April 27, 2012

The most important thing

I remember a story my mom told me once about when she was invited to be in a fashion show at her school.  She was twelve years old at the time and they asked her to wear something that her Grandmother had made for her by hand.  Her mom couldn't afford brand new clothes from the store, so most everything she wore was made from scratch.

I remember her telling me how thrilling it was to be invited.  To be a part of something that the "cool" girls were a doing.  They even saved her for last in the show. Sadly, it was all a horrible prank.  She was asked to be in the show to model how to not dress.  She was mocked and ridiculed and utterly humiliated.

That was one of only a handful of stories my mother shared with me about her childhood.  That story made me want to cry when she told me then.  Even today, writing it out and imaging my mom as that twelve year old girl, excited about a fashion show and then being made fun of publicly, makes me want to lash out and scream at whoever thought this idea up in the first place.

Because of this scene and many others where she grew up hearing about appearance and size and clothing and make-up, my mom was hard on me about how I looked.  It was a constant point of conflict.  More so, it was a constant place of hurt.

I spent all of my childhood and teen years trying to look good enough.  To lose the ten or twenty pounds or whatever amount it was that she thought I needed to lose.  Tuck my shirt in the way she wanted.  Wear the shade of lip gloss she chose for me.

How I looked on the outside felt like it was the most important thing in the world to her.  I was taught that my appearance was where I was most valued.

Sadly, many of the messages she gave me were echoed by other people in my family, by friends and even people at church.  Where I have found myself lately in how I am pursuing health and wellness has been difficult.  Because really, I don't know how to take my focus off what I look like and put it on what I am doing and the progress I am making regardless of what does or doesn't show up on the outside yet.

The other morning, I received a text message from a sweet friend.  She thanked me for sharing some of the deeper and messier parts of my story with her.  Because just that day, she decided she was ready to break the silence in her own . She just wanted me to know that.
 
I felt blown away that my story, and the parts that was referring to, gave her courage to speak.  It is my hope that she will live with even more freedom than she had just days ago.  I got to play a part in her own story and it felt beautiful and humbling all at the same time.

But something dawned on me though.  Somehow, my story in all of it's mess and disgusting, dark places that I often wish weren't a part of who I am, had impact just because I was willing to share it.  My freedom invited her to break the silence so she too could experience what I have as God's light has been shed on my past.

I realized that the most important thing I will ever do is not lose the 100+ pounds that I have to lose.  The most important goal I will ever reach, my greatest achievement, my biggest successes - none of that is about my weight loss, or health or having some stellar body I see in my dreams.

The most important thing I will ever do and can ever do is share, write, speak, and live fully from my heart.  That is where the gospel of Christ is most heard.  That is where deepest relationships form and grow.  That is where I love well and can be loved well by others too.  My heart is what others need.  My heart is what matters most.

I often wish my mom were here so we could go back and talk about these things.  I wish I could visit that horrible fashion-show scene with her now that I'm a grown woman and could have words for her there.  I wish we could talk about why appearance was so important and where she wounded me in that.  I wish we could cry together and talk and work through the hard things that made our mother-daughter relationship so tense and strained.

Yet, it's her story too - how she both did and didn't live it out for me - that had impact on my heart.  Because of her, and even all of the places she hurt me, helped to shape the woman I am today.

This woman who is learning to live beyond believing that my appearance is where I have value.  The woman who shares her heart and invites others to do that.  My mom had something, everything to do with that.

And for that, I am incredibly, whole-heartedly grateful.


April 26, 2012

Spaghetti Noodles

My world this week has been a bit overwhelming and full.  At work, we are in the process of moving into a new office and there are so many details that go into that kind of undertaking.  The week has left me tired and drained and I've had absolutely zero time just for me.

There has been little time for anything else too. 

But last night was different.

Todd had to work late, so I made the most of my time with Tommy.  We ate dinner together at the table - he loves that he can sit with us now and no longer in his high-chair.  Afterward, we made creations with Playdough.  I might be thirty-one, but I still get the same kind of thrill making "spaghetti noodles" as I did when I was a kid.

Perhaps every child is programmed to want to mix the colors together.  I remember wanting to do that at one point when I was little and being told that I couldn't.  Last night as we played, I tried to keep the colors in their own separate piles.  I even told Tommy, "Let's not get the colors all mixed up okay?"  Apparently I can be a little OCD about things.  And he replied, "Why not?"

Valid question.  And one I didn't have an answer for. There really was no reason other than me just not wanting to see all the colors get "messed up."

So I said, "I don't know buddy.  Why not?  Let's mix them together.  That sounds like way more fun anyway!"


So we did.

There are now specks of hot pink in with the turquoise and the white is now a very light shade of blue.  I love how even simple things like letting myself relax about whether or not the Playdough colors get mixed together is a taste of redemption.  A place where I am loving him well and just letting him be a boy.  And maybe when Tommy is thirty-one and making things out of Playdough with his kids, he will encourage them to mix the colors together too.  Because why not?


If we really let ourselves quiet down and really listen to them, kids make so much sense sometimes. 
 
The whole evening felt restful.  Even though parts of me would have rather just gone to bed or spent the night vegging in front of the TV and numbed out to the world, it was exactly what I needed.  

Even a day that has been full of work and busyness - when it can end with "spaghetti noodle" making and all of the other little games he invites me to play with him....those are very best days.

April 25, 2012

Pile of Plastic


Did you know that since Todd and I have been married, we have only ever had ONE vacation?  On that vacation, we road-tripped from San Antonio all the way to Montana (where I discovered I could totally live someday!), and my teenage sister came with us.  Though we enjoyed having her along, it wasn't exactly conducive to all of the exciting married fun you might be able to have on an excursion like that.

We will be married six years in June, and in that six years, we have had one legit vacation and one weekend get-away.  The single get-away was last year to the little town of Kingswood where we attended my friend's wedding and stayed in the house of my friend's parents.

I say all this not so anyone will feel sorry for us, but because we recognize where one of the things that we really need as a couple is time to get away.  Time to just be US and have focused time on being together and remembering all of the reasons we ever fell in love in the first place.

There are a lot of reasons why we haven't been able to take trips or get-aways or plan other vacations.  Having Tommy and then changes with work and not working and working again have made it hard.  But really, there is one big reason.

Last night in an unexpected, almost rash decision, we put an end to the place we continue to sabotage our finances, our marriage, and our dreams for more.  We cut them up and put them in a pile.
It feels a bit embarrassing to post the somewhat enormous pile - but I've been blatantly real here lately, so perhaps I should continue with that theme.

Also, is it funny that I have a fun crafty project planned for these already and I didn't even get it from Pinterest?!

Seriously though, it felt sad.  
And......it felt freeing.  It gave us hope too.

We know in our hearts it's the right thing to do.  It's a move in the right direction.  It's not a guaranteed vacation in the immediate future, but it's an act of repentance and the promise that moving towards an intentional debt-free way of living will enable us to take the time away together that we crave.  It's a joint effort of something that we are both sacrificing and doing together in hopes to keep going and growing with one another in kind, wise ways.

Though had I known this was how my Tuesday night was going to end, I would have bought a pair of shoes or three on my way home.  Just saying.

April 23, 2012

The dearest friends

Sometimes, there are friends so dear that you are willing to wake up at 5:00am on a Sunday morning even though you never wake up that early. And you will get in a car and drive two hours a way to the smallest town ever just to go to church and get hugs from them.  Because you know by the end of that day, you will have been seen and known and enjoyed.  And those are the kinds of friendships that are just wonderful and keep us going when we get tired or just want to give up on everything.

Yesterday was one of those days that I woke up at 5:00am just to drive a few hours away.  Because those friends are just that dear.

It happened to be the one year anniversary of where we found each other in the Dallas airport and realized we were not only on the same Michigan-bound flight, but headed to the same place for the week.  A training conference with Open Hearts Ministry.  It was one year ago that a beautiful friendship started.

I had known George and Paula in high school when I attended the church he pastored.  After many years had passed, we ended up at the same church they attended after George retired.  Though we had only been  acquaintances to that point, our airport reunion and experience in Michigan, knit us together in a way that I never could have imagined.  All of it felt like this sweet, precious gift.

Perhaps what I love most, is being so deeply known by a couple who had known my mother before she became an alcoholic - when she was beautiful and when she was the mom that I see in my memories. There aren't many people who know my story that also knew my mom.  The friendship they had with her years ago felt healing and comforting for these places in my soul where I carry all of the feelings and emotions about who she is and was to me.  For almost a year, we enjoyed connection and shared meals and talked about real life.  They were a source of encouragement to both Todd and me and our marriage together. 

But then, George and Paula moved away early this spring.  Their son took a pastoral position in a small Texas town a few hours away and they followed him there.  It felt like the finale of losses for me. Where another wonderful friendship was going to change because of distance and because God is always moving in us. 

Thankfully they didn't move too terribly far away, which is why a road trip was most definitely in order.

We took in some beautiful views near Marble Falls.  As I looked out over the ledge, it reminded me of how much I love being near the water.  I always feel most like me when I'm near it.  The greens of south Texas trees met the blue shores of the water, the ripples on its surface from the perfect breeze that blew all day - the whole scene just filled me with peace and put to rest all of the places in me that have felt stressed and overwhelmed.
After the three of us went for coffee, Paula and I went out on our own to have some lunch together.  We got to eat on the deck of a restaurant that overlooked the water.  We ate our salads and talked about life and marriage and relationships and ministry and places we both felt hope.  Everything about it was sweet and life-giving.  I missed her and the unique friendship we have shared even more after the day was done and I was headed back home.
It was worth it though.  The early wake up call.  The drive.  The gas money.  The time away from my family.  The dearest, best of friends always are.

April 20, 2012

a new community


Sometimes, I come off as this woman who is this huge fan of change because of how growing and beautiful it can be.  But with certain parts of life, I am so resistant to it and I push back against it hard.  Even when nothing is the same, I still try and pretend that it is and I try to make things work in all of the old ways I'm most comfortable with.

In the last few years, friends have moved away.  And then more friends moved away on top of that.  Really, it's felt like the people that I had come to love and feel most connected to, got ripped apart and left me with nothing.  I felt robbed and deserted.  I felt alone, and being without the community I was used to brought up familiar feelings of betrayal, abandonment and loneliness.  It seemed like God had moved so many others on to different places and I was left with all of the broken pieces.

The ministries we've been involved with changed.  The places we went to for barbecues and dinners and holiday parties changed and have become less frequent.  The faces of the people that we see on a regular basis are rarely seen now.  We feel out of touch with the people we were once so intimately tied to. 

For awhile, I clung to what was left of my community, trying to make it the same as it always was.  I let bitterness settle in my heart and was angry for what I felt like was stolen from me.  For where God left me alone.

It's only been in the last few months that I've allowed myself to grieve what I lost there and begin to open up my heart to the possibility of new relationships, new community, and new faces of people to develop close friendships with.

The church we've been attending the last two years has been slow in coming in the friendship department, and that's mostly been because of us.  We've been reluctant to get involved and get to know people.  It seems like so many friendships in church can be shallow and superficial.  It's not always a safe place for our hearts, our struggles and the real things we deal with as a couple.  That may not be true for everyone or every church, but sadly, this has been our experience over the years. 

Lately, we have been trying to purpose to be brave here.  To be more open to relationship with people.  To consider things we might not have and risk being hurt or not loved well - because we can't stay in isolation and feel sorry for ourselves forever.  We have something to offer and we need what others have as well.  We need community.

It's felt like we have had to start from scratch.  It's felt wearing and discouraging because we were so used to being poured into and having places where we could pour right back out again.  It's felt like it's taken forever, but new friendships are finally starting to bloom around us.  Todd and I feel a bit giddy about being invited or included in things and meeting people that we know we could hang out with and get to know.

I feel myself letting go of what was and what used to be.  Not the people or the things that left us changed - those are the parts we remember and treasure and carry with us for always.  But I'm letting go of what needed to be let go of - where I felt hurt or angry or bitter, and mostly at God for where He had left us in all of the disrupting change.

Tonight, we've been invited over for burgers with some new friends.  I am bringing dessert.  Tommy will have some other kids to play with.  This couple specifically has begun to develop a passion for the ministry that is closest to my heart and it feels sweet to connect there.  And tomorrow morning, another woman I have been getting to know from church is coming over for some coffee and conversation.

I am starting to see what developing new community looks like for us.  I feel grateful when I am able to see how things can always start new after something has come to an end.

I am not just looking forward to burgers and coffee.  I am looking forward to what is beginning.

April 19, 2012

When I don't trust His best


When we found out we were expecting our first child, I was one of those moms that had to have everything new.  Maybe this makes me a snob, but I didn't really want hand-me-down anything.  I wanted soft, unused clothes, crispy new books and brand new furniture for the nursery.

At the end of the day I realize that things are just things.  Clothes are just clothes and books are just books and cribs are just cribs.  But I wanted to start fresh with everything.  Keeping in mind that if we ever had a second child, that baby would probably receive many hand-me-downs.

We ended up purchasing a brand new set of baby furniture for Tommy's nursery.  It was something we could afford at the time and we thought it was a wise investment.  We would use it for our other children...if we ever had any.

But over weekend, one of the things we sold was that furniture.  The crib, the dresser, the changing table.  All of it went at a negotiated price and it wasn't until Monday morning that I let myself cry about what had been disassembled and placed into some stranger's Tahoe and driven away.

It was like watching my longings and dreams slip through my fingers.  And I willingly letting them go.

The logical parts of me remind me that we can get another set if we needed it - we can find something used just as this woman did with ours.  That we did this because we needed money to pay what we owed to the IRS and I didn't want my husband to have to sell a gun on top of everything else he has given up for us.  That just because we don't have this furniture taking up space in our garage doesn't mean it won't ever happen again.

But the letting go of the furniture was more than just a financial decision too.  It was a place I consciously chose to kill my longing.  It was where I was letting go of something I'm not sure I should be letting go of.

To be honest, I don't know what I want here.  When it comes to having another child that is.  I have an immense amount of ambivalence about another baby and that ambivalence feels big for me to hold.

I feel a deep desire to have another child.  Buying a few sleepers for my friend and her new baby this weekend gave me a lump in my throat at remembering what it was like to rock my little boy in my arms every night before bedtime. My heart so longs for another child, specifically a daughter. I see her in my dreams, I have her name picked out.  I think of her often.

But I also deeply feel that I can't do this again.  That it would complicate and make things that are already complicated, only worse.  That we don't have the finances, the energy, the means, the room, the guts to do it all over again.  That I couldn't handle another pregnancy and how would that fit in to my weight loss goals?

My hope is that Todd and I could feel strong together again as a couple before going through another pregnancy and another experience of bringing a life into the world.  Tommy's conception was a miracle for us.  Not just because we didn't know if I could even conceive, but because our marriage was beautiful and thriving then.  Tommy was conceived at at time where our life together was full of so much joy and passion.  I so desire that if we even had another child, that they would be birthed out of a similar place.  I fear what it would mean if they weren't. If we just happened to get pregnant when things were as they are or have been in our marriage.   

It's a place that over the last few months, I've slowly become close-fisted to God again.  I have been attempting to manage my heartache through control and deciding that once again, I know what is best and I can make my life work without Him in this piece of my life and my heart.

I don't trust Him here.  I did for awhile, but my circumstances changed and so did my shifty faith.  I don't trust His best or His timing or what He wants and the when's of a miraculous happening like this.  A lot of my heart believes His timing would be off, that He would be wrong and that whatever He decided wouldn't be for my good as He promises.

It's painful to admit that so publicly, but it's true.

Why does it take so much vulnerability to be open, to wait, to hope and to trust?  And what do we do when it becomes too much to stay that way?  How can we always live so freely and full of longing before it just starts to hurt and become unbearable?  It feels like allowing ourselves to live fully and with deep and glorious longing gets wearing after awhile.  And sometimes knowing God means not having any relief.

The other morning, I simply asked God to meet me here.  To meet me in the place where I am saying no to Him and where I am refusing to trust, where I have taken back what control I can.  I asked if we could sit here for awhile together and look at why I have returned to this place because really, it's not the place that I most desire to be with Him.

I wonder if my heart can be so mended or healed that I never again want to close my hands to what He wants and has for me. Or maybe, like so many things in life, it cycles through.  That there are seasons where it feels safer to trust Him with my heart and all that it holds.

And other seasons, like this one, trust and vulnerability feel like a much harder thing to do.

April 18, 2012

A note for me




Dear Self,

Remember the you at the beginning of the year?  The you that you were on January 1st when you took this picture?

How you felt full of determination and guts and enthusiasm?

That's still you.  She is still in there.

You've made progress, lots of it.  You still have your work cut out for you, but you are getting there.  There is a lot to be proud of.  You still haven't sat and binged since last year.  LAST YEAR.  You know that's a big deal - give yourself some more credit.

I know this is hard.  Getting over this hurdle feels impossible.  You've never done this before.  You've never pushed past what you're feeling and kept on going.  

You need to remember that you've changed.  You are not the same woman.  Even if you look like her, you aren't her.  You can never be her again. The you that you still hate.  Maybe it's time you forgave her....

Quit worrying about what people think.  Take the compliments and what people notice for what they are and move on.  Take the lack of compliments and what people don't notice and move on.  Because this isn't about what people do or don't see in you.  Quit making this about what others are and aren't saying about your body and your progress and where you are in this.  

You know what this is about.  It's about experiencing more freedom because you are not numbing out in your addiction to food anymore.  It's about being healthy and living fully because that's how you really want to live.  

This is YOUR journey.  No one elses.  No one else but you knows what it's like to be you.  

How you picked yourself up last night and went to the gym anyway?  The old you that has felt this way wouldn't have done that before.  Recognize progress and don't be blind to where you have changed.  

Stop listening to the lies.  They keep you down and draw you away from being close to God and living out who you were created to be.

Remember who you are.  Remember what is true.

Keep going.  Yes, it's still a long road ahead.  But you're already four months in.  

Take it day by day.  Meal by meal.  Workout by workout.  Moment by moment.  And remember you can't do this alone.  You need Him. Go to Him.  Look to Him when you're down and discouraged and you're wanting to just give up because it's not happening fast enough.

You are almost a whole clothing size smaller.  Hello - that is amazing!

Just because you have quit in the past doesn't mean you will quit now.  Stop believing that you're a quitter.  That may be who you used to be, but that's not who you are now.  You're a fighter remember?

A warrior princess.  A dragon slayer.  Brave.  Courageous.  Fierce.  Remember those words.  Remember who gave them to you and why.  Remember how you've fought for your heart and how you have fought for your life. 

Take it one day at a time.  Be kind to yourself.  Enjoy the moments of victory.  Admit your weakness.  Stay present.  Seek His face.  Ask for help.  

I thought you needed this reminder today.

Love,
Me

April 17, 2012

A Mondayish-Tuesday

My Tuesday is feeling a lot like a Monday.

Traffic and rude, inconsiderate, selfish drivers have a way of bringing out the ugliest side of me.  I may or may not have laid on my horn in the most obnoxious way ever this morning to this woman who flat out just pissed me off. And by saying may or may not have, I mean that I SO did.

Most curse words come out of me when I'm driving.

*sigh*

Also, is it possible to overdose on salad?

Because last week, I started like gagging on them.  I've been eating one almost every day for lunch and I think my body is over them.  It's because I'm so picky about vegetables, and salad is one of the only things I can tolerate in the greens department.  Either way, I stocked up on broccoli and green beans this week to give myself a salad hiatus.  I decided that almost throwing up at my desk at work was just kind of not cool.

In other less gross news, isn't this kid like the cutest ever?  Oh man.  Love this face.

We have been invited over for dinner on Friday night by a couple in our church.  I've also met several women now thanks to the Journey Group I've been leading there this semester.  It's felt so good to start connecting and forming new friendships with people in this community. Also, some of us ladies talked about doing a margarita/pedicure night together.  And I'm kind of all about that kind of outing.

The beach has been calling my name.  I'm desperate to go.  Anyone want to take me along on their beach vacay?

I went to the grocery store on Sunday night and the lines were crazy long and the shelves nearly empty for some reason.  For several moments, I was convinced the world was ending and I didn't know about it.  

If you're not reading this blog, you should be.  Shay rocks.  I read this post yesterday about her bull-riding experience and found myself spilling TMI about how I haven't done that ever because my boobs are too big.  Seriously though, I kind of have a crush on her blog.  She combines serious and funny in the best of ways and Utah has never sounded more of an appealing place to visit until I stumbled on Red Lipstick & Melodies.  Just saying.

Also, is there a way that you can make brown rice taste not so brown rice-ish?

And in case anyone wants to know, I'm way more excited about the opening of the movie The Avengers than I am The Lucky One.  I'm a giant comic book movie fan apparently and given the choice, would choose it over a sappy chick-flick.  However, I will be seeing both.  Just to clarify.  I'm balanced that way.

Now, I need to get back to my Mondayish-Tuesday and all of it's aggravations, rude drivers, and bookkeeping discrepancies. 

April 16, 2012

Moving Forward

Moving forward.  That felt like the theme of the weekend for us.  How do you move again when it felt like it was just days ago marriage was at a standstill?

We sold some items this weekend.  We finished our taxes and mailed off what we owe.  We purchased a few gifts for our friend's first baby.  We treated ourselves to a steak dinner date-night and watched a movie at home.  We held hands.  We went to church and talked about where we feel like we do and don't belong in the body of Christ.  He took care of the lawn and I baked some fresh banana bread.  He filled the cars with gas and I did the laundry. 

A little give.  A little take.  Doing life.  The mundane parts that don't feel so mundane when you're choosing to be present in that life together.

Most of what we did felt like normal, regular, every-day life.  But something about routine, being close and doing life together where we feel like we are back on the same page brought comfort and security to my heart where I had none.

My weekend project included making over the mirror that hangs above our couch.  It matches our dark brown leather couches perfectly, but it never seemed to really work after I redecorated things last year in efforts to brighten things up.

The before:
The after:
I like how it turned out.  It matches my sconces and brightened up the wall just as I was hoping it would.

Sometimes a little re-finishing is all something needs in order to work well again.

That's what we feel like.  In a constant state of being re-finished.  Always being made new.

April 13, 2012

The Story of Us : Part 5

This is the big-daddy of them all.  The grand finale of all I've been writing this week about marriage and my life with Todd.

In the last few months, I've wanted to call it quits.  I've wanted to be done.  I have even contemplated divorce.  I have asked questions and thought thoughts I never imagined that I would.  In many ways, I feel like our marriage is hanging on by a thread.  It feels exposing to share this, but it's true.  

Yesterday, Todd referenced several times how he is almost waiting for me to pack up and leave and be done with us.  I felt myself gulp a bit when I hit the publish button on that.  But this is real and this is where we have found ourselves.  What he said was true.  I have wanted to leave and be done.  Close the book on our life together and just move on.

One of the reasons I wanted to write about marriage here, was because a lot of my heart has been consumed with these horrible feelings and fears that our marriage was coming to an end.  That our love story, full of these rich, deep moments - a few that I've shared here this week - was about to have it's very last chapter written. I wanted to write all of this down so that I would remember - the past, the scenes in our marriage that were life changing.  And that I would remember what this looked like and felt like - when we found ourselves in this hole.

Truth be told, I really needed to write all of this down for me and my heart. 

I have wanted to be honest and real and I (we) made the decision it was okay to share that here - with our friends, our family, with strangers we may never even meet.  Based on the e-mails and Facebook messages and comments that I've received this week - it was something that maybe I was meant to do. We are not the only ones struggling.  We are not the only ones who had a horrible first year.  We are not the only ones who are wanting to or have wanted to give up.  We are not alone.

I never imagined that I would consider divorce.  Not just because of what the church has to say about it, but because I come from divorce.  In a way, divorce made me, and I stood firmly in this place that what happened to my parents would never, ever happen to me. 

When my parent's marriage ended, it broke me.  Things like that hit all of us differently, but for me, it was this nearly fatal blow that took me out for years.  I was angry with God and I was angry with my parents.  I had no clue how I would ever find healing in that place or even be able to stop asking "why?"

Interestingly enough, God used all of the problems and issues that I was having with Todd to break down these hard, bitter parts in my heart that were there as a result of what happened with my parent's marriage.  Some of the icy, cold places in my heart, especially towards my dad, Robin, and my mom, all started to melt.  I found myself full of compassion and understanding.  I wasn't angry anymore that my dad and mom didn't stay married simply because it was the right thing to do or because it was biblical.

Something clicked there for me, and I found forgiveness and grace.  And a new-found understanding, love and appreciation for them, that honestly, I never expected to be able to have.  My thoughts and beliefs shifted too - about marriage, separation, divorce.  And I think they needed to change.  I was prideful and arrogant and judgmental.  All I know is that I have grace here for others, where I didn't have it before. 

I've been prideful and arrogant in my marriage too.  I've only been looking at where my husband disappoints me or lets me down, how he doesn't show up, where things feel hard, rather than seeing what I'm doing.  Where I am closed and cold toward him and the damage I've done these last six years to his heart.  It's not all him, and I think I was convinced that it was.

So I've been looking at my part in all of this.  Where I have wounded him.  Where I've broke him.  Where I'm responsible for the way things look right now.  Lately, I've been looking at where I am slow to extend grace and where I have hard time loving him for who he is now, rather than who I want him to be.

And I've been remembering the good too.  The places where Todd has shown up for me valiantly and bravely and the impact that has had on me.  How knowing him has enabled me to live more freely - his love, even in his brokenness, has brought me to life in so many ways.  My desire is to love him like that too.


I remember a phrase that we heard from some friends of ours a few years ago when they talked about how to move forward after conflict or really disrupting things that would come up in marriage.

Recommit and go again.

The other night, my husband and I were having another of our many talks about us and our future.  About another one of my disappointments I had with him. It was the night I first asked him what I had done, where I had hurt him and I just stayed quiet and listened.  That was the night I realized I needed to own up to my part too and commit to loving him with more tenderness and vulnerability than I have.

I decided that night, that even though so many of my thoughts, fears and questions have centered around wondering if we had reached our end, that I wasn't done.  Something reignited in my heart.  Hope was not lost.  I made the decision to recommit and go again.

Sometimes, I am afraid to love.  I am afraid to stay in this relationship, this union where there are no real guarantees.  Marriage, in all of it's beauty and glory and promise, is so fragile and needy.  As if any moment it could all fall apart and end tragically.  It's risky to be so vulnerable.  It feels foolish sometimes to keep trying and going when the odds seem so stacked against us.  I guess at the end of the day, I still believe that we are worth fighting for.  That we are made for each other.  That he is the man I still want to do life with.  That it's not just marriage I believe in - I believe in our marriage.

One of the things I love most about us is that Todd isn't afraid to be foolish and silly with me.  We play, we laugh and we still enjoy each other - even with all of the tension, raw honesty and hard places - there is still time for laughter and life.  The pictures below are of us in the last year - the same year that we've been struggling.  There were still moments that were full and happy and full of hope.

My hope is that there will be time for more car dancing and water fights in the kitchen.  I hope for more flirting and hand-holding.  More playing, more kindness, more real conversation.  More enjoying and being enjoyed.  

So this is our story.  It belongs to us.  We have both decided it's a story that we don't want to write the ending to just yet.  And with hope and help and grace and God, there will be many, many more pages to fill.

"It's the possibility that keeps us going.  Not the guarantee."  - Nicholas Sparks
"Sometimes it takes a really good fall to know where you stand."  - Hayley Williams
"It's supposed to be hard.  If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it.  The hard is what makes it great."    - A League of Their Own
"True love doesn't come by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person, perfectly."  - Unknown
"Be curious.  Not judgmental."  - Walt Whitman
"Anyone can be passionate.  But it takes real lovers to be silly."  - Rose Franken
"Let me recklessly love you, even if I bleed.  Because you're worth all of me...."

April 12, 2012

The Story of Us : Part 4

There was some fear and trepidation in asking my husband to guest post on my blog for my little series on marriage.  I had no clue what he was going to say or where he would go with it.  But it didn't feel right to do this all on my own and have everything be solely from my perspective.  I just asked him to be honest.  Share what he felt comfortable to share with the blogworld and share what was on his heart.

As I've read through this now, about twenty-seven thousand times, I love where I've learned new things about him that I didn't know.  I decided to underline those things, mostly because I want to remember what they were.  Some of what he wrote grieves me - but in a way that I need to be grieved.  This marriage thing is real.  It is not all sunshine and butterflies and daisies.  My husband can attest to that.

Without further ado....I give you some very real, raw and honest thoughts from this man I've been writing about this week.
~~~~


Hello,

My name is Todd and I'm the other half to Jennifer. I was asked to share what our marriage has been, what it's looked like, the up's and down's, etc. I have to be honest and say this might be hard for me. I don't really like to share with people I don't know, but here goes!

We have been married almost 6 years. I can say it has not been the easiest 6 years. I hope that it gets better as we continue on this journey. You already know some of what she dealt with a couple of months after we said "I DO". You never think that the "for worse" part would even come up that quick but it did.

I didn't know what to do. I knew she needed help and that I wasn't the one that could do it. It was driving me crazy inside and I just had to tell myself that it had to get better. But it didn't. I knew some of how her past had damaged her and I didn't want to add to that either. I told myself that I wouldn't quit. If anyone was going to quit, it was going to be up to her. To be honest, I wanted to leave. I didn't sign up for this and what she was going through and what she was putting me through. I felt trapped in a sense. I knew I loved her but it didn't make me feel any better though. My friends told me they felt for me but didn't know what I should do.

She got some help. I saw a change in her. I hoped that it would continue to get better. In some ways it did and in others it didn't. I retreated to what I knew. I had a hard time sharing (and still do to this day) what was going on inside of me. I learned really early in life that my feelings were not good enough to share with anyone. So I just stuff them deep inside of my heart and don't let anyone in. I have been hurt too many times in the past. I am learning how to open up and allow myself to feel and to allow her to see those feeling as well. I am still scared some days that she will just up and leave me because I don't do or say the right things.

We have had many good conversations since the "dark side of the force" showed up early in our marriage. I think I am pretty good at seeing what is going on, but being a guy, I want to fix it all and just put it behind me/us. I know how to fix some things but I have to realize the fact that I am not supposed to "fix" everything. That is God's job!

We still struggle and we are still fighting for our marriage. I know she doesn't think that a lot of the time but it is true (at least she doesn't think I am). Satan is out to destroy us but I am not going to just sit back and let him. I may not always fight well but I have been told that I am a warrior. I am just a tired warrior. Marriage is extremely hard work. I wouldn't change that fact. Anything that you have to work hard for, is something that you generally value more and don't want to lose.

A good marriage is full of talking and communicating. I don't do enough of it (and I am told that a lot). It drives her crazy. It makes her want to leave me. I would tell myself that I just need to listen really well and it should be okay. But, she tells me that she needs my words. I never thought my words were good enough. She was being starved for them and I cared, but still didn't think I was good enough.

I hated myself and sometimes I still do. I am glad that we have been able to share some really hard things about ourselves and things from our past. I am glad that God has given me a woman who is safe enough to share those things with and that she still hasn't left me.


I think a good marriage should have lots of passion (not just sex, although more is always good). Being that we are completely opposite, it is hard really hard to share the same passions. We try to show each other that we care about what the other person really likes in life but that is not easy. She loves to write, read, listen to loud music, sing, throw parties and the like. I love to hunt and fish. I listen to music but I am not stirred by it the way she is. I know she wishes that were different. I know other people probably wished that I was different, that I was more like them, and this would make them want me around more and be able to talk to me and accept me because I would be more like the rest of the family. I can't help that fact. God has just given me a passion for the outdoors.

One good thing that we do have in common is our passion for our friends and wanting true, honest, no holds-bar friendships. We want to be able to share authentic and real relationship with people. We hate it when people are fake and don't want to really share their lives. I know it is hard for everyone to do that, but that is what we are called to do. We need to help each other bear the burdens of life and to help each other in the battle.

There is more to this story of ours and maybe I will be asked to share more. I don't know. I LOVE MY WIFE very much and I hope we both continue how to struggle well and care for each other in the process. I hope we continue to learn how to love each other unconditionally and not to put expectations on each other that in reality, we know neither of us can ever meet.

April 11, 2012

The Story of Us : Part 3


I had this awful habit of taking pregnancy tests so I would get my period.  I would be late and then rush out to buy a test just so it would come.  It was like my body couldn't cycle through unless I knew for sure I wasn't pregnant.

That was the case on December 8, 2008.  I was sitting in disappointment over still not being pregnant after receiving a phone call only days before from my best friend, announcing that she was expecting her first baby.  We felt like we were the last of the couples we knew who had not yet conceived.  That night I was hormonal and tired and late once again.  I took a pregnancy test thinking I would see the all-too familiar negative line, sealing my fate.  I would never be a mommy. 

Instead, for the first time in my life, I saw a plus sign staring back at me.  The day I had hoped and prayed for was here.  I was pregnant.  I was going to be a mom.

Todd worked late that night and by the time he had come home, I had already run to the store to find something to share the news with him in a special way.  I found a Christmasy onesie that looked like a present.  It read "Mom and Dad's best gift ever!"  I folded it with the pregnancy test inside and put it in a bag for him to open.  When the test fell out of the onesie, he saw the news.  That beautiful positive sign that we had so ached to see.  "Is this you?"  He stared at me in disbelief.  "Yes, baby.  It's me.  It's us.  It's finally our time."  

We both cried.  He hugged me, trembling with fear and excitement over what this meant.  For him, for me, for us.

 ~~~~

Our little boy was delivered by c-section.  He had a minor complication that landed him in the NICU for a few days after he was born in July of 2009.  His birth was long awaited and full of much rejoicing.  Yet with it came with disappointment and heartbreak as it hadn't looked the way that I had hoped for it to.  My c-section left me in immense pain, and just trying to walk was excruciating.  More than that, I was an emotional wreck still not having yet held my own baby boy in my arms.

The night I was moved into a different room, I had to use the bathroom for the first time.  Everything hurt and there was no way I could do my business without Todd's help.  As he got me situated, I began to sob.  "Was this what you imagined this would be like?"  "Is this what you thought was going to happen when you were dating me?!"

I felt exposed, disgusting and gross.  I couldn't understand how he could love me enough to do this.

As I sat there on a toilet (A TOILET!), he knelt down in front of me, and cupped my face  "Yes.  Yes, this is what I imagined when I was dating you.  I want to share life with you - all of it.  Even these messy parts.  This isn't too much for me.  I am here for you in this Jennifer."

That was the night I realized how deep his love ran for me.  That was the night, one day after the birth of our son, that our love began to really take root.

~~~~

The journey to becoming parents felt redeeming for us in many ways.  It felt like it healed places that were caused by our rocky first year.  Struggling some with infertility gave us something to lean on each other for in ways that brought us closer together.  Honestly, I wouldn't change that part of our love story for the world.  It was a beautiful thing we did together.  I was honored to struggle and cry, wait and hope, alongside this man.

Being a mom has been the most humbling experience I have ever known.  Tommy lights up our life.  His laughter, his wildness, his constant invitations to play, how he lives so alive and vibrantly at this age - all of that makes us want to be more than we are.

His birth created yet another shift in our marriage though.  It's interesting how being a parent makes life more rich and full.  It's been one of our greatest joys.  It's thrilling and rewarding.  And yet it wears on us and brings us down at times too.  It drains our bank account and our energy and our patience.  It takes a toll on how we are able to show up for one another.  And inevitably, parenthood seems to come with plenty of opportunities for conflict.

The older Tommy gets, the more I'm curious about what he observes.  What does he see Todd and I modeling for him about relationship and marriage and love?  What do I want him to learn?  What did we learn watching our parents and their marriages?  How has that impacted us and how we've been doing life together?  What needs to change?

Those questions feel hard to look at.  And they are questions that need answers.

Marriage is like that.  It makes us question things.  It keeps coming again and again, with hard questions.

April 10, 2012

The Story of Us : Part 2

By February of 2007 there was finally a shift with us.  By then, I had started reaching out for help.  I started meeting with a woman in my church.  I was attending a group where we talked about pieces of our story that had left us wounded.  I felt some things in me starting to come to life.  I was starting to feel less crazy and more than anything, I felt like I had some real hope.  I had been heard and seen in new ways.

But before I could really move forward, I knew I needed to lay it on the line with Todd. We needed to have this make or break conversation.  It was evening on a Saturday and we began to talk.  He had waited so patiently for me to open up to him. His face for me that night is unforgettable.  His eyes so full of longing and sorrow.  Begging me to let him love me - really love me.


I told him there were things he didn't know about me.  I told him there were things I had done that I was sure he would leave me over if he knew them.  He invited me to share - he promised me it wouldn't be too much, that he wouldn't run away.  I had a hard time believing that, but I needed to know if that was really true.  If he really would stay after he knew the parts of me that no one else did.

It took about an hour, but I spoke every word.  Every thing I had held inside since the day we met.  The me that I tried to cover up, the me that no one else knew about.  My deepest and darkest shame.  A specific scene that had haunted me since I was fifteen years old.


He stayed.  He held me as I talked and cried.  He didn't run away or leave like I had feared he would.  After I had finished - when I had put all of my gross and ugly out there - he gifted me with his own.  He shared a scene in his own story of his deepest shame.  I got to love him there too.  I got to be the one to listen and hold on to him and not run away. 


It may have been one of the most beautiful nights we ever had together.  It was so honest and real.  It was a picture of what love really means.  How we are supposed to show up in this covenant of marriage.  It was a picture of how great Jesus' love is for us.  How He loves us the same no matter what we've done or will do. 


We made an agreement that night.  To always, always be this honest.  To talk about and say the things to the other about what we really feel, what we've done, where we have hurt each other.  To talk about our feelings honestly and to never keep secrets.  If we could make it through this conversation, we could make it through any other one.


This is the place that we have been good together.  Really good.  There are no secrets.  There is no condemnation.  We talk about everything . Even if it takes a few days to get it out, we are always brave enough to go the hard places with the other.  To have the uncomfortable conversations.

We've seen how holding it in really hurts and dishonors the other person.  Every time we bring something to light, we risk hurting each other with our words and feelings, what we are doing is loving each other well.  Talking with such depth and realness allows us to experience redemption and more.  We experience what God has for us.  This is the place I hope we can keep building on.  Where our honesty and desire to love each other as we really are, can make us stronger and deepen the roots of what we have.


That night really was a make or break conversation.


And it ended up being the conversation that made us.

April 9, 2012

The Story of Us : Part 1

Writing for me is not only therapeutic, but it's healing.  It grounds me and brings me back and helps me make sense of things.  For a while now, I've had some thoughts milling around about marriage and I feel like the writer in me simply can't write another thing until I can get some of my thoughts about this written out.  My marriage, this life I share with Todd, is a place that is currently in need of healing.  We are both trying to move forward together in hopes of more.

Having my husband's permission, I'm going to write a series of posts this week on us and our marriage as I've been reflecting on our life together.  He may even (crossing fingers) guest post here to share some of his thoughts as well.  So stay tuned.  It's getting really real around here.  Starting now.

 ~~~~

Our first year of marriage wasn't what I'm assuming most newlyweds experience.  We didn't get to go on a honeymoon.  And there was no season where we were just blissfully and stupidly happy.  Todd and I were married in June of 2006 and by August of that year I had slipped into a dark depression.  That depression was hard and consuming.  I felt barely alive and something inside of me ached so badly, I was terrified that it might do me in.

I think I believed that my wedding day was going to be the most climactic day of my life.  Because everything after it would be happy, easy, and rich with contentment because I would finally have everything I had ever wanted.  I thought then that marriage would fix me and I was confused why it didn't.  I remember thinking that when I finally found someone who loved me enough to want to put a ring on my finger and live with me and make me his wife, that it would calm all of the stirred up places in my soul.  I thought getting married might heal all that had been torn open and disrupted by everything that happened in my life before I met Todd. 

And it didn't do that.  I was still me, so I discovered.  Marriage didn't change my thoughts or beliefs about myself or how I felt.  It didn't erase my past.  I didn't wake up feeling like a new person.  Marriage didn't fix anything.

The fact that I couldn't hide and get away was the hardest part.  Having him see me - really see me - in this horrible emotional mess that I was in was too much. I felt like I had deceived him.  If he had seen this before....if he only knew I was this fucked up inside....if had just known what I mess I really am....if he only knew my secrets....he wouldn't have married me.  He deserves better than this, better than me.  Those thoughts tormented me for months.

I gave him permission to leave.  I pushed him away and I pushed hard.  I can remember one night where I was sobbing in the shower and I didn't even know why I was crying.  I just had this immense hurt inside and I felt like I was going crazy.  He wanted to help, wanted to hold me, wanted to know what was wrong.  And I screamed at him to leave me alone.  I told him to go away.  This man, only my husband for a couple of months, and I was trying to shove him out of my life.

But he stayed.  Somehow, he stayed.  He loved me through it.

The other night we talked about that first year of marriage again - those first six months specifically.  I asked him what he did with those moments and the scenes where I tried to let him and our marriage of the hook.  I asked him what he wanted to say to me then that he didn't and couldn't.  I told him that I imagined that it might feel disappointing - to wait 36 years to finally get married, for this.  And he agreed.  It had been disappointing.

My heart felt grieved and sad as I stood there trying to put myself in my husband's shoes - looking in at the start of us from his point of view.  On what I did, how I showed up, where I did damage.

How I broke his heart.

April 8, 2012

Easter Moments

I wore a dress today.  A pretty floral one with fuschia flats.  Every Easter reminds me of being a little girl.  How I would sleep with sponge-curlers in my hair the night before.  And I would wear a "bonnet" and gloves and ruffly socks and a new dress that would spin perfectly when I twirled.  I felt pretty today - much like I did when I was seven. 


We didn't do Easter baskets growing up, but I do them for Tommy now.  To be honest, I think the whole Easter bunny thing is weird.  Maybe because I just don't get it.  A bunny that delivers candy?  Why does this bunny do this?  And how?  He has no hands.  And how does he get in?  Through the chimney like Santa?   It's all just so confusing for me.  So his basket is just from us - full of some fun little toys and a few special goodies.

But my little Easter basket I gave to Tommy was trumped by Oma's giant bag and four oversized Easter-eggs full of goodies and treats. It was basically a mini-Christmas.

I sang an amazing, powerful song in church today called "Alive."  Easter just isn't Easter without some awesome music declaring Jesus' victory over death.  I was also excited that I didn't cry given what happened the last time I sang a solo in church.  


My family didn't get together this year.  We all just had too much on our plates to organize a gathering.  I felt the void of what wasn't there.  Like watching my Poppy walk in the door in his crisp yellow long sleeve button-up shirt, arms open wide saying, "He is Risen!"  I missed my Uncle's fajitas and my dad's guitar playing and my cousins talking.  It was a nice day, but it wasn't the same either.

I took a three hour long nap this afternoon because I SO needed it.

Oh my big boy.  He keeps growing. We hunted for eggs together today and he declared that this was the best Easter ever.  I loved this picture until I realized it looks like he's missing an arm.  He totally has two, just not sure where the other one went.

There was a bit of silly today too.  There is always time for silly on a holiday.
This holiday specifically, always brings me back to the core of who I am.  Even with the pretty dresses and the baskets and the abundance of candy (that is seriously bagged up so Todd can take it all to work tomorrow) and the egg-hunting and the missing my family - all of it comes back to just one thing.  My risen Savior.  The reason I am able to live fully.  I am a child of God.  I am His.  And I am only His, because He's alive.

April 5, 2012

the in-between

Recently I had to go try on a bridesmaid dress.  I was nervous about this, given my last bridesmaid experience was not very wonderful because I hated how the dress looked on me and I couldn't sit in it and all of it left me more emotionally scarred than anything like that should normally do to a person.  Plus, I still have a hard time with dresses in general, because well, I do.

I went to the bridal salon all by myself.  The dress is a strapless gown with pockets - it was very cute, very stylish.  And so nothing I would have picked out.  I was sure it was going to look horrible on me as I assume about most every dress.

I held my breath as I looked in the mirror.  And I didn't hate what I saw.  The reflection staring back at me looked pretty.  The dress looked nice on her - really nice actually.

It was flattering and I could sit down in it and everything.  I even sent a message to my cousin (now Bride-cousin) that it rocked and I totally loved it.  The dress showed where my body has changed some in the last few months.  I'm the hardest on myself - but I noticed.  I could see it.  I could tell there was a change.

I'm in this in-between place right now.  I'm at the point where people are starting to notice that I've lost some weight and they are starting to ask questions about what I'm doing or how many pounds I've lost.  All of that feels very triggering and I'm trying to stay grounded in it all because this is SO not just about losing weight, or even getting healthy or cooking light or exercising.  It's about learning to live without this addiction.  Learning how to be more dependent on God and less on me and my familiar ways of coping.

My story here is so complex.  How are you supposed to be kind to yourself and to the other inquiring person, when what's true is that you are in recovery for a nearly life-long binging disorder?  And what do you say when you're really just taking it one day at a time and trying to take the best care of you and your body that you know how?  All of this looks like it needs to look for me - no one else.  Just me.

This is the place, like so many times, I've given up.  Something - like perhaps a bridesmaid dress dilemma- might discourage me and wipe me out and I'll return to old habits.  I'm aware that if I keep going and keep on doing what I've been doing that I will have gotten farther than I. EVER. HAVE. EVER.  It's a big deal and I feel both nervous and excited.  I feel confident and at the same time, evil is whispering in my ear that I won't get there and I can't do this.

There is a point that I hope to reach on the scale.  I am not far from it.  And if and when I get to that number it will feel huge because I haven't seen that number as my weight in six, very long years.

It's hard though.  To still love myself the way I am right now.  This work in progress.  This awkward in-between place where I am in the middle and not yet where I want to be. 

But I'm learning to.  I'm building on what is good, what I'm doing well, where I am making progress.  I'm accepting the awkward, unfinished parts of me as they are.  Like the woman in the bridesmaid dress that was staring back at me.

It was me.

Not yet where I want to be, but very much on my way there.


April 3, 2012

Regret

I feel myself cringe inside when I hear other people say that they have no regrets in life. My face gets hot and I can literally feel shame wash over me.  Suddenly, every regret I hold inside of myself comes to the surface and I'm faced with years of bad decisions and shoulda-coulda-woulda's that I can never go back and change.

Is that honest? Is it possible for people to really have ZERO regrets?  To have no scene, no small instance where they might change a response or action?

And if it is possible, what is wrong with me that I have so many? Is it that I am just not wise and mature enough to appreciate everything that I still consider a regret?

All things and the lack of things - all of that shapes us, who we become and who we can eventually grow in to. I know this, really.  But still.

Perhaps I just haven't lived long enough to reach that point of wisdom and maturity where I can accept that as being okay.  I am still trying to make peace with my younger self.  I am still trying to find kindness for pieces of my story that I still look at with contempt.  For what happened to me, for the things I did, for the places I went and all of the lies I believed and lived out for so long.

I wouldn't have ripped up the Valentine's that Robert gave to me in the fifth grade.  I still remember putting them in his ten-year old hands in quite a dramatic fashion after I saw him talking to another girl who I thought was prettier than me.  I wouldn't have been such a brat.  And I would have held on to them for always.


I would have (well, maybe) let my mother pick out all of my clothes in middle school because omigosh the things I wore because I thought they were cool.  Tube socks "scrunched" up to mid-calf, giant lime green parrot earrings, OVERALLS...oh heavens.


I wouldn't have gone to prom.  It was stupid.

I would have stayed in the competition for All-State Choir and auditioned for the lead in Phantom of the Opera my senior year of high school rather than letting depression consume me and keep me from the things I loved doing the most.


The one weekend I went to my friend's house for the weekend in college - I wouldn't have gone.  I would have stayed because I would have been with Aaron - gone to his concert, woken up next to him, kissed him a few more hundred times.  And I would have at least one weekend more full of memories with him and of us before he was killed.

I wouldn't have told my mom that I hated her - that she was a bad mom.  I would have hugged her really, really hard and told her I loved her that Christmas Eve if I knew that it was going to be the last day I ever saw her alive.

I would have turned my car around on a February night in 2005. I wouldn't have gone inside.  I wouldn't have let him kiss me.  I wouldn't have believed that he and that this was better than nothing.


I would have gone with Sarah to watch her try on wedding dresses, even if it hurt like hell.

I would have been a cheerleader.  I would have written more and sung more.  I wouldn't have sold myself so short.  I wouldn't have quit playing guitar or piano.  I would have believed in myself.  I would have given myself some grace.  I wouldn't have hid for so long.

There are more.  There are so many more.

The only silver-lining seems to be how these places of regret make me want to be more.  More full of joy, more kind, more honest and more REAL.  They draw me to Jesus and and beckon my heart to want to be closer with God.  They highlight my core longings and give me courage to pursue my passions and dreams and not be so full of fear all the time.  They've taught me to be thoughtful, mindful and careful when making decisions.  They make me want to love others well.  They remind me that one of the things I desire most, is to really and truly live my life.

Even after I have sorrowed and grieved and given space to feel the why's behind all of these places of regret, the regret still remains. Maybe just like good memories, regret is supposed to stay with me for always.

Because in some odd, beautiful way, regret inspires me.



What about you?  Do you have any regrets? 

April 2, 2012

Years in the making

The four of us gals went out to celebrate Robin's birthday on Friday night by going to her favorite restaurant.  It was an epic girl's night and I hope the first of many that we share.  There were margaritas (Dr Pepper for Laura of course), laughter, a few tears, and girly stories.


This picture feels like it was years in the making.  My step-sister Chelsea, my step-mom Robin, me and my teenage sister  Laura.  (Don't you love her expression?)

Even with Laura's "why-the-heck-did-I-come-out-with-these-crazy-people?" face, having this picture means the world to me.  I am smack dab in the middle of my family, with my sisters and the mom in my life. I am there because I was wanted to be there.  And I am there because I wanted to be too.

It's taken years for me to be able to show up here.  It's taken years for me to heal.  It's taken years for me, for all of us really, to grow and experience and extend grace.  Even though it may have taken years, what makes me smile is knowing that this picture could still be captured.  It wasn't too late.

I love when redeeming moments and places can be forever kept in a photo.  It feels like I can have something tangible to hold in my hands and look at to remind me of where God is good when I tend to forget that.  I can hold proof and acknowledge where we are always changing.

For a long time I thought the relationships I had hoped to share with Robin and my sisters was hopeless.  That me, that us, would never recover or heal or be able to begin again or start fresh.  But, the weekend reminded me that there is always, always hope for more in relationship with others, even when we thought it was lost forever.