Woah

You ever think you’re in one place mentally/emotionally and then realize, “woah, I’ve got some serious work to do!?” You’re walking around feeling all healed from some wounding or confident from some childhood abuse only to be confronted with a new level of depth and shifting that needs to happen.

Welp, that’s me right now.

I’ve mentioned it before so if you’ve been keeping up, you would know that I have a lot of past hurts related to self worth and body image. You may also know that I’m in a way better space with those issues now. In fact, I’m in the healthiest mindset I’ve ever been in concerning my appearance and weight and fitness level.

So why the heck do I find myself crying to my counselor, trying to work through some issues I thought were other people’s fault and I realize, “nope, it’s me!” I’ve been annoyed and judgmental only to see that my own insecurities and issues are the true source of my sadness.

Let me break this down more clearly cause I see I’m kinda speaking in code:

When I gave birth to my son, I was 320lbs. I ate everything I wanted with no discipline or regard for health. If I wanted a candy bar, I would eat 10. I ate fast food daily. I had no sense of fitness. I didn’t workout. I laid around and did basically nothing. I was in a relationship with someone who also did nothing. He played video games all hours of the day and night. He smoked pot and ate a diet of junk food and alcohol. Together, we were a really great pair of unhealthy people.

When our relationship ended, I began a path to wellness. Some of my motivations weren’t the greatest. Some of my methods weren’t the wisest but all in all, I was moving in a better physical direction.

Fast forward to January 2018. I was maxing out all my lifts at the gym. I was running and skating and rowing at paces I’d never seen before. I felt great. I was in the best physical shape I’d been in maybe ever. I had a good handle on my eating, tracking all my macros daily and being “good.”

My husband however, has less of an interest in working out and isn’t overly concerned with his eating habits. He’s honestly a fairly typical American. Some days he is more motivated and other times, not so much.

Lately, I’ve found myself annoyed a lot. I am constantly trying to not be mean or judgmental but my attempts fail. I know I want to be a kind and supportive wife but what ends up happening is just the opposite. My intentions are good but somehow, my actions are less than good. They are at times, downright awful. And I know I don’t like the way I’m feeling or behaving, yet I am unsure how to fix this situation. I keep thinking if he would just workout and eat differently, then I could feel differently.

Then comes the WOAH….

This is about me. This is because I see some parts of myself in him and it terrifies me. I want to believe that I’m so different and separated so far from that part of me that I become a mean girl. A conditionally loving wife. A borderline passive abusive human. I am all the people who made me feel less than growing up. I am the parts of my father that influenced my eating disorders. I am the words from my brother than caused years of pain and self hate. I am the very thing I have worked so hard to overcome. The change that’s missing is within my heart and it has to begin with grace and a deeper sense of love for myself.

Woah. Woah. Woah.

I spent a lot of yesterday crying. Full of shame. Sadness. Regret. How did this happen? Why would I treat this person whom I love so deeply in a way that doesn’t reflect adoration and unconditional love? And how was I somehow redeemed and accepting of some of the ugliest parts of my past, yet still hiding from this part?

Man, life is weird.

I know none of this current revelation negates my past growth. I do love and accept myself a million times more than I used to. I do not let the scale dictate my joy or value. And I do still believe that fitness and self care and health are important for myself and my husband. But my delivery and my heart in this matter are due for an overhaul. It feels somewhat paralyzing. How do I genuinely behave in a way that is supportive when I don’t have that within me right now? How can I be the person I aspire to be for him when I am struggling to be it for myself (and just now am recognizing it?)

Relationships are hard. Especially the one we have with ourselves. Growth is a never ending journey. Intimacy with ourselves is a continued process. What I love about this struggle though, is the surfacing of my thinking will only make me a better human and wife. This feels hard and sad and is unknown territory but I am walking into it confident of an extraordinary outcome. And I firmly believe that my marriage and life will only become stronger and become elevated higher as this plays out.

Praying for everyone who struggles with deeper layers of unconditional love. You are not alone. Keep peeling back the layers. Continue to tear down those walls. Keep becoming more and more intentional and dealing with the tough stuff. It’s always worth it and as you learn to love every tiny aspect of your being, you will surely be able to love everyone else better.

It’s been a while

I haven’t really posted in while. I’ve had a lot of things that have come up and wanted to share. I guess some thoughts in my mind about the value of my words kept me from writing anything.

Lately there have been two main themes that keep reoccurring in my life.

One: God ALWAYS fulfills his promises

Two: I can do ANYTHING with him and I can do NOTHING without him.

These two ideas have shown up consistently in Bible studies and devotionals and my reading and sermons. I think it’s extremely relevant to my whole life but it’s in the forefront of my mind for our life in the last year for sure. I think about all that my family has endured since November 25, 2017. I go back to all the big things that happened; the car driving through the house, my husband’s grandfather passing away, living at my husband’s grandma’s house and having the basement flood, moving our home, moving my business location and culminating with me breaking my ankle on March 5 of 2018.

And in all those large moments, God showed up, and made promises, and He fulfilled them all. But there’s all these small things that nobody knows about that He has also shown up for. My tire totally blew out while driving on the highway on our way home from Wyoming. We were going almost 70 miles an hour, hit a bump and within seconds, my tire was completely deflated. It was so hot and we don’t have AAA (well, we do now but didn’t back then). How is it that we were one exit from someone who could fix the tire and it cost less than $20. And not for one second was I worried or stressed.

I think about someone trying to get into the house when my son Matthew was home alone and how he was protected. How this crazy person who was apparently on drugs or drunk was banging on the door and threatening to break in yet Matthew stayed safe.

Honestly, every day is filled with frustration, disappointment, financial concern. And every day is an opportunity to freak out or remain calm. Every day is a chance to step aside and let God do what only He can do or try to take over and make a potential mess.

Most of my life has been spent in that really messy space. Let me restate that: most of my life has been spent in the dirtiest, lowest, most humiliating and disgusting spaces. My attempts to find love typically were full of abuse and unhealthy self sacrifice. My pursuit of joy resulted in years of drug use. My desires to fit in caused me to do and be a human who was deceitful and lost. I made tornado size messes and wondered where they came from. I was full an anxiety and fear and attempted to control every aspect of my surroundings while simultaneously being completely and utterly out of control.

Sometimes, it’s easy to believe that success comes from within. From some space of gumption. Some deep drive that we muster on our own. That our “luck” is not supernatural.

I remember laying in the emergency room with my broken ankle and God clearly told me that in this experience, my husband would be elevated to a stronger and more confident husband and leader of our household and photographer. If we take our life back three years prior, when my husband broke his ankle, I remember God clearly telling me that this was now the time for my husband to pursue his dreams. And I have seen all those things come true. Our life has changed in all the best ways because of these circumstances. We have become different people. Our marriage has strengthened. Our family has grown closer.

I have been reflecting on the confidence that God instilled in me about the outcome of those situations. How I was immediately able to speak truth over my healing and how I was able to see that be fulfilled. How our tangible lives have been blessed but also how our faith and hope has increased. We are not people who read bibles and attend church and pray but feel empty inside. We have become a family who walks in the truth of our destiny. We believe wholeheartedly in the goodness of our Heavenly Father because we know Him so intimately.

I watched a sermon last night from Elevation Church. It was titled “Everything Must Go.” It was about how stores have sales and get rid of things that are old and not profitable anymore so they can make room for new things that are better, more desirable and of course, profitable. It was equating that to life and how as we grow and change, the old things have to go and new things need space. I was looking back at all the things that haven’t been profitable in my life. How I created space and gave energy to things that had no real value or had value for a moment and then it was gone. I see clearly that my husband breaking his ankle and me breaking mine and the car driving to the house and all these things big and small, how they created space and shifted things towards a better place, A more emotionally profitable place, and more lifelong satisfying space. A space that has greater impact.

And this testimony has become a voice of truth in other peoples lives. I can take what God has shown me and speak that over someone else’s tough situation and because of my beliefs and my words, maybe someone will have a small amount of belief in their own situation. I believe God is using our family and these tragic experiences to show just how good He is. How His reassurance and love can create people full of grace and expectant for goodness even in the face of scary things. How our previously hardened hearts are soft and patient in the struggles. How we can walk into a space and regardless of what it looks like, we can know that what we see is not reality. Gods truth is the only reality we need and rely on.

And I believe that if that is true for us, it is surely available to everyone else. That our situation is not unique. We are not hand picked for this growth or love. I encourage anyone reading this believe, even in the smallest capacity, that there hard time is for good. That the struggle is only going to make them stronger get and is a valuable process or renewing and restoration. And if you do not believe in God, that’s ok, because He is still there, rooting for you and rearranging things to have the best outcome.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Dreaming (and my lack of posting)

I haven’t posted in a while. Things have been happening. I’ve felt compelled to write. I’ve had a lot of thoughts run through my mind and at times, I’ve wanted to pour them out, yet I refrain. I want my posts to be well written, to be powerful, to be meaningful, to have proper English. I get nervous as if it matters that much… but I guess it does. People write some pretty awful things at times and have huge effects on large masses of readers. I don’t think my blog is on that level (I mean, I know it’s not) but what if I wrote one thing that wasn’t great? I don’t know why that lingers in the back of my mind and somehow hinders me, but it does, or it has. Like I said before, authenticity is vulnerable and can be messy so I need to just embrace that and see what happens.

On to the second, more important topic: dreams and dreaming. I have had a decent amount of conversations about aspirations and hopes over the past few weeks. All of them have been encouraging ones, me reminding others to not give up or agreements about the value of dreaming and dreaming BIG!

Last night I was watching America’s Got Talent. There was a 71 year old woman competing as a ballroom dancer. As she is telling her story, she said something that struck me and as you can imagine, I began to cry. She said she only started casually dancing 10 years prior but through her dance lessons, she realized it was her dream to be a dancer. And here she is, on television, competing to win a million dollars, as a dancer.

It struck me so deeply, the pursuing of an unknown ambition at such a late stage in life and what was even more impactful was the pending success! I envision all the people who doubted her or told her she was crazy, too old, whatever and the determination and drive she had to continue on. I think of all the younger dancers she was probably surrounded by, that maybe stirred up insecurity or doubt in her heart.

In my life, as I’ve mentioned before, I grew up without dreams. I vaguely remember a time, between three and five years old, where I danced around in my backyard, singing songs and pretending I was on broadway. That was a desire in my heart that was quickly erased by years of abuse and neglect. I was taught early on that not only did I not matter, but my yearnings were unimportant, my thoughts were irrelevant and my sole purpose was to serve others and be whoever I needed to be to survive. Every dream that had been placed inside me was gone. Cravings I never knew, wants I had never unearthed, all obsolete.

When I became an adult and had a son of my own, I reinforced that belief within myself. I didn’t have time to even contemplate what I wanted out of life. I had a child to raise and my whole goal was to help him live out his passions. I needed to work in order to provide for him, to go to school and get an education in whatever field I could and to find a husband to have a family modeled for him.

It wasn’t until maybe five years ago that I began to tap into my buried hopes and what has happened since then is nothing short of miraculous.

My goal setting began slowly, with small things, like a belief that I could run a race or lift a heavy barbell, climb a rope or even get one single pull up (haven’t accomplished that yet, but one day). Things that maybe other people never debate or even consider an objective but to me, were at the top of my list. As I began to find success in those small things, my ambition grew larger and more outlandish. I found myself believing that I could do big things, that everyone around me could accomplish the unthinkable, that nothing was out of reach or impossible. When others would say statements of doubt or negativity, I could confidentially encourage them with my truth. And as I watched others conquer their fears, I grew even more confident in the power of dreaming.

Sometimes I look back (actually often) and feel sad for the little girl who had all those things taken from her. I think about what could have been if I grew up understanding my potential. What if I knew the greatness within me from birth? What would I have attempted? How many more amazing things would I have experienced? And I find myself feeling angry for everyone who has in some way been told that they needed to “just get a good job and make money” or pick a college and career at the young age of 18. I feel like I want to protect everyone who has been fed notions of self doubt and cheer them on to victory. My voice raises and something swells up in me when I hear the lack of belief in our society. When did we decide to just give up and fall in line?

I am not someone inherently greater than anyone else. I firmly believe that we are all amazing, talented individuals capable of unfathomable feats. I am someone who is just figuring out the depths of that ability and in that growth, realizing how desperately so many need to see their own potential.

And let’s be clear, this post is not to say we should all quit our jobs and irresponsibly pursue something. The pursuit of happiness and fulfillment of dreams can be done with intention and intelligence. But if there is no conscious dream in your heart, I’d suggest taking some time to truly listen to that small voice inside you that houses all of the magic implanted within you in your mother’s womb. And then take the wildest dream you can conjure up and run with it! And if anyone tries to tell you that you’re too old, out of shape, not good enough, not smart enough or that it’s not realistic, remember that you were not created on accident. The person you are born to be is on purpose and the dreams you hold within you are there for a reason.

Living for the first time

I’ve had a bit over a week to reflect on my time in Daytona Beach and I’ve come to one major conclusion: I needed this more than I realized.

In preparation for a week long camp with 86 high schoolers (actually 5500 high schoolers nationwide) I thought of all the things I was worried about. I felt nervous to have to share a space with teenagers. I was concerned how I would handle the lack of sleep. I had literally no interest in an 18 hour bus ride EACH WAY…

I made a list and gathered all my required snacks, packed my GoPro ready to capture all the amazing moments and got my mind ready for hearts to shift.

I soon came to see that my life was also going to change.

The first night was full of worship and a moving message from Loui Giglio. We quickly found our way out of our seats and onto the floor, jumping up and down, singing at the top of our lungs. Our eyes began to swell and tears started pouring down. I took a moment to look around, to breathe in the atmosphere. I saw a room full of teenagers who were falling deeply in love with Jesus. I felt a sense of overwhelming gratitude that God had put me in this place, honored me with this responsibility. As the evening ended, all my lack of sleep was overcome by excitement and joy.

I promptly awoke at 6am without an alarm set. In that moment, I wanted so badly to go back to sleep. I hadn’t slept but five hours and I was coming off of a painfully long bus ride. Little did I know that I had been awakened for a specific reason. I found my way quietly out of the room, down the elevator and onto the beach. I watched the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and began to cry. In the silence of the morning, I was surrounded by students journaling and praying. There were groups of teenagers without their leaders or adults, who woke up early to praise God and pray over each other. Students gathered with bibles and journals and sat alone, feet in the sand, and just existed in His presence. I imagine that everyone on that beach shared the same emotions I was feeling; indebtedness, awe, delight. I found myself full of expectation for our future, hope for a generation many say are too entitled, selfish, unfocused, lazy etc.

And then came the evening session…. our group had found seats three rows back from the stage. The energy was electric, on fire, lit… all the words you can imagine to describe a volcano about to explode, a rocket about to lift off. The music was blaring, 5500 students were belting out all the emotion and heart ache and praise they could muster. Lights were flashing, we all were jumping up and down, hands raised, completely undone, no restraints, unaware of potential judgements, fully immersed in the moment.

And I looked up. I paused for a minute to breathe it all in and I realized that I was there just as much for myself as I was for my students. I was experiencing life change, freedom, bliss, youth. I wasn’t getting back something I lost. I wasn’t reliving something from my younger years.

I WAS LIVING THIS WAY FOR THE FIRST TIME.

This moment, the laughter, the abandonment, the friendships were all things I had never experienced, not in this way. I was enjoying parts of life and myself that I thought were long gone missed opportunities.

Everyone has them, things they didn’t get growing up. Maybe your parents got a divorce or they traveled too much. Possibly a father who was overly harsh or a mother who critiques everything. A school mate who bullied you or a horribly embarrassing, unforgettable moment that scarred you for life. All situations that can make a person question themselves or create marks on a soul.

Whatever it is, that thing can create a longing for resolution, a desire to feel complete, loved, valued. Some people work their whole life to prove worth to their parents. We enter into relationships hoping to heal some hurt from a past relationship. We can literally choose to live a past life forever.

I had long ago accepted that some of the missed emotions and experiences were just that: lost. I am an adult. If I feel like my parents didn’t love me enough, I wasn’t going to revert back to being five and somehow obtain that love. I have a child of my own and it’s my turn to be the parent. The freedom of my youth that I felt I was missing was never going to be mine. I had found freedom as an adult but I had forced myself to forget any longings from my childhood.

And then camp happened. And I saw the things I had never felt be given to me. Moments I didn’t know I could ever have were mine, and not just hints of them BUT COMPLETE FULLNESS! I was a 38 year old child, experiencing the freedom of youth and it was so sweet. And in the following days, that healing grew greater, the insecurity and old messages became faint and my load became lighter.

I don’t think I will ever love the long bus ride but man, I can’t wait for next year!

Be a sprouted nut

I cannot stop crying lately. Sometimes it’s just tearing up and some sniffles. Other times it’s a full on downpour til that lump in my throat feels like it’s going to break free and overflow out of my body.

I used to hate crying, especially bawling with no specific reason. I believed I was weak in my emotion and that I was a “typical female” or PMS’ing or some other standard assumption concerning estrogen and tears. I tried as much as I could to refrain, to hide away, to hold everything in and to never really succumb to my feelings. No matter how valid they felt, how strong they were, how much it hurt to hide them, I was not going to be the person who cried in public.

Needless to say, I was not very good at that venture. My decision to pretend I had no sensitivities created the opposite result. I was overly emotional in everything and it was out of control. I would find myself frustrated with a co-worker and begin crying when expressing myself. If I had to engage in any sort of serious or vulnerable conversation, I would immediately breakdown and sob. I watched cookie commercials and began to gush, concocting depth and sorrow in Oreos. The out of control reactions only created a stronger aversion to feelings and a deeper disgust for crying. I felt more shame for my inability to control myself and more frustration within myself.

A few years ago, when some of my most intentional healing began, I listened to a talk by Brene Brown. It was all about feelings and how you cannot selectively acknowledge or block emotions. You either experience every sentiment, positive and negative, or you shut them all out. You cannot avoid sorrow and pain but fully feel joy. I could not expect to walk through all the amazing goodness in life if I wasn’t willing to give in to the grief and disappointment. If I continued to shame myself and try to circumvent the tough stuff, I was destined to be a confused and emotionally bankrupt human. Oof, that’s not at all what I was wanting to hear…..

Slowly, and with a lot of help from a counselor and some amazing friends to love me, I began to allow my tears to fall. I began to appreciate my anguish, the hard parts of life, the things that made me feel “bad” feelings. I started to seek out the parts of me I had tried to avoid, eagerly awaiting that crying until I almost throw up feeling. My deepest desire became to process so much that I became whole. And the crying for no reason started to dissipate. I suddenly began to understand a little bit of why I was crying. I began to connect to my insides, to recognize my heart and to honor what it had experienced. I fell in love with my ebullition. The cleansing of my shame which turned into pride for my life. I am not always 100% certain what is motivating my emotions but I began to welcome them with everything in me.

Once I cleared out so much old hurt and emotion, what Brene spoke about became reality. I had room for all the elation and goodness. When I stopped fighting my feelings, I was able to experience so much more, and man was it good.

Yesterday I woke up with a full day ahead of me. My son graduated high school two weeks ago and today was his graduation party. My mom flew in from Georgia to celebrate and we had so many tasks to accomplish before 1pm. As my mom and I prepped food, I began to play a song for her that my son wrote and recorded. I began to cry. I’ve heard the song before, multiple times. In fact, any performance Matthew has done, I’ve certainly replayed it more times than I’d like to admit. But I begin to cry every time because I feel proud of him. I see hope for his future. I am relieved that maybe I did something right with him. I am honored to be his mom. I feel inspired by his talents. That crying was so good.

An hour later, I had to run to CVS to pick up photos for a picture collage. You know the ones people make for graduation, full of every adorable and embarrassing picture of the graduate? I decided to peruse the card aisle in hopes of finding something to write in for my graduate. Every card I read made my eyes swell. New baby cards, congratulations, with sympathy, blank cards with adorable puppies on the cover. You name it, I could relate to it, empathize with it, connect to it because I’m emotional and I allow myself to feel ALL THE FEELINGS.

And as I taped the pictures together to create my very own pic-collage, those dang eyes began to drip a little. Collecting moments over the past eighteen years and displaying them all on three pieces of poster board, I remembered so many days as a mother. I felt a myriad of emotions and it was ok. I embraced my feelings and then let them subside. I was allowed to process being sad that he has grown up, joy that he is such an amazing human, grief that he is transitioning into a new chapter in life.

The party was a full day of friends at the pool and hanging out at the house. It was hectic and expensive and I was running around navigating details non stop. It was stressful at times, wondering if I prepared enough food, wanting to display things perfectly, ensuring our guests were happy. It was ok to experience those small tinges of anxiety and pressure. It didn’t overwhelm me or take over the day because I was not a pot boiling over with years of old struggles. And in the midst of all of that, I was on the verge of tears but not because of the possible negative outcomes. I was caught up in the awe of our life, the gratitude for so many friends that love us, the kindness of our family members and the pure joy on my sons face as he felt loved and celebrated. I was able to be balanced and sane and experience life in all its fullness. Nothing was dulled, short changed or less than.

As I lay in my bed, reflecting on the day, the past 18 years of Matthews life, my life, I am overcome with tears. As I am writing and editing this blog, I am intermittently crying. I am just constantly crying and I love it.

I pray your day is full of acceptance of your feelings. That you know the value of experiencing sorrow and in turn, receive the rewards that come from exultation. I encourage anyone who is attempting to remove their emotions, to hug them tightly, to soak in them until something new emerges. I envision almonds soaking in water overnight so that the goodness inside can sprout up. That process is my hope for anyone who has a hardened heart. The most digestible nuts are the ones that have been soaked overnight, they shed their outer layer and the true goodness inside is revealed. So go out friend! Be a sprouted nut!