Hippie weirdo.

A strange occurrence happened in Kansas, we had a spring! It was a tiny one, granted, but I’m still counting it and yet that didn’t stop the blasted, hateful, annoying, and worst hair stylist trademark of my state… The wind.   Even though a mighty wind was a blowin’, I took any opportunity to go out and walk around a park or find a new one! Literally, I found one, that I’m pretty sure your not to go to.. Ah well, have to find some kind of adventure in Wichita.

On one such walk, I went to a park/disc golf course that is very close to my house. If your not a local, mind your head.. If you are a local,  make sure to know who threw their disc in the most whimsical way possible.  After one hit me square on the head, that seemingly came from the sky, I yelled: “OUCH!” Soon followed by, (thanks to Jeff Goldblum in Life Aquatic): “I’m so pissed, I want to spit.”  All the things I wanted to say soon vanished, when out comes a little boy from behind a tree saying sorry over and over. I couldn’t stay mad, but my head was angry the rest of my walk.  Continuing my little walk through the little path, I took pictures here and there.  While taking a picture of some leafs, a group of high school boys were walking up towards me.  Basically I knew what was going to happen next…

Boy: “Hey you hippie weirdo. What do you think your doing?”

His friends laugh.

I just thought, much like my quote from Life Aquatic, he just took something Louis C.K once said in a joke. So.. Not original.

Me: “Um.. It’s kind of obvious, isn’t it. I have a camera in my hand and I’m taking a picture…How does that exactly make me a ‘hippie weirdo’?”
Boy: “Yeah, well your taking a picture of some dumb leafs.”
Me: “Good come back , man.”

He and his friends laugh, high five and then walk away. It’s adorable.

Here are some of my hippie weirdo photos I took. Hope you enjoy.

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A short story.

Thomas.
By. Cassie Stephens

Downtown is the heart of any city, busy and full of life. As a photographer it’s where you end up. There, you’ll always get that one picture that captures this small Midwestern town. Like I mentioned it’s where you end up and as do I almost everyday. I walk the same sidewalk on the right side. Everyday right in front of that old thrift store sits a man on a bench, just staring out towards the street like he’s waiting on something. After seeing this day after day I finally got the courage to go over to him. What I didn’t expect was for him to tell me his life story.

“Sir? Excuse me sir, may I sit here?”
After a long pause he finally talked never looking in my direction. “Why are you asking me? It’s the city’s.”
“You have a point, but I just wanted to ask if that’s alright with you.”
Smiling he said, “It’s alright.” Looking in the same direction like he always does he continued, “I’ve seen you out here before, but you usually have a camera. What happened? All out of ideas or do you have something else in store?”

I sat there in silence looking at him while he still continued to look in the other direction, nothing changed for him I thought. No matter who talks to him or what distracts him, he will never stop staring in the direction of the street.

“Well sir….”
“Thomas, my name is Thomas. You can stop with this sir business.”
“Okay… Thomas I always see you sitting here and wondered why.”
Chuckling a little bit he smiled from the side of his face. “Waiting.”

“May I ask on what?”
Finally turning to look at me he gave me this look like I should have known already. Looking into his eyes for the first time scared me. They were haunting and dark. What seemed like hours of just us staring at one another, he turned back around muttering, “My ride.”
Confused by his answer I pressed on, “Your ride? So you’re waiting for your ride…From whom?”
“What is your name?” he asked, ignoring my question completely.
“Julie.”
“Well Julie, you may know this but I’m homeless. I have nothing to hope for, gave that up years ago. What hope I have left resigns in a ride that I have been waiting for…”
He paused for a minute and I stayed quiet giving him time to collect his thoughts.
“Nearly twenty years now. Sitting and waiting, growing old, rain or shine…”
He kept talking but I didn’t understand him, he mumbled and talked quietly after that. But it didn’t add up. How can one wait on something for twenty years? He didn’t look that old.
“I’m seventy by the way.” And it appears he can also read minds.
“Why have you waited for so long? I mean whoever you’re waiting for isn’t coming back.”
“Yes they will!” Getting upset he continued. “A promise is a promise. She said she would come back!”
“So you’re waiting on a she? Well one mystery solved.” Ignoring my last comment he asked for the time, I told him it was seven o’ clock. He got up and stared to walk off.
Getting up too I asked, “Where are you going?”
“Home” was all he said and continued to walk off.

The next day I went back to the bench to finish my conversation with Thomas. The bench was empty. I did this for a week and the result was the same. Going back the next day I hoped he would be there. Turning the corner on the sidewalk I looked up and like he’d never left sat Thomas. Growing with excitement I walked towards him and without saying a word to him I sat down next to him.

“What, not asking now?”
“It’s the city’s.”
Smirking he said, “Right you are.” We didn’t talk for a while, a part of me wanted to ask where he was but I also had the feeling he knew I was going to ask it. Still I wanted to know.
“So… Where were you last week?”
“The she I was referring to last week is my wife, Ellie is her name. We met at a barn dance in Arkansas. I fell in love with her that night, one beautiful lady.”
“That’s sweet Thomas, and do you have a habit of ignoring my questions? Or is that just me?”
“Just you Julie, I never ignore just some things are better left unsaid.” Glancing at me for a moment he turned around again looking the opposite way. I just sat there in silence remembering his eyes again, they no longer scared me.

“We married the next month, yes we were in a hurry but in love. Also very young…Sixteen. All a blur now, but we had five kids, three boys two girls. Beautiful children. All got her good looks.” Saying with a proud smile across his face he continued. “We lived in Benton Arkansas forever, perfect spot for fishing. I love fishing, do you?”
Not letting me answer he kept talking like I wasn’t even there. “That’s how he died, my oldest son Thomas Jr. he fell in the lake, such a wonderful boy…But horrible swimmer. Never got around to teach him, I went in after him but it was to late. He was ten. That left Ellie depressed for a while, so we moved away to here. And here is where we stayed.” Thinking that would be all he sucked in a breath and went on, never once looking at me. “Ellie got better over time and we were happy, good jobs and good kids. Never once did they get in trouble. Ellie found God a little later… Have you found God?”
I was so transfixed on his story looking out into the street I didn’t know he even asked me a question. Shaken from my stare I looked over at him and he was staring at me and started to ask again. Before he could finish his question again I answered.
“Yes I have.”

Still looking at me he smiled and his eyes changed. They no longer were dark but sad. “Good. Good for you, I’m still looking for Him, but I think I’m close. I wish I could find Him right now and ask one question. Why did you let my little girl die?” Still looking at me I noticed after he said that a single tear rolled down his cheek. Wiping his face he turned his face away from me and I wanted to tell him not to blame God, but he started talking again. “Ellie never got depressed or mad. She never questioned God like I did, she knew Mary was going to be okay and pain free. Mary my youngest got sick one year with some fever, never got better just dying everyday.” At this more tears were going down his face. Wiping them away with his dirty hands he sucked in another breath. “Hell, maybe she is better off.”

The rest of that afternoon I heard his life story. How his other kids grew up, went to college, got married and how he himself is a proud grandfather. But one thing still puzzled me. What happened to his wife? Throughout his entire story he never mentioned how or what happened to her, I even tried to ask him once in a while. Yet all he said was she was coming for him, which then led to other questions in my head. Did she leave him? How did he become homeless? Is he crazy? But the answers to my questions would have to wait. It was getting late, I got up to leave and turned to Thomas.
“Well thank you for a lovely day of story telling, maybe I can hear more later?” Waiting for a response from him lead to minutes felt like hours at times. Never turning towards me just kept on staring out into that same direction, he never said anything to me. Growing impatient I finally spoke.
“Okay then, have a good night see you later.”

As I turned to walk towards my car I could have sworn I heard him mumble something, but I’ll never know what. Life for me got pretty busy after that day. New job and new responsibilities kept me from going back to the corner bench, to see Thomas. A month later I went back to his spot to see if he was there, he wasn’t. Walking over I sat down and just stared in the same direction he always did when I met him. I sat there silent and looking on as the time passed, I don’t know how long I sat there till I heard someone from behind me asked if they could sit down.
“It’s the city’s, why are you asking me?” I replied dryly without looking at the person.
“My husband said the same thing.”
“What?!?” Turning to look at the person sat a very beautiful woman. She looked content with life, aging very well and her eyes spoke for her at times.
“Your husband?” I finally said after staring at her.
“Yes dear, my husband. You act as if that is impossible.” She said smirking.
“Well actually I do because I met a guy…”
“Thomas?” Asking me but she knew the answer already, so she continued.
“Thomas, a great man. Died too young though, been twenty years now.”
Shocked by her statement I didn’t believe it, I just saw him last month! Asking her nicely if we were talking about the same man, she simply replied with a yes. Getting upset I went on.

“Ma’am I mean absolutely no disrespect to you, but last month I saw him, there is no way he is dead! In fact he has been waiting for you! How come you never came back? Where did you go anyway? Assuming you are in fact the real wife of Thomas!” Stopping finally to catch my breath, I looked over at the woman. She sat there staring at me and started to smile. Giving me a wink she began to talk.

“Thomas my husband was a brilliant man, he would be 70. He would do anything for anybody, pleasant and caring also very stubborn. But when our first child died, something inside him died that day too. Years later when our youngest died, he went with her. I knew a better plan was going to happen to me and the rest of our children. I’m Ellie by the way…”
“So wait…You’re really Ellie? The same Ellie Thomas was telling me about just last month. So you’re lying to me because how could he have possibly told me if he was dead.”

Anger was growing inside my body to the point of me starting to shake, how could this lady just come up to me and tell me some lie. Not wanting to hear anymore I started to get up to leave, but she reached out and lightly grabbed my hand. Looking down, her eyes calmed me, I then felt something I haven’t felt in years, peace and trust.

“My dear you didn’t let me finish, may I finish my story so you will better understand?”
Sitting back down I nodded my head. Still holding onto my hand she continued looking at me.
“Our story continues, everything he told you is what he knows. You see he did die, actually we all died a week after our youngest died, car accident. But he was so stubborn and my children and I knew God, so now he thinks we are coming to get him. When in fact we are waiting for him.” Signing she looked away from me for a moment.

I was confused, I’m sure my faced showed it. No longer able to stay silent I asked the one question anyone else would have asked.
“So does this mean I’ve been talking to a ghost and now another?
Smirking she turned her head to look at me again.
“Sweetheart you’re talking to me because you’re stubborn too. You’re like Thomas..”
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’m not following you. How can I be like Thomas?”
“You didn’t let me finish again. You have a thing for that. My dear, you are dead too.”

Letting go of her hand I stood up quickly. I wasn’t scared just shocked, looking down at Ellie she gave me a comforting smile. She stood to looking in the distance, and began to speak.
“So tell me, who are you waiting for?”

 

Our moon.

Saturday night, was spent with my friend viewing The Grand Budapest Hotel and eating at Old Chicago. When I got home, I went out and sat on my roof; this has become a very hippie thing for me to do as of late.  Life is weird at times for me, one minute I’m content, the next I’m ready for a change.  I’ve been thinking of possibilities for my future, sadly they just give me a headache.   In the midst of my over thinking, I looked up and saw the moon shining bright.  Taking advantage of it, I hopped back inside, grabbed my camera and begun the longest two hours I’ve ever spent behind a camera.  I tinkered,  kept my patience and finally got a shot of the moon that I’m happy about!

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My hometown.

Last week, I went to take some photos of my hometown’s skyline for a friend. That just led to more photo taking of things I’ve taken many times before. Though I’ve taken the same shots before, It’s kinda cool to see the changes in how I take them now.

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I’m not big on taking pictures of animals.. But I didn’t see this goose, it scared me.

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My Saturday.

The last two days I’ve distracted my over productive mind with a friends wedding and photography. Today it was spent by reading, prayer and Jesus.  I needed that. To say I’m doing okay would be a lie, in fact I’m not doing so good. Would prefer to not go into any details, it’s something that I must hold my head high and whatever the outcome, I MUST trust Jesus has something better in the works for me.  It’s silly, but since I’m a female and burdened with blasted emotions, the way I deal with it is distractions, crying, and ice cream.  That has been my weekend.

But enough of my ramblings… Onward and upward to how I spent my Saturday.  I had no particular place in mind, I just knew that I wanted to go back out into the country to get some shots.  Now, for a time I grew tired of taking pictures of the country because I felt as though that was all I took. Getting back out there, in the middle of nowhere was good, plus the sudden rain fall was an added bonus! I took back roads, going deeper and deeper to the point of getting completely lost.  I did find my way home, but it was tricky… Mainly because small town people are helpful, but can be creepy as well.  Look, I’ve been to small towns… But this town was so small that the gas station I stopped at still had food from 2001, no doors for the stalls in the bathroom.. In fact no door going into the bathroom at all and lastly when I went up to pay for my drink, the guy asked me: “You’re not from here, are you?”  I simply told him no and I had to ask him how he figured that out.  “Your Jeep. People here don’t have black rims.” That actually surprised me.. Considering I was wearing my bright pink pants.

I posted this photo on Instagram and Facebook with the caption: “To go down creepy road… Or not.”

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I did go down that road and I saw the coolest abandoned house ever. For me, a dream! I love old houses lost in nature. I was in the process of walking up to it, when I heard a gun being shot off.  A man came out of nowhere, holding a shotgun and asking what I was doing on his property.  I, as calmly as I could, explained that I was taking pictures and didn’t see a ‘no trespassing’ sign. He told me to walk around the front, I did and that is where I saw his sign…

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I apologized over and over and left as fast as possible.  Even though I was still slightly scared of country folk poppin’ outta bushes, I continued taking pictures. Here is my take on the country I saw yesterday.

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When I finally got off the back roads, and found an old highway to lead me home, I captured more.  Kansas may be flat, but she’s my home and their is beauty within her flat lands.

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And this.. Which is gross.  But, it made for a cool shot.

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I don’t always go to sleep, but when I do, I don’t.

One-thirty in the morning, sleep wasn’t happening… The best time to take some photos.

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Yet.. I’m pretty sure dead bodies lay at the bottom…

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In case you haven’t heard, March Madness is upon us.  Our Wichita State Shockers are the last undefeated team to enter the big dance… My hometown, my state and this is how ICT shows it off. I love this city.  34-0!

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It’s now twenty minutes until three a.m.  Curse you insomnia.

Here is my story.

It took along time for me to get to this point in my life, to tell my story, my story that is not filtered but the truth. This is not easy for me, but right now in my life I’m doing some purging and it’s my choice to put my story on a public site for all to see. To get it fully out so I can no longer hide behind the curtain.  Trust me friends, I’m ashamed of myself, so with kindness.. Please find it in your hearts to not look at me in a negative light.  cussing will occur… If that offends, don’t read.

I was born and raised in a fantastic household, my childhood was nothing short of amazing and full of love.  My parents having me as their only child made things easy for them, I was a good kid and I always followed the rules. Summers were rad and my Star Trek collection was impressive!  Ever since I was a child, I went to church,  I was SUPER shy and didn’t get involved in things at the church until way later.  When middle school hit for me, that became the three years of hell.  Almost every day I was made fun of for something dumb, which in reality, that happens to everyone. Middle schoolers are the worst.  I got through it relatively okay.. Well, when I say relatively, I mean crying every time I got home.   The only good side to that was on the evening of October 27, 1997 at a Franklin Graham Crusade, I stood up, grabbed my dad’s hand and walked down to get Jesus in my heart.  It was experience that wasn’t overly amazing to be honest… Could be due to the fact that hundreds more were doing the same, it wasn’t until I was at home, by myself that I fully grasp what I did.  That’s when it became amazing.  Two years later would begin my high school career.

High school, for me was when I broke out of my shell! I made new friends, played soccer, got involved, finally went to youth group at my church and went to a girls Bible study, were I met my still BF Camissa.  All was exciting and I truly for once in my life felt really good about Jesus, my goals and just life in general.  You might have guessed it.. Their is a but.  But just as it was beginning to be awesome, Sophomore year started. It started off just fine, however around the middle of the year I got a headache, didn’t think twice about it and took some Tylenol and moved on. Woke up the next morning, had a headache again, I took a pill and went about my day. Next morning same thing, and the next and the next. Towards the end of the week I started to notice that they were not going away and in fact were there all day long.  I told my mom about them, and a month later after having a non-stop headache, she set up an appointment.  This began a journey that I’m still dealing with today, however their is a silver lining, which I will get too.  After a MRI, CT, EEG, PET, MEG, NIRS… They found nothing wrong with my brain, except a build up at the front of my head, which the Doctor said was due to sinus.  That should be good news, right? At least it wasn’t a tumor. But it didn’t soothe me, only made me angry that nothing could be found.  I also did a food journal, to see if it was a food related issue.. Nothing. This continued throughout the next two years, and in those two years I had taken 30+ of different prescriptions.  This didn’t help me at all, in fact it brought me down to very dangerous part in my life.  I questioned God every minute of every day, the journal entries I wrote during this time were filled with all the boy crushes I had and “WHY GOD?!”  Some of the pills I took had side effects, one such side effect was depression… This was not good to say in the least.  When a person is in pain, they tend to forget of all of the joy in their life and instead focus on the pain. Even though I was involved in my school and my church, I may have never showed the turmoil I was going through.. I made sure to try and smile when I could, but behind doors.. I was screaming.  One such night, my Junior year after laying in bed far to long not able to sleep, I quietly got up and went into the kitchen.  Went back into my room, sat down on the floor and began to write a letter.  The letter was simple and to the point..

To mom and dad.

I love you.

You did nothing wrong.

It’s me.

I cannot take this pain anymore, I hate it.

Seems like this is a good option.

I love you.

Cassie.

The reason I went into the kitchen, was to get a knife.  I had the knife to my wrist, tears were heavy and I was very scared.  In honest admission, I didn’t want to do it, but the pain was horrible and in my clouded mind filled with lies, I thought that was the best option.  Before anything could happen however, I met God.  It wasn’t like He kicked open my bedroom door and punched the knife out of hand, but it felt like it.  It the quiet of my room, besides my sobs, He very loudly said; “NO!” It startled me enough that I dropped the knife and cried harder if that was even possible.  For a while I heard nothing else, then He spoke again and what He told me brought me out of my dark place and for the first time in a year, my mind was clear and free of pain.  He gave me peace and the one thing I took from that at the time, was one simple thing He said:

Give me time, you’ll understand it later in life.

So, I held onto that and waited and waited.  Remember the silver lining? Well, I still have headaches, they aren’t as bad as they use to be but I still have them.  I know what they are caused by thanks to a Doctor who took the time. Simply put, I’m a stresser and so thus I have High Tension Headaches.  For the past two years I have been seeing a chiropractor, that has helped GREATLY! But the true ending to this thirteen year long pain, was the reason for them. Look, having a headache does indeed suck, but having a headache and knowing why, sucks less.  Just this past year, on my journey back to Jesus, I was praying and as usual asking why I had to have this pain.  Quietly He answered me:

You have them because they always bring you back to me.  If I took them away, you’d stray and not rely on me.

It was simple and honest.  So, yes having a headache isn’t the best, but in the very least it’s a reminder that I can’t quit God. He has healed me, to where I don’t have them day in and day out at weeks at a time. But He hasn’t fully healed me and I’m okay with that.

Back tracking a bit.. After high school, I went through two different programs at two different times. First one was called Elite and that helped me grow and to have a better understanding of the Bible.  Small group of individuals, working together and gaining knowledge. It was truly cool to go through and besides the youth group were I gained some lasting friendships, this did as well.  The next one was called L.I.F.E. watch, when I took this program I was twenty-one, but it didn’t bother me, I enjoyed being the third oldest!  We took some courses, took some tests and did some mission work.  Just like before, It brought together a group of individuals that ranged in age from right out of high school to however old Josh was.. Which I think was 50… 😉   Their were moments of AWESOME and moments of BOOOO. But after that year was done, I gained stronger friendships that has lasted and even more knowledge.  At the end of that year, we took a little trip to Mexico for a week.. Reynosa, Tamaulipas Mexico to be exact.  In Reynosa you will find Casa Hogar Benito Juarez Children’s Home.  The vision that this place has is really beautiful.  The children that live inside it’s walls are given a warm bed, food, friends and Jesus. For the most part, they have parents, but sadly the situation in Mexico isn’t always ideal and sometimes the parents cannot afford to feed or give shelter to their children, so they can come to Juarez to get that.  The kids there are beautiful, loving and taught some lastly traits. They are still kids however, and so they also have their bad days, but one week for me wasn’t enough. I first went in 2006 and two years after that I went with the church. They were for only a week, but I truly enjoyed going, so much so that in 2008 for the month of October I lived and helped within the Home! Truly a memory I’ll never forget!

After all of my ups and downs in life, God remained solid.  I may have been angry with Him from time to time, but I never walked away.  Sadly, I wish I could still say that, but for two years prior to 2013, I did.  I didn’t walk away because I was angry with Him, in fact it was because I was angry with myself.  You see, all my life I have been hiding my inner most secret sin, the sin that has plagued my life because I continued to allow it.  Since that was the case, I became the biggest hypocrite of all.  That’s not far to God, I was shaming Him not only by my actions but by my mouth and life.  I couldn’t take it, so I walked away.  I stopped going to church regularly.. Then that turned into not going at all. I read this blog recently that a friend put on his FB wall, and everything I read in that blog was my life for two years.  I just stopped. I stopped my quiet times, reading of my Bible, and when I did write in my journal it was “I’m a fuck up.” “Leave me alone, fuck you, jesus.”  Even though I was going through all this, He still sought after me, so if I told Him to fuck off, He’d leave. Word to the wise kids, He never leaves.  Oh sure, I plastered on a smile and was the funniest person in the room, but it was a lie and fake.  I did it because I didn’t want anyone to see through me and ask the question.  It didn’t work.  That tricky Sarah Snavley saw me, she asked and I told her all.

Here is my bravery.. For most of my life I have suffered with dealing with sexual sin.  The older I’m getting, the worse it’s getting.  Yeah, I got my V-Card still.. But I’m not pure, like I was when I was younger.  I’m dirty and full of guilt. Trust me friends, I hate myself daily for the choices I’ve made, I’ve come to terms with that fact.  But the other silver lining is always and forever God.  Why He still sought after my heart and still seeks it and brings me back to Him, is beyond me.   The guy won’t quit me, when I quit myself from Him.  Thankfully, oh thankfully the slow and steady walk back to Him this past year has been more then I could have ever asked for! Just when I thought my life was making it’s choice, Liz mentioned of a couple that moved here and was going to start a church plant.. I’m now involved in a beautiful idea with people that are like minded and truly God filled.  I like it.

I’m not close to perfect.. Not at all.  But the journey I have with Jesus now is much more different and comes with a better understanding. I love Him. I’m also starting to come around to the fact of how much He truly loves me.  I’m excited for my new journey, it will have it’s moments, but no more. No more backpedaling.

Thank you.