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

Sunday

Yesterday was Sunday.

It also was Mother’s Day.

I am a mom. I’ve been one for 18 years now.

The thing about yesterday, Mother’s Day, is that I usually find myself particularly disappointed and dejected inside. It’s the same with Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and even Sweetest Day (which is honestly not a real holiday). I have some crazy expectation in my mind, breakfast in bed, flowers, romance, surprises, things you see in a movie. I see people’s lives on social media and it makes me believe that those days mean more because they include niceties. I have spent a lot of years believing that without those things, I wasn’t as important, maybe I wasn’t a worthy mom or person, maybe I wasn’t living up to the role of wife, friend, girlfriend, mother etc.

I also know a lot of people who find those days to be just as challenging; friends who can’t have children, whose mothers have passed away, who don’t have a significant other or who have been betrayed by their lover. These holidays, the cards, the decorations, the date night activities, the excitement, really can be nothing more than a build up to sadness and feeling alone or undeserving.

Now I’m not saying these holidays are junk OR that honoring others is a negative trait. I love celebrating people. I cry over cards at the grocery store and envision the emotion and sentiment being shared with a person I care for. I get excited for Christmas tree decorating and cut out cookies and I certainly enjoy a beautiful dinner and romance.

But when my whole day, my whole existence, my emotions are so tied to these grandiose displays of affection, I am setting myself up for hurt. Sometimes I think that no amount of gifts or attention would satisfy the day I can create in my mind. Who can compare to Ryan Gosling in the Notebook? That’s just not real life, at least not all the time (in fact probably not most of the time).

Relationships are tough. Pleasing someone else, considering someone else, selflessness, that’s really difficult. It’s not in our nature to think about others before ourselves. I’m not great at it and I’ve been intentionally working on it for at least five years.

Let me take a quick detour to clarify a few things: my husband is AMAZING. He’s patient and kind and loving and has the biggest heart. He’s talented and I am impressed by him and his artistic abilities every day. He is creative beyond what I can comprehend and is a perfectionist when it comes to his craft. He would die for me in a heartbeat. He cares about making me happy and he works hard to speak my love language. My son is also an unbelievable human. He is empathetic and generous and loves me with all his heart. When he sings, something stirs inside my core. Excitement pours out of his body when he anticipates something and he gives really great hugs. He’s genuine and respectful and makes this world a better place just by existing.

Now that I cleared that up, let’s get back to Mother’s Day….. nothing special happened. No card from anyone, no flowers, no surprises and IT WAS OK! In fact, it was totally fine. It was just Sunday after all. I didn’t feel sad. I actually told myself, “you’re a really amazing mom and this day doesn’t make you more of a mom”. In years past, I’ve cried, a lot. I’ve felt unimportant and angry. I’ve wanted something (I don’t even know what) to validate me. I compared my day to Instagram stories and Facebook posts and felt almost ashamed of the normalcy that ensued on all those Sundays in May.

Just because my husband and son aren’t great at proactive gift giving and surprises, doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate me. They show me how much they value me in so many other ways throughout the year. It almost becomes unfair to forget all of those moments and base everything on those 24 hours labeled as a holiday for moms, or lovers or Jesus (Christmas is definitely not about me or gifts so let’s get that off the table right now).

In general, the thought process of high expectations in every situation, becomes dangerous. People will always let us down. Things won’t always be 100% perfect and just how we choose for them to be. Life isn’t a movie or a post online. But this year, my feelings were totally disconnected from that thinking and I was able to celebrate myself. I applauded myself, did things I enjoyed and never felt one twinge of resentment or discontentment. I’m looking forward to a lifetime of more amazing days with less focus on what someone is doing to celebrate me and more connection with how I can be my own best cheerleader.

Georgia

Tomorrow morning I am ending a five day trip to my hometown of Georgia. I came home to surprise my younger sister for her graduation party. It just so happened to be my nephews birthday so I got to also celebrate him. I moved away when I was 18 (20 years ago). It was actually more like I ran away as fast as I could and never looked back.

For the past 20 years it’s always been bittersweet to come home. I don’t have many good memories here. This state isn’t full of all my old friends. In fact, there’s only one person from school I still keep in contact with. At times, being home has been more stress and pain than it seemed worth.

Coming from a large family, it’s hard to always get along. I am one of five children and we are all married and four of us have children. Once we all had spouses and children of our own, our lives became even harder to intertwine. We now had to accommodate our significant others, our busy kids schedules and then maybe find time to spend with our siblings and parents. Sometimes our spouses didn’t like our siblings. Sometimes we had old issues from childhood that got in the way of us being kind to each other. Whatever is was, it has made family time challenging to say the least.

Living in Ohio, I think it’s been easy to disconnect emotionally and physically. Absence didn’t make the heart grow fonder. It made it easier and easier to convince myself that I just didn’t care. Missing birthdays and special events didn’t feel sad because I had let the hard parts of family become more powerful than blood. It didn’t hurt to be away from my brothers or sister or nieces and nephews. The distance wasn’t even a thought really.

Maybe it’s just getting older or maybe wounds have begun to heal or somewhere in between but this trip, this was important. This felt necessary. I wanted to show up for my sister. I wanted her to deeply feel my love and support for her. Even though we haven’t gotten along all our lives and as adults, we haven’t been very close that often, me showing up wasn’t optional. I don’t know why I decided this. What changed inside of me? I do know I am beyond elated with my decision.

When I walked in her house to surprise her, she was overcome with emotion. She began to cry and we hugged one of those embraces that you don’t ever want to let go from. We spent the day together with family and friends celebrating her. We didn’t fight. There wasn’t a moment of tension or animosity or discontent. We were two sisters, laughing and being bound together. I was able to share kind and genuine words in a card. I was able to show her in action just how much she means to me. And in that day, in this trip, I felt like years of struggling subsided. We were friends again. We were like we once were as children sharing a bedroom, staying up late and giggling with each other. We remembered why we love each other so much.

Then came a lunch with my sister in law and mother. Just that sentence can be tough for some families. Meshing so many different personalities can feel impossible. Attempts to be kind can fail miserably and tension can create years of avoidance and awkwardness. But today, today was perfect. Lunch was full of joy and common ground. Three woman in three different stages of life, bound together by blood and marriage, able to somehow put aside fears and insecurities and opinions to just enjoy each other, lift each other up and love one another. And somehow, in that meal, the beginning of healing began. The value of family was renewed. The desire to continue to work on things was recharged. And again, I was grateful for showing up.

Growing up in Georgia was awful in many ways. I’ve referenced some things previously and am sure I will explain so much more as my blog continues. I don’t have fond memories. I don’t often leave feeling sad and anticipating my next visit. This is the first time I’ve really had a heaviness within me. I don’t want to miss these moments. I feel so connected and joyful and I don’t want it to stop.

I’ve always felt like other families were somehow better or closer than mine. That mine was so screwed up and I almost wanted to just find replacements. That’s not been a constant feeling but it’s been a pretty overwhelming one at times. I am so glad that feeling is fading and being replaced by what I can only imagine will continue to grow into more love, more joy and more closeness.

In life it can be a simple switch turned on and off when it comes to friendships and I’ve always felt that it was that way with family. Once I’d felt hurt and betrayed enough, I didn’t have to open my heart to whatever or whoever the cause was. I could pretend the person didn’t exist and even imagine they never existed. I could harden my heart to the point that I truly believed I was happier without my brother or sister. What I’ve come to find is that isn’t the case. I craved connection from my family so much and felt so discouraged and hurt at times that I decided to protect myself by shutting them out and shutting myself down. Maybe everyone doesn’t desire closeness with their family. Maybe it’s a fantasy to believe that old scars can be healed and forgiven. I choose to hope in the opposite and open myself back up because one trip like this is way better than all those years of indifference.

Maybe everyone should break an ankle

I don’t even know if this is profound. Just some ramblings maybe. I had felt like these past three years had been a season directed towards something. I wasn’t sure what that something was. I’m still unsure what it is. I suppose we are constantly moving in a forward direction with some sort of objective but also not really knowing. Moment by moment, with every interaction, our plans can shift, our path can change. Sometimes we achieve our “end goal” only to realize that was a stop along the way. We desire more, we dream bigger, there’s never really a destination.

I kept believing that these past three years, where my husband and I continued to live a life of less and less, meant we would end up living like gypsies, in a tiny home, traveling the world. Maybe we would be long term campers, adventuring with only a tent and truck for our “home”. Was my future going to include mission trips and a minimal life in some third world country? Could we be moving to a tiny apartment in New York to pursue other business avenues? All these thoughts raced through my mind constantly. I’ve spent the past three years interpreting our situation and aligning it with different ideas I thought would be fun or make sense.

Here’s what I found: I was totally wrong. We just signed a lease on an apartment. We are not jet setting to Haiti. We turned down the New York offer. While we will always adventure, travel and camp, there’s no Airstream in our future (yet). All of these years of letting go, giving up, selling things, minimizing had accomplished two conscious things and I’m sure bunches of unconscious things that we will discover in the years to come.

The first thing that’s happened is I have become a less controlling, more laid back human. I don’t feel so emotionally attached to things or processes. My anxiety doesn’t increase thinking about things breaking or being ruined. The couch cushions don’t need to be perfect. My husband is allowed to load the dishwasher however he wants. The groceries can be put in the fridge in a hodge podge, disorganized way. My medical bill for $42k didn’t even freak me out. I have thus far, totally detached from my idea of what is valuable, what’s worth stressing over and what I should cherish.

The second, and even cooler thing to happen is that my husband and I have to furnish our new apartment. We have nothing but beds and clothes and our camping gear. We have to buy a couch, nightstands, kitchen items, trash cans and bathroom items. We have to decorate and coordinate things. We get to pick out a whole house full of items. All the things we sold or donated we need to replace. But this time, we get to do it together.

My husband and I didn’t live together before we were married and when we did say our vows, he moved into my house. It was totally furnished and everything was mine. We lived there for three years before we moved in with his grandma and then into our house sitting situation. I’m six years, we had never had a home together that was ours. We had never shopped for our things. Neither of us realized we had missed out on such a fun and intimate part of being married. We didn’t know the joy of picking out plates and dishes. We hadn’t shared in establishing our home and life together. It had always been my stuff or his stuff.

I think it’s interesting how we just transitioned into a life that made sense and didn’t see the lack in our decision. We never got to feel excited about sitting together on a couch that we handpicked. We didn’t know the happiness that came from discussing vacuum options. The investment that happens when you share in decisions. Its more than just buying things, it’s creating a foundation for a home to live in, to host people in, to feel proud of, to feel wrapped up and cozy in unity.

And all of this began when he broke his ankle three years ago…..