31

So…
I turned 31 this week. I was so concerned before I turned 30. I thought it was going to be this huge deal. Some big, life altering thing… but it wasn’t. When I was younger I thought that by this age, I’d have my life figured out. But I don’t. I never thought that at age 31 I’d be living with my parents… divorced, broke, just barely starting a career… a college student!! I thought I’d have a home, a solid career… a traditional family.
Isn’t is funny how life throws us these curveballs?

No… my life is not what I had hoped it would be. It’s not what I was expecting. Hard times come more often than I like… Especially lately!! But I am truly happy.

A few months back, I walked away from a decade long friendship… a friendship with a family who I loved as my own. This was a very difficult decision for me, but was one that changed my life for the better. As I walked away I was told “If you walk away, God will not go with you, and you will not be blessed”. That sentence haunted me. I was terrified. But it proves exactly why I had to walk away. I had given power to people who were unworthy. They used that power to control and manipulate me. And they were so wrong. I constantly lived my life in fear that if I messed up, God would not allow my to be happy. That all His good plans for my life would collapse if I made one wrong move. But that’s not how God works, is it?

I walked away from that friendship, and I am happier now than I have ever been in my life.
Yes, I just started in my career, but I’m working my dream job!
Yes, I am a broke college student, but I am finally working towards my degree, and I am doing well!!
Yes, I’m a single mom, but I have a great support group. And I am balancing work and school while still homeschooling my daughter.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I am exactly where God wants me to be. I have never felt more certain of myself. I am completely happy and at peace in my heart and with God.

 

On Fear… and things…

Have you ever wanted something so badly, but been terrified of doing what it takes to get it? I think that’s the worst… Which is stronger?
The desire to have what you crave, or the fear of failing in your attempts to gain it?

“If you had one shot
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment…
Would you capture
Or just let it slip?”

“I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned”

I always had big dreams… But I’ve been told my whole life that I am not capable of doing the things I want to do. The words spoken to me at a young age, into my adulthood, and throughout my marriage… they sank in. I can pretend to shake them off, act like they don’t bother me… but the truth is, some things just don’t shake off. They stuck with me… And I believed them all.

“Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find”

“I been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage…”

I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff here. I can see what I want my life to be… what it could be… It’s all there ahead of me…
If only I can find the courage to jump.

But those voices come… They whisper their lies.
“You can’t do that… don’t you know? You’re just a dumb blond. You’re too uncoordinated… incompetent. Too ditzy. How are you going to manage? You have failed at almost everything you’ve tried… wouldn’t you just be better off staying where you are?”

“The soul is escaping, through this hole that is gaping
This world is mine for the taking… make me king!”

“I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines.
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way”

I refuse to allow fear to control my life anymore. I know I can’t stay here where I am. I know I can do better. Be better. Yes, it’s scary. But do you know what’s scarier? Choosing to sit still when you know full well you could move forward. Giving up on dreams because attaining them requires effort. Sitting back and doing nothing and proving the voices right.
…..
I refuse

“Success is my only […] option, failure’s not…
So here I go, it’s my shot, feet fail me not!
This may be the only opportunity that I’ve got…”

“Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it…
Release your inhibitions, feel the rain on your skin!
No one else can feel it for you, only you can let it in…
No one else can speak the words on your lips”

I’m starting to realize that life is no fairy tale… There are no super heroes or knights in shining armor coming to rescue me. No fairy godmother is going to change my fate. If I want my fate changed, if I need rescuing, I am going to have to be the one who stands up here.
I have to save myself. I have to change my own fate.
…..
I have to do the difficult things… and if I have to, I will do them afraid

“Drench yourself in words unspoken,
Live your life with arms wide open!
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten”

“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go…
You only get one shot, DO NOT miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime…”

 

 

…..
Lyrics: Lose Yourself by Eminem and Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield

Anxiety… etc

Have you seen any of the #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike posts on Twitter?
Today I read this article on The Mighty, and some of these really hit home for me.

https://themighty.com/2017/03/anxiety-tweets-whatanxietyfeelslike/

I’ve been seeing posts like this pop up… post telling “normal” people what it’s like to live with Anxiety Disorder… And how they can accommodate us to make us feel better.
I really want to say something about this…

It’s true. These are the actual thoughts and feelings of a person who has Anxiety Disorder. These thoughts come uninvited. They cause physical symptoms as well as emotional ones. They can interfere with every aspect of life. They’re very real…
And they can be crippling.

But they don’t have to be…

Now, before you freak out and tell me I’m wrong… keep in mind I have been diagnosed with severe Anxiety Disorder…. And these thoughts cross my mind daily.

But I DO NOT have to be controlled by these thoughts. No, I’m serious. Just because these thoughts come… just because I have a physical stress response to them… does NOT mean I have to let them win. And neither do you.

We CAN control our thoughts. I promise you. We can process every thought that enters our mind. We can choose to take them in and let them rule… or we can choose to reject them and turn our minds to something else.

Let me give you a real life example. Last night I made arrangements to have a phone conversation with my friend. But my friend didn’t answer my call or call me back. My friend will most likely not contact me today either. My initial thoughts are “My friend is annoyed… my friend must be mad at me, I’ve screwed up this friendship. My friend will never contact me again! Even if my friend does contact me, the friendship won’t be the same!!”

-You’re probably not going to like the next part… but listen up… because it’s important-

TRUTH: My friend’s life does NOT revolve around me. My friend has other things going on and is NOT obligated to accommodate me just because I’m feeling anxious. And neither are your friends. Or your family. Or your boss. The reality is this world does NOT care about our anxiety. And this world does NOT stop and wait when we are dealing with our anxiety. The people in our lives should not have to tiptoe around our feelings. And our bosses really don’t care. To expect them to excuse us from our responsibilities or treat us differently because we can’t manage when they don’t is, quite frankly, a bit narcissistic.
The only way we are going to be successful in this society is if we learn how to manage these symptoms on our own. We can do this… no, we have to do this.

So… things didn’t go as planned for me last night with my friend. I have 2 choices.

1) Let these anxious thoughts control me. Get progressively more worried about my friendship. Contact my friend multiple times hoping for some assurance that my friend is in fact still my friend (which… BTW… I’ve learned from experience is exactly the way to make those fears a reality)

Or

2) I can fight these thoughts. I can remind myself of the truth… and I can choose not to think these anxious thoughts anymore. I can decide not to pick up my phone and check… or send a text attempting to entice a conversation. I can practice self-control.

If you have been in my life for more than a few years, you know that for most of my life I’ve always gone the way of option 1. Freak out, obsess over the situation… and constantly pester every one until I either get an answer that satisfies… or I ruin things entirely.

But if you’re a part of my life currently, you’ll know that I’ve made significant progress in this area.
Most of the time I can process thoughts successfully. Give me a few minutes (or days if it’s a bigger issue) and I can handle my thoughts/feelings well. But sometimes (usually just when I’m overwhelmed by other things in my life… or if I feel my heart is on the line) I may start off down the road of letting the anxious thoughts win… I become scared and start flailing around for understanding or affirmation. But then I remember what is true. I battle the anxious thoughts. I choose to release the anxiety and relax my mind. I can choose to stop obsessing and asking for validation. I can live my life without those thoughts!! Then when someone does get back to me, I can say honestly “Hey, I’m sorry I stressed out for a bit. I guess I just needed a moment to gather my thoughts. But everything is ok. Thanks for being understanding.”

I’m not perfect. And truthfully, lately it has been harder than usual… but I AM NOT defined by my diagnosis. And I AM NOT a slave to my thoughts.
It is NOT an easy battle. And you won’t always win. I don’t. But it IS possible. I promise. And I can assure you it gets easier the more you practice it.

…….

If you have Anxiety Disorder and need help fighting your anxious thoughts, I strongly recommend reading some of these books:

  • Who Switched Off My Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf
  • Switch On Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf
  • Battlefield of The Mind by Joyce Meyer
  • Every Thought Captive by Jerusha Clark

The first two were written by a lady who has been working in the area of cognitive neuroscience for over 30 years. Her books have been incredibly useful in helping me understand how to manage anxiety!! I strongly recommend them.

The others I haven’t read in several years, and I can’t remember much. But I remember they did provide some valuable insight at the time.

Love Notes and Romantic Gestures

If you’re longing to be loved, I’m guessing you’ve spent some time thinking how nice it would be to receive a love note, or to have someone go out of their way to plan grand romantic gestures to show their love for you.

Yesterday afternoon I was driving my car thinking those exact thoughts… I was even thinking what kind of romantic gestures I might like… Something public so every one will know? Something silly to make me laugh? Something that took me somewhere beautiful? Something secret… so personal that I’d never want anyone else to know… that only someone who knew me completely could plan?

And as I was thinking these things, I began to feel desperately sad. Will I ever be truly loved? I’ve been held by many men… but never once have I been held by a man who loves me completely. Will I ever be? Will any man ever want to write me a love note? Will I ever be considered worth the effort of planning some grand romantic gesture… just so he can see me smile (or cry, more like)?
Will any man ever look at me and see a treasure worth pursuing?
And… do I even deserve that kind of love?

As these thoughts filled my mind, tears filled my eyes. And just as I was about to concede that I may not actually deserve that kind of love… I looked up and saw a perfect fluffy white cloud drifting across the sky. And I heard a quiet whisper “I think you’re worth it. I think you’re worth more wonderful romantic gestures than you’re even imagining… I think you’re to die for.”

Will there ever be a more grand gesture that the sunsets that He paints for our pleasure? Someday a man may take me to see one… but I was first loved by the One who PAINTED them. I may some day be swept off to see some glorious mountains some where… but I know the One who FORMED them!! I may sit for hours in the arms of a man while gazing at the stars and planets in motion… but I am loved by the One who created them and set them into motion!!

He sends me love notes in the form of flower blooms and fluffy white clouds because He knows that they make me smile… But it is so much more than that!! He causes the water to rise from the ground to the sky. He taught them to gather together to form clouds. He sends the wind to blow them across my vision just to make me smile… and He sends them right where they need to be before He causes the waters to fall again… watering the grass and flowers that He knows will also bring a smile to my face.
And He gave me eyes to see all the glorious things He does… He could have created flowers that don’t need watering. He could have created empty skies. He could have made people without sight that we may never know!! But He didn’t. He wanted us to see what He was doing. And He wanted it to bring us pleasure!!

He could have left us here on our own, full of our sin, with no way to enter into relationship with Him again. We deserve that don’t we? But He didn’t do that. He came down, lived a life like ours, and then gave it willingly and painfully.
Just because He ached to be near us.

What man here on Earth could ever hope to do better? How can we long for better love notes than fluffy white clouds and flowers? How can we hope for more grand romantic gestures than sunsets that leave is in awe, mountains that take our breath away, or stars and constellations that make us weep?
How can we sit here feeling unloved when the God of Heaven and Earth stepped down and gave His life just to be close to us?!?

Why should I long to know if I will ever have another husband? Why should I struggle to come to terms with the past? Why do these things even cross my mind? For the Lord my God is my husband. He was my first Love. And in the end He will be my last.
And nothing in between matters in comparison.

…….

“For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name;”
Isaiah 54:5
“You hold the reins on the sun and the moon
Like horses driven by kings
You cover the mountains, the valleys below
With the breadth of Your mighty wings.
….
The constellations are swimming inside
The breadth of Your desire
Where could I run, where could I hide
From Your heart’s jealous fire?
All treasures of wisdom and things to be known
Are hidden inside Your hand
And in this fortunate turn of events
You ask me to be Your friend!
You are my first
You are my last
You are my future and my past”
-Future/Past-by John Mark McMillan-

Thoughts on dating…

Dating is so different now than it was 10 years ago. It’s a little bit scary to think about… But I’ve been thinking a lot about it…
Sometimes I think I want to date… the truth is it sounds exhausting.
I want to be around someone. I crave that. I want to sit and talk with someone who makes me laugh. To have that person look at me and connect with me. To want to know me more. I want to spend time getting to know that person too. I want to have someone I can tell all my fears to. Share my hopes and dreams with… and share theirs too. Someone that I can tell the things I don’t tell anyone… the things that well up inside me from somewhere so deep… the secret things that I don’t even know how to put into words. I want those things to be known. And I want to be loved for them. I want to be held and desired. I want to be cherished…

I want all of those things. But I want them with someone I know won’t hurt me. I want them with someone I know will be around in 10, 20… 40 years… that won’t leave me when someone sexier comes along…

I honestly don’t think I want to date again…
But what do I do with that longing? The longing to be seen and known and loved?

That longing is so deep… I know a man could never satisfy it… Man was never meant to.

I had a realization today… I went to the park to be with God. Alone. And he was faithful to meet with me there. I had felt distant lately. And I ached to be known. I sat and took every fear, every longing… and I gathered them up and lay them at His feet. And they turned to dust… then He spoke to me… so I sang to Him… and He danced with me.
It was a beautiful interaction. I knew that He heard me. He saw me, my fears and my hopes. It was He who stirred up those things deep inside me… the things I don’t understand. He knew them fully without me saying a word. He covered me with His love. And I knew this is a love that never stops, never gives up, is always faithful… This is a love I can trust.
~I heard Him say “This is a good date… will you meet with me again soon?”

My thinking shifted. I was spending so much time longing to be known by a man. But I was already known by my Creator… I was aching to spend time with someone, yet God was aching to spend time with me! How much time do I waste wishing for things that don’t satisfy… while I have access to the only One who can…
~Lord, help me to desire you more than I desire a date. Help me to ache and yearn for Your love… It is the only love that will fill this need. It is what this need was created for. To lead me to You. Remind me to turn to You with it when I start looking to lesser things!!~

Isaiah 54:10
“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”

Zephaniah 3:17
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Jeremiah 31:3
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

Isaiah 54:5
“For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.”

Lamentations 3:22-23
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.”

What do you expect from me?

If you aren’t here to honor my journey or get help walking through yours… then you really shouldn’t be here…

NF will help me with my words…

How do you picture me, ah?
Want me to smile, you want me to laugh..
You want me to walk in the stage with a smile on my face
When I’m mad and put on a mask? For real though…
I mean, what you expect from me?
I’m tryna do this respectfully!
They say that life is a race
I know my problems’ll probably catch up eventually
I do my best to be calm.

I put it all in the open
This is the way that I cope with all my emotion

What you think about me,
That doesn’t worry me.
I know I handle some things immaturely.
I know that I need to grow in maturity.
I ain’t gon’ walk on these stages in front of these people
And act like I live my life perfectly.
That doesn’t work for me
“Christian” is not the definition of a perfect me, woo
I ain’t the type to be quiet
I ain’t gon’ sit here in silence

I don’t expect everyone to respect it
I don’t expect you to get my perspective
I don’t  know what you expect here…
What you expect from a therapy session?

Lyrics taken from “Therapy Session” by NF

 

Wave after Wave

 

Good Grief.

I used to wonder what people meant by that. What could possibly be good about grief? I thought the point was that it wasn’t good at all?

I’ve experienced a lot of grief in my life… from living through sexual abuse/assault, being betrayed and abandoned by those I trusted most, the loss of loved ones, the finality of infertility, the pain of adultery, the death of a marriage… watching my daughter’s heart break when she heard the word “divorce”… recently I lost both of my cats. One died peacefully in my arms. The other… I heard her get hit by a truck yesterday. I watched her in her death throes. I screamed in anguish in the middle of the street… not only for the loss I felt and the pain and fear my cat must have felt… but knowing that my Luvbug’s heart would break again. Her tiny heart should not have to bear the weight it has had to bear this past year.

Grief affects everyone differently. I’ve done it all… I’ve hid my emotions, I’ve yelled them at the top of my lungs. I’ve thrown myself into new hobbies and distractions, I’ve considered ending my life completely. I’ve acted out emotionally; drinking, boys, spending sprees that put me in debt… I’ve felt the physical affects; A heart condition, moles that grow then disappear, nervous stomach problems, anxiety attacks…  I’ve held tightly to the illusion of control trying to maintain the tiniest bit of order in my life…
Yesterday afternoon I noticed a knot on my head and a scratch from the pavement. I suppose I hit my head on the street in my grief… I remember leaning over, but I felt no pain… I screamed until my neighbors came running. One messaged me today to tell me he couldn’t stop thinking about me in the street and that his heart breaks for me. My neck muscles are sore today from screaming so hard…

But not 2 hours after her death, I was laughing at a friend’s joke. Then I wept again. Then I felt peace again… And I felt guilty. I used to panic in the pain. Like a fish out water, I’d gasp for relief… I used to feel like a tattered flag barely hanging on to a ship’s mast in a hurricane… Now I feel the comforting weight of my Anchor holding me secure.
All this grief has taught me something… It has taught me how to mourn without losing myself in the pain.

Grief comes over us in waves… but so does God’s mercy…

The pain hits you… sometimes so hard you can’t breathe. And all you can do is sit and feel it. Accept it. Mourn in that moment
-Then let it withdraw-
When it does, enjoy a wave of God’s mercy. His mercy gives you rest… if you choose to rest in it. His mercy will bring you peace if you choose to accept it. And it reminds you that you are not alone…

Accept His peace. Accept His rest. Let His Mercy wash over you… wave after wave.
The grief gets less and less painful as you learn to trust Him through it.
And you’ll see how grief actually can be good…

“His Mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before Him.” Luke 1:50 MSG

12931230_10153748826997182_8368395172576507854_n

“Stand in the rain, stand your ground. Stand up when it’s all crashing down. Stand through the pain, you won’t drown. And one day what’s lost can be found…”

Full of Life

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes,
but when you look back everything is different.”
(Possibly C.S.Lewis)

I came to this park to reflect again today. And I was surprised by what I found…

When I cam here 2 months ago I wept. My heart broke at the devastation caused by the floods. All I could see was how it mirrored my pain…

I sit on the same bench. I look across the same field. I see the same grass…
But everything is different!!!

Where I once saw death and destruction, I now see new life!! I see hope!!
I danced barefoot on this new green grass today. I rejoiced in how God makes things new in His time. How He loves and cares for His creation.
I took a deep breath… The air that once smelled sour is now fresh!
Deep breath after deep breath!! I laughed for joy!
It isn’t perfect yet… there is still some water. There are portions of the park that are fenced off that weren’t before. The playground is still closed.
But what progress!! What a dramatic change!!

I feel my heart has changed the same. I no longer mourn the loss of my marriage. I am grateful for the good times, but also for the hard times.
There are places in my heart that are fenced off… Not quite ready to be opened…
But I have hope for my future. With or without another man. I am happy.
I still have a beautiful family. It just looks different now. And that’s ok.
I am free!!  Resting in the One who remains Faithful above all…

And I am so full of life!!

Psalm 30:11-12
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”

Isaiah 43: 18-19
“Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.”

April’s Fool

10 years ago today. April Fool’s Day 2006.
I went with my friends to our church.
There was a conference being hosted there…
I walked in and I met the man who would later become my husband. And then my ex.

I used to be so terrified of losing him.
Anxiety attacks if I lost a single keepsake… Nightmares about him leaving me.
Waking up in the night begging him not to..
I would (and often did) do anything to keep him.
Even when I shouldn’t have.
I was scared that somehow it was all some big April Fool’s joke.

I think I knew deep down that we were never meant to last.
I was given several signs that I should just walk away…
But I didn’t
My heart was terrified of what my brain already knew.

We had been through so much…
On-again-off-again dating… Him cheating while we were dating… A rushed wedding (because we didn’t want people knowing he had moved in with me… and because my fear of being alone was always greater than my sense of value)…
Pregnant only 2.5 months after the wedding…
Multiple affairs before and during the pregnancy. I left him a few times…
I always went back. I had valid reasons…

After 3.5 years of fighting… I mean seriously fighting for my marriage, I left him again. This was the end. I knew it for sure. I knew without a doubt that I was done.
We had been apart for several months before I began pursuing divorce.
Then I got scared. I stopped pursuing God. I slid into depression.
I started drinking again… I began falling into old habits.
And that terrified me. I thought I was different?
But there I was again…?

Then he swept in and made me feel safe… as usual… He became my rock and sense of security…  A false sense of security. A shaky foundation.
When my hope should have been in God…

He seemed to have changed.
And I thought our family was worth another shot…

3 years ago today. April Fool’s Day 2013.
I stood in a white dress at a beautiful park with my husband and we renewed our vows in front of close friends and family.

I had no idea that he had already begun talking to other girls by then.

I don’t know how many girlfriends he has had over the years.
Because when I asked he said “more than I can count”.

God is a loving God. He doesn’t play jokes on His children.
He also doesn’t make mistakes.
I went through this fire for a reason. And I am grateful.
If I hadn’t been through what I have been through, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
I would have no idea how strong I am when I lean on God. What I am capable of in Him.
I am so much stronger, more fierce, and far braver than ever I thought.
Than anyone thought.

Today…  April Fool’s Day 2016
I thought the past 10 years was a painful joke. But it wasn’t.
I thought I was a fool. But I’m not.
I gave everything to a man who was undeserving.
-he was the fool-

My Beautiful Mosaic

I hope you have at some point enjoyed the beauty of a mosaic…
I hope you sat for a while and absorbed every detail…

When you look closely at a mosaic, what do you see? Broken bits of pottery or glass… Sometimes carefully cut. Sometimes polished smooth… but sometimes shattered… sharp, and painful to touch.

Do you know how they make those pieces? Do you know what beautiful pieces of pottery were shattered? For what? When you look so closely, it seems like such a mess…

But…

What if we could zoom out just a bit?

mosaic1

Mosaic4

Mosaic2

It’s clear that there is something bigger happening here…

But…
What if we could zoom out a little bit more?

Mosaic full (2)

Perhaps we would discover something larger and more beautiful than we could have ever imagined by looking so closely at each individual piece…

When I was young, my mother held me while I wept at how painful and devastating life was. She comforted me while I came to terms with the fact that something whole and innocent was shattered beyond repair.
She held me in her arms and told me that our lives were like mosaics. Made up of thousands of tiny moments. Some carefully cut, some polished smooth… but sometimes… sometimes something beautiful and whole has to be shattered. It is painful… and the pieces left behind are rough… ugly to look at, sharp and painful to touch.

But why was it broken? What was it for? Is it just a big mess?
No!!

Each tiny piece is so important… carefully selected out of the pile of broken bits and pieced together to make something larger and more beautiful that we could ever imagine.
~The Mosaic of our Life!~
Without those broken pieces, the Mosaic would be incomplete,
lacking some of it’s most unique and wonderful parts!

When you feel something whole shatter, it’s okay to mourn the loss of what was, but don’t despair. Know that something beautiful will come of this…
If you allow the Artist to use those broken pieces.

And if one day you look back and think those broken pieces are ugly and sharp,
zoom out and take a moment to see how they might fit into your Mosaic.
What new, lovely images would be incomplete without them?

Don’t lose hope…
Some day you will look back and be most thankful for the sharpest pieces.

“Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy!”
Psalm 126:5

The mosaic in the images is called “Genesis: The Gift of Life” by Miguel Covarrubias.
It can be found outside the Dallas Museum of Art.