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Looking for Lovely

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Isn’t it something when we notice some thing for the first time that we’ve probably looked at or experienced countless times before, but never really seen or been aware of before?

Like the flowers growing right beside where I park my car everyday. Like how my niece has heard my real name said but continues to call me her nickname for me. Like waking up with the ability to see, hear, walk, talk & function independently.

This bright pop of color caught my eye this morning as I walked out to my car to go to work. I wondered how many times in the past week I’ve breezed right past it without ever really seeing it. I wondered how much beauty in my life, tangible items, moments & who people are, that I’d never slowed down enough to notice. How many things am I so accustomed to that I no longer enjoy the beauty & uniqueness that comes along with having those things in my life?

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. It’s cliche… but it’s true… and sad. What makes us not truly appreciate what we have until we no longer have it?

Change has a way of highlighting the things we are most thankful for.

How would the sum of our lives be different if we made a habit out of really seeing & living gratefully, instead of just looking & just existing? How could we impact others by intentionally seeing & expressing to them the beauty of their beings? How would the sum of our lives be different if we made a habit out of seeing the beauty on the front end, instead of change being the catalyst for our gratitude?

The struggle is real…

I began writing this post several (over 6) months ago. I suppose I felt as if it were too emotional of a post to share… something too raw, too much pain seeping out the sides… something I obviously didn’t want to post, but I didn’t want to trash either.

Post starts here:

The struggle is real. My struggle is real.

I’d be lying if I said I always immediately think of what Jesus would do in my struggle. I’d be lying if I said I have forgiven all guilty parties. I’d be lying if I said I have completely anger-free days. I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t thought of how much easier it would be to not live this life. I’d be lying if, right now, I said that I’m not struggling today.

While I am immensely aware that my struggle is real, I am quick to forget how real my God is… how much more capable He is of carrying my burden than I am… how He is working all of this, every single detail, for the good… how He has always been in the business of restoration… and so much more.

My emotions are bubbling up today. I am more than ready to bless someone out, but not in the southern woman kind of way… I won’t be saying, “Oh, bless your heart!” I am ready to let those who have hurt me know just how much wrong they’ve done.

I feel… I guess it would be helpful to think a little here… to get a grip on these overwhelming emotions and remind myself of some truth that is never-changing, unlike emotions.

I know

Post ends here. I’m not sure how that last sentence was going to end… Who doesn’t like a little mystery?

Visiting old writing is like digging up a time capsule, cracking it open & finding a younger version of yourself displayed in the items it contained. I see growth. I see movement along the non-linear, kind-of-cyclical path of grief.

I am knocking on wood as you each of you reads this. You knock on wood, too, just for good measure.

I feel like I’ve reached the acceptance stage of my grief journey. Insert sigh of relief here. There. I said it. Did you knock on wood? I don’t want to jinx myself.

I know it ebbs & flows. There will be times when I’ll revert back to “earlier stages.”

Most days, I’m living in acceptance & it feels good. It feels free. It feels lighter.

That’s not to say that I’ve fully forgiven any of my parents, because I haven’t. I honestly have no idea when that will take place. How do you ever fully forgive someone who commits the same deeply hurtful offense against you every single day? Daily, I suppose, is the answer. I forgive them daily… I try to, at least. I recognize that the days when I least feel like praying for them are the days that I need to pray more fervently for them. I think the devil would have me follow my feelings & just live in & out of my hurt, so I try to combat that as best I can.

So, to complete that months-old, unfinished sentence…

I know that Jesus has been the one to bring me this far through the grief. I know that this cross is mine to bear & it’s mine on purpose. I know that God will honor my obedience. I know that my story isn’t over yet. I know God has more restoration to come.

Feeling Overwhelmed by Feelings

The other day, my fingertips flew over the keyboard keys as I composed an ever-so-emotional post about the purpose in who your (my) parents are. Tears pooled in my eyes & I knew I couldn’t post it. I would sound too emotional. Too angry. Too sad. Too all over the place. I saved the draft & so it sits with 6ish other unfinished posts.

When situations are messy, emotions are too. This is a less-than-fun truth to come to grips with. Emotions can be chaotic, deceitful & just downright overwhelming. Emotions need honest evaluating & intentional managing. Both of which most of us aren’t willing to do.

Today’s world pushing the “feelings agenda” doesn’t help us ladies (or men for that matter) learn how to honestly evaluate & intentionally manage our emotions. We are constantly bombarded with the notion that what we feel is true. The end. Period. What a tactful agenda to push when you think about it. Anything goes, each person’s truth isn’t debatable & that creates chaos that often overshadows more important issues, along with other things. End tiny rant 🙂

I can think of numerous instances in which a feeling of mine changed momentarily & then changed again. I’ve felt nervous to share something vulnerable with someone & that faded once I opened up to that person. I’ve felt angry at my fiance’ when we haven’t seen eye to eye & that faded when we found a middle-ground compromise. I’ve felt depressed about an unmoving situation & that faded when I chose to focus on what I could “move” in the situation.

God made us emotional beings on purpose. He created all the emotions we feel, after all. Emotions aren’t bad, but what we do with them can lead us down a path that isn’t the healthiest option. When we choose to honestly evaluate what we’re feeling & intentionally manage our feelings, we’re onto something good! When we choose to let our feelings run the show, we choose less than the best for ourselves.

So, how can we honestly evaluate our emotions? This takes awareness & answering the vulnerable question of, “Is this based on a feeling or truth?” I’ve found myself saying that I don’t like someone without really knowing them. I then ask myself if I feel that way out of an insecurity I have, if they remind me of someone who has hurt me, etc. OR if that person has actually done something that would merit me not being so fond of them. Sadly, more times than not, the root is something lacking within myself (whether it’s confidence, joy, etc.). It is in those moments that I must choose to get over myself & give that person a chance, no matter the vulnerability risk. That is the second part of the equation… intentionally managing the emotion(s).

What this all comes down to is choice. The “feelings agenda” leaves everyone a victim to their feelings & the feelings of others. What a prison-like existence…

Instead, let’s live honestly & intentionally. We have a choice in all of this.

Mama’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all you sweet mamas out there!

At work on Friday, many erroneously wished me a Happy Mother’s Day. I smiled, thanked them & mumbled under my breath as they walked away that I’m not a mom (yet). It’s the thought that counts, I know.

The more Mother’s Days I live through, the easier it gets to not have a mom who I can find an appropriate Hallmark card for at Walgreens. (Thank goodness I can make my own cards.) The same goes for Father’s Days. My healing journey certainly isn’t linear, so I’m likely to experience some emotional backsliding at times, but, finally, at 25, I’ve started to accept that this, my story, is my cross to bear. It’s taken a lot of tears, prayers (my own & those of others) & courage to talk about & work on the emotional damage.

As I prayed yesterday morning, the Lord laid it on my heart that my mama was chosen to birth me. Even though now me having peace means she cannot be apart of my life, her being my mama was on purpose. It’s tough to acknowledge & accept that, as she has hurt me deeply. I don’t want to acknowledge or accept that sometimes. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t thought it would’ve been better for her to have never become a mother. I know that means these words would never exist & I wouldn’t either. Nevertheless, I must recognize that God’s divine plan was for Wanda Shields to birth Kaitlin Johnston.

Just as the Lord destined for my mama to be my mama, He planned ahead for her lacking. He chose my daddy to be my daddy. He gave my daddy a loving mama, who would love me like a mama. He already had this taken care of before I entered the world. He knew long before I was born that the devil would use emotional pain & prescription meds to take my mama.

I would say I miss her, but I never fully had her in the first place. So I guess I should say that I wish I could have a healthy mama. I haven’t heard her voice, seen her face or been wrapped in her hug in 2 years. Once in a blue moon, I will have a good 5 minute cry grieving her, but then I remember the peace the Lord has afforded me since I told her, in love, that she needs to get better before I can have a relationship with her. I can’t give up that long-term peace for temporary feelings. Now that I’m planning a wedding, a part of me desires to have her to talk to… to share wedding details with, to daydream with about what my dress will look like, etc. It’s tough, y’all. Wedding traditions are growing to be one of my least favorite things, as a child of a broken biological family & an emotionally abusive blended family…

As I mentioned earlier, my daddy’s mama has loved me like a mama. Boy am I blessed to be her grandbaby! I really cannot begin to express my gratitude to the Lord for planning Nancy Jones to be my Mamaw. He had me taken care of all along! (& He’s got you, too! Even if you can’t see it now.) At this point in my life, I say I have 2 moms, but they’re not lesbians. Mamaw & my aunt, my daddy’s sister. I am also incredibly blessed that the Lord planned Kim Johnston to be my aunt. I imagine what relationships I share with Mamaw & my aunt are what daughters refer to when they say their moms are their best friends. I can be real with them. I can ask for advice knowing their wisdom will be sound. I know they love me unconditionally.

I have other “2nd moms” in my life. I feel like we all end up with ladies in our lives who loves us like their own. These ladies are hugs from heaven & they have each served unique mom-like purposes in my life. I am so thankful for each of them… Tina Cook, Amanda Wood-Williams, Deanna Coffey, Henrietta Whisenant, Vicki Graham, Beth Hobbs Smith, Terri Hare, Tammy Gordon & more.

I also want to take a little time to acknowledge my future mother-in-law, Donna Briggs Phifer. Donna, my heart is saddened that I’ll never get to meet you on this side of glory. I’m hoping I’ll get to meet you on the other side. I want you to know that your baby boy is a better man because of you. Kidney disease took your body way too soon, but please know Josh has grown by leaps & bounds because of the Lord’s plan for your life. It wasn’t all for nothing. Everything has served a purpose.

I am sad that I’ll only ever hear stories about you & how funny you were. As I get to know your family & see how much fun they have together, I know that you have left a lasting impact on each of their lives. The love your family has for you has been such a blessing to witness.

While I’ll always be sad that you aren’t here, I will rejoice knowing that your impact on my future husband will trickle down into the lives of our future children. All I hear about you is the joy that you had. While it would be easy to remain sorrowful, I want to live joyfully, in your honor. I want my kids, your grandbabies, to know & remember me as a joyful mama, just as your kids describe you. If my kids have half the love for me that yours have for you, I’ll consider myself blessed.

So while I can’t deliver a card to you now, as I so desire to, I’m asking the Lord to send an angel to you to convey my heart. Trust me, your hand-drawn card would be beautiful with vibrant colors & meaningful words. Happy Mother’s Day, Donna.

Mamas are so important. Often, their everyday tasks, which help shape their babies’ lives, go unnoticed & unappreciated, as the tasks might seem trivial. Today, my hat is off to you, mamas, for braving baby-raising. It takes true guts to do so. I hope you all feel honored & appreciated on this special day!

Sending all my love.

Emotional Byproducts of Rejection Part 2: Drawing Boundaries

Last week, I laid out my journey through the first part of the activity from Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. The instructions say to list out the ways rejection make you feel. I filled in the 5 available blanks. (I won’t bore you with a word-for-word rehash, so check out Part 1, where you can see a slideshow laying out the 5 feelings I named: https://merakihealingblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/emotional-byproducts-of-rejection-part-1-facing-your-byproducts/?frame-nonce=44d960cec8)

Blanks filled & heart feeling a bit raw, I moved on to the next task, although I didn’t actually complete it right then. I read the instructions & considered the mini-posters I had already labeled. As an artist, I’m always on the mission to make everything more aesthetically pleasing. I was able to incorporate my desire to beautify using washi tape with the next step in the activity… kind of! And it was more of a side-note thing, not something that the activity asked me to do…

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As you can see in the slideshow, I added one strip of washi tape to each mini-poster. This visual, while simple, has been monumental for me.

I believe you have to create a boundary in your heart & mind between the enemy’s lies & our Father’s truth. A decision must be made. A conscious effort must be put forth in choosing to throw out ideas or feelings that aren’t true, that are from the enemy.

In my case, the enemy basks in my belief that I’m unlovable, because my parents make no effort to show me that I’m worthy of their love. When I root my worth in other people, I come up short EVERY SINGLE TIME. Rooting my worth in the truth of God’s Word has me overflowing ALL THE TIME. The devil jumps for joy when I live my life based on the lie that I’m unimportant. I can easily & convincingly argue that I am unimportant… the people whose DNA make up my physical being choose a life of selfishness over me every moment that I’m breathing. When I hunker down in that dark, hopeless jail cell of despair, the enemy laughs. He knows that the door to this cell is wide open, ready for my feet to cross from hell-on-earth bondage to heaven-on-earth freedom… I can choose to recognize & embrace what the Lord says is true of me or I can continue living with a false identity.

I have often heard in movies this concept of reinventing oneself… move to another town, start over where nobody knows you, wear the style of clothing you’ve always wanted to wear but didn’t have the guts to, go out with all the guys you want to, even the ones who aren’t your type… the list could go on & on.

What if we reinvented the way we see ourselves, not when we look in the mirror, but when we peer into our innermost being, our souls? What if we started searching in the Bible for what our never-changing, perfectly-righteous, all-loving God says about us? And what if we actually lived our lives with the identity available to us as children of God… loved completely, important for the kingdom’s purpose, apart of His family, seen by the Creator of everything, enough through the blood of Jesus?

That’s the identity I want to operate out of… it comes when I draw the line right here & say that I’m done letting the enemy blind me to what God has in store for me.

So, I teased you a bit & I’m sorry… but I’m not. I didn’t actually get to the 2nd part of the activity instructions. A divine interruption happened & I’m so glad it did.

Emotional Byproducts of Rejection Part 1: Facing your Byproducts

Before you get started reading this post, you should know that this is just the beginning of a few posts that all tie in together. It is my hope that you come along for this mini-series ride &, if you feel so inclined to, share how you can relate!

I recently finished Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. As I’ve mentioned before, the book’s theme is rejection, something with which I am closely acquainted. As I read the last word on the last page of the book, my heart sunk. I didn’t want it to end. Lysa gets me. I wanted to spend more time with her, learning from her, connecting with her story. Upon turning the last page, I was pleasantly surprised to find a bonus chapter. I ate up every word quickly & slowly, all at once. I wanted to read every word right then, as I was hungry for more of someone who understands what parental rejection is like. I also wanted to savor the connection I felt to this lady who I have never met before, but who knew things about what I experience in my thought & heart life that most don’t understand.

Once I had gobbled up the bonus chapter, I realized there was more. YES! Score! There was an activity. As I read the instructions, I knew I was going to have to carve out some time to complete the activity. The instructions said to write down what rejection makes you feel. There were 5 blanks. I filled in each blank & it was draining. It took energy to be honest about my pain. Strangely, I felt empowered. I realized that courage was a necessary ingredient here. I needed to put in front of my eyes the truth about what had taken place within my heart & mind.

Moving on…

Here are the 5 byproducts of rejection that I named:

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As I filled in the blanks in the book, I remembered that I had a pack of mini posters that had been collecting dust on top of my bookshelf. Well, the plastic wrap was collecting dust, not the actual mini posters… Anyways, I’d had this pack of mini posters for over a year & just hadn’t figured out what to use them for… until right at that moment. I retrieved the pack & was overjoyed to find that there were exactly 5 mini posters. This was the moment that specific pack was made for… and the crazy thing is that this pack of mini posters came from the leftovers of a teacher luncheon my church hosts every year. Even the leftover loaves & fish serve a purpose.

At the top of each mini poster, I penned one of the 5 emotions. Seeing them in big letters was… sobering? I’m not sure if that’s the exact feel, but it’s tough to admit out loud that you feel less than, forgotten, unworthy… all because someone else said so or their actions said so. Admitting those feelings makes me feel small, helpless & raw.

With being more of a visual person, I suppose I needed to see the feelings. Naming them was painfully acknowledging their sneaky, yet loud existence in my being. You can’t rid yourself of something unhealthy if you never recognize that it’s there in the first place…

Putting my less-than falsities on display has been the first step to rewiring how I view myself and to learning how the Creator of everything views me.

Have you ever considered what unhealthy identities you have adopted that impact your life? I encourage you to do some introspection in the upcoming week. You might find some things you need to throw out.

Part 2 with the remainder of the activity instructions coming soon! 🙂

(If you are in need of a figurative hand to hold while you navigate rejection in your life, Uninvited information can be found here: http://uninvitedbook.com/)

 

Life Update March 2017

I haven’t shared my heart in a minute, so I wanted to check in.

The past few weeks have been filled with work, emotional processing, time spent with family & friends, praying new things in new ways & reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, “Uninvited.”

I’ll start with work. I am currently working on a long-term project of opening & checking 6,000 electronic medical records. Yes, you read that correct. Six thousand. This requires a lot of clicking, mental processing & eye energy. Who knew staring at a computer screen non-stop would be so draining? Also, I got a raise! Finally. Since graduating in May, I’ve been hoping for either that or just getting a new job altogether that pays more. Let’s just say student loans stink & a wedding to pay for is excitingly stinky, as far as money goes.

Emotional processing.. oh boy. This has been pretty overwhelming lately. I knew being engaged and planning a wedding would bring drudge up some non-fun things to process, but I didn’t realize it would bring on the grief process in a new way. I would say that men can tune out for this next paragraph, but perhaps it would be enlightening, so buckle your seatbelts, guys. I’ve never met a little girl who has not dreamt of her wedding day. I know I definitely have imagined myself in a poofy princess dress, my arm hooked through Daddy’s, walking towards the love of my life. I have dreamt about that Father/Daughter dance… a country song is probably what we would have picked, based on my taste in music as a kid & what I knew my dad liked. I’ve dreamed of sharing wedding details with my mom during the planning process. The movies play these things up BIG.. and I mean BIG. Sometimes I feel silly for having to grieve them… but feelings have to be felt. I am reminded of a quote from “The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green. Augustus, the dreamy teenage boy with cancer, whose depth surpasses that of Lake Norman (which is a lot for a teenage boy), says, “That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.” I cannot move forward until I feel, recognize the feeling as valid & choose whether or not it is something that can remain apart of my emotional being. I will be the first to say that this doesn’t always happen naturally. I don’t just think these things every time something painful is demanding to be felt. It’s taking a lot of practice and intentionality. I am trying my best to stay on point here & not get lost in all the words in my brain.. this is difficult for women oftentimes. My point is this… I have been bombarded with questions about wedding planning since getting engaged. My wedding won’t be normal, so I don’t feel, on the inside, that I have any normal answers to give. My parents or his parents are not paying for it. My parents and my fiancé’s parents won’t be there. My mom & his mom will not go with me to shop for a wedding dress. My dad will not walk me down the aisle. My dad will not give me away. My dad will not awkwardly move together with me on the dance floor to some meaningful song about how a dad loves his daughter. I won’t have photos from my wedding day with any of our parents. This is atypical. I know that. So when I am asked typical questions about flowers or colors or dresses that elicit answers about daisies being my favorite or choosing three theme colors or not know what style of dress that I like, but knowing it has to have lace, there is a sea of pain within my being that becomes a little bit more stormy. Planning is exciting, don’t get me wrong. I love planning in general anyways. It’s difficult not to want to scream at the girls whose weddings were paid for. It takes a lot in me to not give a sarcastic response when they ask about where we are getting married. It makes me want to ask if they have one clue how much a wedding costs, knowing that they wouldn’t, so I could then let them know how good they have it that their parents paid for their wedding, so she & her new hubs could put all of their money into buying a home. Ranting. Sorry. It’s just A LOT. And the questions keep coming. And coming. And coming. I know the Lord has got something in store for me to learn here… Maybe some patience & kindness? Who knows?

That was a really long rant/paragraph. Moving on…

“Uninvited” has been a catalyst for some of the emotional processing, as the main theme of the book is rejection. There is so much packed into that little book that is so very applicable to my life and I wish I could share all of it here… since there is much to share, I’ll just recommend that you read the whole thing yourself! The book has also aided in changing the way in which I am praying for my parents. I so often forget that the devil is the one who steals, kills & destroys. Why do I easily forget that??? The devil wants us to easily forget that… so we will put a human face on the thief, the murderer & the destroyer, allowing him to slink into the background, undetected, unnoticed. Lysa reminded me that we all have at least this in common, if nothing else: the devil is our enemy. Yes, our. WE are on the same side here, even if it feels like there are two sides with an entire Grand Canyon in between. When we recognize & embrace this, things change… or at least they have for me anyways. I’ve begun praying differently. In all honesty, I don’t always feel like forgiving any stinking one of them. The enemy we share has stolen, killed & destroyed too much in my family & I am SO over it. OUR enemy is keeping my mom in bondage to the hurt of losing her mother & never having the true acceptance of her father… & she has the perfect love of a perfect Father waiting for her, if she would just reach out for it…  OUR enemy is keeping my dad’s wife in bondage to the hurt of never receiving love & validation from her parents, resulting in the need to control everything… & she has the perfect love & validation from the perfect Father, who is powerfully & lovingly in control all everything, waiting for her, if she would just accept it… OUR enemy is keeping my dad in bondage to his avoidant tendencies & pride…  (Just thinking on the screen here… I am at a loss for words right here. To be honest, y’all, my dad didn’t come from a broken family. My mom and dad’s wife have issues from their childhoods, times in life where they had no control & issues from their parents, who made poor decisions. My dad had a wonderful childhood provided to him & had fantastic parents… I’m not sure what his excuse is… besides just selfish, sinful nature rearing its ugly head. I’m not sure what to say he has waiting for him right now…) Here is where I feel like if we were in a coffee shop chatting, there might be an awkward silence… only because of the sad reality for my dad… that he chooses. ANYWAYS, on to my prayer life change. I have been praying against the enemy. I have been praying against his presence in my parents’ lives. Since adding this to each of their pages in my Prayer List book & praying this over their lives, I have felt a strong resistance from the enemy. One of my favorite live song videos from Bethel Music is of the song called “Catch the Wind.” Melissa Helser sings it & before she begins singing, she tells the birth story of that song. I’m not going to share the whole thing here, but she asked if anyone in the audience had ever woken up & just felt the oppression of the hatred of the enemy… like you know he does NOT like you in the slightest. That’s a bit of what I’ve been feeling since I started praying differently. It’s been more difficult to think my way through things, as feelings have been pretty overwhelming. I’ve felt more emotionally sensitive. As a woman, it is so easy to live that way, but I don’t think it’s always best. Side note. Sorry! For the first time in my life, I’ve really delved into my prayer life & resistance is what I’m getting… temptations, distractions & feelings are all increasing in size as I pray against his presence in the life of those who I am attempting to forgive. Sorry for yet another novel of a paragraph.

God speaks to me. He provides for me. He has placed many people here that love me.  Slowing down helps me to remember these things in the midst of the motions. If you stuck through this entire post with me, kudos to you & thank you. It was all over the place, but that’s life, I guess… never in a straight line.

What has God been teaching about about prayer lately?

What are you processing these days?

I’d love to hear from you!

 

Kiss the Wave

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“I’ve learned to kiss the wave that strikes me against the Rock of Ages.”

•Charles Spurgeon•

I ran across this quote on Pinterest and it hasn’t left my mind since. The profound calling and conviction contained in that short sentence is overwhelming. God has continued to put this theme in my face recently… I think He’s trying to tell me something… which leaves me wanting to share it with you all.

I heard something similar to the above quote in an online sermon from The Village Church’s Exodus series just today. I’ve heard the story of Moses many times throughout my life, as I grew up in church & went to a Christian school. I appreciate historical context & original Greek/Hebrew meanings so much more now, as an adult, so the stories are becoming richer to me, as I see how God works in everything.

The sermon where God brought up this topic of “kissing the wave” was not preached by Matt Chandler, the head pastor of The Village Church. I was a little disappointed when the video loaded & it wasn’t him standing there on the stage. Anyways, the sermon was almost over & I was thinking how I couldn’t wait for the next sermon that Matt would be preaching. Then the guy says something to this effect: If my situation was “normal,” I wouldn’t know God like I do. I had to rewind & write down what he said. WOWSERS. Yes, I’ve heard this before, but it really hit home, in light of the Spurgeon quote.

I can go back in time & think of all the situations I wouldn’t trade for the world. I can also envision the situations that I would trade in a hot second. I can picture the perfect, pain-free version of my life and I like being able pick & choose which parts to of reality I’d like to edit. I think of all of mid-20’s aged people I know who have had nothing rip their worlds and hearts to shreds, who wouldn’t trade any of their life for anything. I immediately am frustrated, confused, mad & jealous all at once…

These 2 convicting quotes remind me that the tough realities I face everyday result in a closer walk with the Lord, as I am forced to rely on Him for things I never imagined having to lean on Him for.

I am willing to confess my “eye roll” attitude here. I get it. I know that what God is producing in me (i.e. wisdom, love, patience, etc.) couldn’t be produced any other way. But gosh, I would’ve been fine, really fine, actually, really great, had the part of my story where my dad emotionally cut himself off from me wouldn’t have happened. I wouldn’t be soaking up the most perfect, unconditional love to ever exist had my dad continued to love me. Yes, I get it. And yes, this fleshy attitude may be why God has been really speaking to me about my view on suffering.

I participated in a Bible study last year called, “Looking for Lovely.” You can probably guess the theme without me telling you, but the theme was that suffering produces good & lovely things in us, while God is doing lovely things all around us & that you have to intentionally look for the lovely things around you in the midst of trials. The central “equation” for the book was: suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope.

Obviously, God is communicating a few truths to me about suffering & I think those truths are important for all of us, whether our life-sea is stormy or peaceful right now.

Feel free to share what God has taught or is teaching you about suffering!

Repainting my picture…

My fiance’ & I are choosing to have a long engagement. We have lots of time to save up for the big day. Unfortunately, a long engagement is a necessary evil. I call it evil, because my Type A personality wants to know the plan NOW… & by NOW, I mean 2 days ago. I want everything to be set in stone, booked, squared away… you get the picture.

Planning can be hectic. Online research alone can be mentally draining… especially since virtually every venue costs $2,000 or more (& that might just be for the building itself, not chairs, tables, etc.), having live music for the ceremony will cost close to $1,000, if not more… and by that point, you haven’t fed anyone, gotten your hair/makeup done, or had pictures taken…

Expense alone leaves me feeling defeated, not to mention processing all of the moments with my mom and moments with my dad that I won’t have during the planning & on the day of the wedding. Since planning is slow-going, so is the emotional processing. Everything feels emotionally chaotic… not really what every little girl dreams of, but something many women experience. As fatherlessness/motherlessness has only continued to increase during my lifetime, I know I am not alone in this. I also recognize that movies play a part in this idealization of weddings & that they heavily influence the daydreams of little girls & grown girls worldwide. I am trying to consider all contributing factors here.

I processed a particular facet of my dream wedding this week… the Father/Daughter dance… insert loud sigh & heartbreak here. I had a nice cry grieving my dream Father/Daughter dance. I’ve imagined sharing that special moment with my dad many times & the loss of that dream becomes more real as each day brings me closer to my wedding day. During this particular bout of daydreaming, I unintentionally envisioned a different dance. I imagined dancing with the men in my life who have steadily loved me & remained involved & interested in my life. My tears were grief. My tears were joy.

As I shared this with my therapist this week, she said I was painting a new picture of what that day will look like. As an artist, I LOVED this, because I immediately pictured myself painting over my old dream wedding, creating new scenes that I would remember forever.

Creating new scenes for my big day means uncovering what I have always wanted. I may journal about it, writing each detail… vividly, vulnerably. I may paint. I think painting may be more therapeutic, because I would actually be painting over the old with the new. I’m not sure, though… I just know that I have to get it out on a surface of some kind, so it’s not stuck, swirling around in my mind and in my heart.

Mostly, this process is going to hurt… getting it out, facing reality head on…

The process will also get my creative juices flowing, since I will be envisioning a day full of experiences I’ve never played out in my mind before.

I’ll check back in & let you know how it goes 🙂

 

Whatever our souls are made of…

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My guy proposed to me on Christmas 2016. We hadn’t even eaten breakfast & he took the plunge. I have new favorite Christmas memory, for sure! 🙂

Our story is sweet, but it took a lot to get us here… a lot of walls to break down & climb over, some arguments to work through, some past relationship patterns to let go of, etc. I say all of that like it is past tense… it’s a work in progress.

I wasted time & pieces of my heart on a few guys, who I wish I could get a refund from. Enter cliche’ quote about wishing I could find my fiance’ earlier, so I could love him longer 😉 In all seriousness, had I known (or accepted) those others weren’t forever, I wouldn’t have wasted my time on them. My heart desperately wanted forever with a man & my dad’s rejection only compounded my longing for a man’s affection & acceptance. I guess this post should really be all lovey-dovey, because I am E N G A G E D for crying out loud, but I feel that I need to share about the semi-decent, but not wonderful & no-good guys leading up to the one who loves my heart so well.

I officially dated one other guy outside of my current relationship. We met in high school & dated through our first year of college. We talked about marriage & kids. We talked about me finishing college at the Tennessee state school he went to. We dated for a year & a half. It was a fun time, as he was my first boyfriend & I was his first girlfriend. Everyone thought we were perfect for each other… I did too. Before our sophomore year of college, he ended our relationship. He wanted to experience college without having a girlfriend back home, as I was certain his dad convinced him of. Naturally, I was hurt. It was tough to get over, but I managed to.

One phase of my life transitioned into another… relationship to non-relationship. I fell head-over-heels for a new co-worker about 9 months later. He was a member at the gym I worked for & was asked to come on board as an employee. He was attractive, so it didn’t take long to develop a middle-school-girl-crush on the guy. As I got to know him, my feelings increased. We both lived at home with our parents & didn’t want to be at home for as long as we could stay out, so I often spent my evenings at the gym during his shifts. My love language is quality time… recipe for disaster. My feelings were never reciprocated in a romantic way. We had great chemistry & many thought we should’ve been together. We shared an honesty that most don’t achieve, even in their many-year marriages. Everything added up to being in a relationship, except we didn’t have the label & there was no physical aspect to our relationship, hence the term “non-relationship.” I craved his approval & affection, almost as much as I wanted my dad’s. Double recipe for disaster.

Because I was a gym rat during this time in my life, I was in the best shape of my life. I began getting attention from guys that I’d never received before. I actually liked the way I looked for the first time in my whole life. I felt that a compliment about my looks was actually true.

 

I accepted the attention given to me by other guys & made a mess of who I knew myself to be & stand for. I was often smiling on the outside & dying on the inside. I needed my dad’s love. I wanted my friend’s love. (As I’m writing, I’m overwhelmed by gratitude for the temporariness of seasons, deliverance & God’s goodness to me, because all of this drudges up some painful memories. I am thankful I’m not still in these places I am describing to you.)

Then came my fiance’… out of nowhere, left-field. My cousin in one of the above photos has a friend who worked with my fiance’. The friend connected my fiance’ & I a little over 2 years ago. I was still friends with my co-worker, spending lots of time with him. As my then boyfriend’s, now fiance’s feelings grew & my feelings were all over the place, I had to make a decision to begin distancing myself from someone who I knew was knowingly sucking the life out of me if I wanted someone who was obviously going to love me wholeheartedly.

Fast forward to now & I have a beautiful ring on my finger that reminds me that I’m worth loving. Let’s talk about some happier stuff now 🙂

The beauty of our story is that we have similar parent situations, so we understand each other’s pain in ways it seemed would be hard to find in a partner. I always struggled inwardly with this important question: is there a guy out there who won’t be afraid of my family crap? God brought him to me, showing up out of nowhere, left-field.

My fiance’ & I occasionally discuss how every moment of our lives had to happen as each one did to lead us to each other. Each situation occurred chaotically, seemingly without purpose. On the other side, diamonds sparkling from my left hand in the light, we can confidently say that purpose was at play in every season, every moment.

I encourage you to take a walk down memory lane this week & bask in the ways you see the hand of our Lord Almighty weaving the grandest tapestry that is your life, your gift.