being discussed and observed. You are three or four people away from change. The difference in seasons in your life is always a person.” This week that person was my cousin who has just launched me into my first assignment as a Professional Guest and I am beyond grateful! (Thank you Bev and Tom!)

Today, I’ve got a touch of the stomach flu. My innards are crabby and my head is all stupid. To top it off, this morning, I broke my little toe when I stumbled over a stool. This is what happens when you sell your furniture. Stuff you’re used to navigating around is gone and your bearings get off. A stool jumped out of nowhere, I went right, and my toe went left. But I hardly notice the discomfort. I am still feeling the thrill. (Cue Beach Boys “Kokomo.”)

“Be strong. Live honorably and with dignity.
When you don’t think you can, hold on.”
—James Frey, “A Million Little Pieces”

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5 thoughts on “The Professional Guest: First Assignment

  1. Your broken toe? Well that’s just the devil tryin’ to trip you up, but he can’t have you. You can wear sandals in Florida all year long!

    Liked by 1 person

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