Have you ever been someplace where you feel one with God, one with nature and…one with yourself? To have a certain place that brings wholeness and helps us to solve the problems in our lives. I have had several places for the “Zen-Jen” in me to reflect, to be comforted and to be just ‘be’.
It would be in church where cleansing tears comforted me, it would be on a yoga mat while breathing and focusing on each part of my body; it would be on a guided hike with Lookout Hiking Club and taking in the beauty of nature or it would be on a leather saddle with a best friend named Smokey trotting underneath me.
These places we go to unwind and to get away from the daily grind are special to us. They are rejuvenating in some way and for most taking time to retreat to these places are few and far between. We have become so busy that we seem to get away to our special places only in rewarding ourselves for getting everything done. But, as we get older we realize all the work we could do, all the task we take on and depended on by others… are not so important that it keeps us from that special place.
In fact, I have been learning that it was necessary for me to visit the places or things that rejuvenate my spirit, my body and my soul. Call it preventative medicine if you wish, but it is essential for me to ‘push away’ even if I am still overwhelmed with much that needs to be done.
Last week, I was really into a two-part article on a good friend of mine who had an amazing story. I didn’t want to stop working on it. When Jason came upstairs to my office and told me how great it was outside I wanted to join him, but I still sat at my desk with my fingers poised on my keyboard and staring at the computer screen. Then, Jason coaxed me…not just because he wanted to be with me, but because he knew I needed it. He bargained with “Just for 15 minutes…”
I went outside with him and was amazed with how just that little amount of time refreshed me. To have the brilliant sun warming my face, to smell the fresh-cut grass and to watch the Greys walk alongside us enjoying the day. And then it dawned on me… I have this “Zen-Jen” place right outside my door. I don’t have to drive to a ranch, or to the woods, or to a building where I am dressed for church or yoga. I can just step out and ‘step in’!
My ‘happy place’. It is ironic that the country makes me so happy when I grew up in the city. I was always close to a mall, a grocery store and had access to whatever I needed. But that also meant, I heard the traffic, the sirens and the busy-ness of city life. I was hardly aware of God’s voice, my breathing, or of fresh-cut grass unless I looked for it or traveled to one of my happy places. I told myself that I liked being in the city and having the convenience of everything at my fingertips. I hated long drives and I just wanted to get there now!
I am not certain if it is my age or my new circumstances that have brought the transitioned thoughts of being happy to be a country girl – but I am.
I used to think people who lived in the country were hillbillies with little class. Yes, those were my youthful shallow years. I thought if someone did not attend the symphony, they didn’t know what real music was. I thought if a lady didn’t wear make-up, she probably wasn’t very lady-like and I thought if people lived out in the boonies, it was because they had no other choice. As I grew up, I realized I was wrong, but I also seemed stuck in my city-life choices.
I remember going to my sister’s farm when I was still a teenager and I would stay half the week with her while her husband went to cattle auctions in Pennsylvania. I loved the farm, but swore I never wanted to live on one. Being around horses, around nature and the ‘simple’ life was only when I needed to get away. How could anyone choose the inconvenience of living so far away from everything? It depends on what you consider your ‘everything’.
I had a girlfriend who lived in Rising Fawn where we used to ride horses and she chose to be in the country. She wasn’t wealthy, but she rented a house that had enough land to keep a horse and she was happy. She never wore designer clothes, never had her nails professionally manicured and she listened to whiney, country music. She was intelligent, beautiful and classy …and she found her happy place when she was only in her twenties - while I was struggling for happiness in my thirties.
After my boys were grown and I was single again, it was as though I was handed my life back and God was asking me what I would do with it. Life’s circumstances made me a city girl. Past romancers, their friends and sometimes co-workers influenced me to stay where I had been led. After denying who I really was and living like Rapunzel in someone else’s castle; it was a journey to find my way back to who I really was.
Over the last five years (though it seemed long at the time) I took baby-steps as I learned and grew into the woman God fashioned me to be. The more I embraced my own identity and made a life for myself, the more God blessed me with. I learned to appreciate His lessons and not avoid them. I knew I was growing, I was becoming wiser and I was finding out who Jen really was.
I still like classical music, I still like to have my nails done at times and I still like to go into the city. But my ‘everything’ is no longer the hustle and bustle of the world and being in the center of it all. I left the corporate world, I left the spineless me who revolved her life around one person and I found my true passions in life. I tapped into what made me feel alive - nature, horses, animals, and writing.
Living in New York was exciting and so were the Broadway shows, the fancy restaurants and the arts. And, going back to Chattanooga was home for me once I began exploring nature, getting involved with the things I loved as a child and becoming my own person.
To now find my soul mate (who was busy doing the same growing in his life) was a beautiful thing … our paths met when we were ready. And now, we both are living in our ‘happy place’ - the happy place being more than just geography. We are one with the Lord in our faith, we are one in our marriage that God gave us and we are one with our passions.
I realize that we are still ‘newlyweds’ and maybe a few cynics think this bliss will come to a screeching halt, but I know better. Jason and I are both positive people, we are very much alike and our hopes and dreams take us in the same direction. We are in our happy place and we are in it together.
So in my seasoned forties, I don’t wake anymore only to rush to an office. I don’t walk on eggshells hoping not to move someone to anger. I don’t strive for a career that I am not happy with. I am ‘me’ and I am following my passions.
I jumped off that corporate ladder a few years ago and, it is so much nicer smelling fresh-cut grass. Whether I was single living in Chattanooga or now married and living in Kentucky – my happy place is the same. Being true to God and being true to me so that when my handsome Jason came along, I was ready. I have been living in my happy place for a while now and God has blessed me. Now, I can just walk outside the door and I am aware of what is around me without having to drive somewhere to find that out.
Sitting in a pew at Hardin Baptist Church on Sunday with my husband’s arm around me, the pastor was talking about biblical times and that a woman was ‘at rest’ if she found a husband who provided for her. We are far from those times and some wives today are the provider or there are women who want to stay single, but for my world – that still holds true. To have a good man, who is the provider no matter what I contribute, he takes a load of stress from my shoulders.
I think I do the same for my husband though. I may not have to bring in six figures, but I give him rest by doing what it is I am good at. I am a woman who likes to make the home pleasant and care for her husband.
When Jason and I came back from our honeymoon, he was very ill with a virus and was sick through the night and all the next day. I was there to wipe his face, to nurture and love him and it felt so right. I was in the place I was meant to be and that made me happy. Yes, I can do more than just be a housewife… I can do whatever I want to do. It just so happens that I want to be his wife, I want to care for our home and I want to have a career in writing. I get to do all of that and more.
You see, I am not bound - I am free. I understand what it is to be faithful, trustworthy, loving and dependable and to not bring my husband undue stress. So he also has a place of rest that our pastor was talking about. We are partners in bringing that rest to each other and I don’t feel guilty if my husband is the provider. I don’t feel less than or like the ‘little woman’ who is helpless. I still work to have my own income and pay my personal bills, but I don’t have the stress of juggling everything and I am living in our home that I get to make pleasant.
Jason and I want horses and there is a chance we may be able to get my Smokey. I recently heard about the dilemma that faces Hidden Hills Ranch where Smokey is boarded. The land may be sold to developers. I don't wish this to happen and certainly not so I could get Smokey, but it will take a miracle to save it and I really hate the thought of Smokey going anywhere else. I hope people in the community pull together and they can beat the deadline and Hidden Hills could be saved. If it is I will be glad, but I have still been talking to Smokey’s owner and hoping to get him.
Smokey would love it in Kentucky. I could see him and take care of him every day. He helped me through many tears and many problems as I searched for answers. He was gentle and loving and he was also fun letting me learn how to care for him. Whenever I was with Smokey I was myself more than anywhere else in this world. I felt his love. And now, with Jason I can be myself and feel that same acceptance and love.
As I wake to beautiful sunrises on the farm, run with the Greys and enjoy the outdoors with my loving husband, I can only say – thank God, I’m a country girl!