Against All Odds

In lieu of our wedding anniversary being the 18th of June, I wanted to share a little love story. I wanted to share our story. Our story is not like the fairy tales you see in the movies, it’s raw, it’s real, it’s full of love, grace, forgiveness and redemption. It’s the story that has beaten all the odds. Many doubted we’d ever make this work. We even doubted in the beginning that we could make it work. It wasn’t suppose to work. But it did and it does all by the grace of God. 

I was not ready for love. I was broken and lost. I had been damaged by men in my past and thought I was worthless and undeserving of love. I didn’t believe in love or marriage. I was content to live my life single and independent.

He was a girl crazed boy who wasn’t looking for anything serious. He’d been hurt before and wasn’t sure he wanted to travel down that path again. He was stuck in life and had no drive to move forward.

We found each other attractive and enjoyed talking with each other. He always had a girl and I was against dating anyone I worked with. I also refused to ever be the “other” girl having unknowingly been put into that position once before. I kept my distance and let our conversations be that of work related things. During the Christmas season while at church I pointed him out to my best friend and shared that I had a crush on him, but that nothing was to come of that because he was in a relationship. We came back to work after the New Year and worked an opening shift together. I learned that he had recently broken up with his girlfriend.

Our conversations shifted a little bit from that of work. We started to learn more about each other. He was a gentle, sweet and thoughtful man. He would bring me coffee to work at 5am and understood the importance of not talking to me until I had, had my morning coffee– because he was/is much the same way. Then one night he had a dream about me. No, not that kind of dream, get your heads out of the gutter ;). He had a dream that I sawed his leg off with a dull knife. If that doesn’t scream true love I don’t know what does. Anyways he decided to share this dream with me, we exchanged phone numbers and witty banter for the day and by the end of the day I had agreed to go on a date with him.

It was the best first, last date. It was simple and yet everything I liked. He picked me up for our date ( and might I add he was on time!) He opened all my doors. He took me to a local tavern and paid for my dinner, beer and a few games of pool. He let me win the first game! He was kind to me and treated me with respect. He asked me questions about my life, my family, my future. It was perfect, he was perfect.

We continued to talk everyday. He would text me “good morning” and “good night” everyday (and still texts me “good morning”  and “good night” everyday he’s at work!) We hung out often and enjoyed each others company. However I was still the same girl I was when we met and I was not about to let my guard come down for him. He was still the same boy not looking for anything serious. It worked for us– for a while anyways. 

He was coming over to my house one day to hang out and was intending on asking me to be his “girlfriend” when I dropped our first big challenge on him. I was pregnant. Statistically odds were against us starting in that very moment. We sat in silence, we talked about our options. We took another test just to be sure. He was supportive. After a while we both decided we were keeping the baby. We were old enough, we had stable jobs, we could provide for our child, etc. However having a baby when we had only been seeing each other for a few months and not really being in a relationship posed a challenge.

Another challenge came when deciding what we wanted to do as far as “us” went. We both came from parents who only got married because they were pregnant with us and both sets of parents ended up divorced because of that. We didn’t want that. Plus being a guarded, closed off, damaged girl didn’t help. We eventually decided to give it a go. We figured we owed it to ourselves to try and to our unborn child to try. So we went forward in our relationship. Things were going well once we moved past the fear of having a baby and decided to pursue our relationship.

Then another girl decided to throw herself at him and tempted him. This posed yet another challenge in our new relationship. This girl pushed and pushed herself on him. She showed up when he was working just to spend time with him. She would text him. She knew me, she knew all about me and my role in his life as his girlfriend and the mother of his unborn child. She didn’t care. This eventually became a source of conflict for us. He reminded me of how special I was to him and that I along with his unborn child were his priority. We were able to push forward and I was able to start letting my guard down. It was in that very moment of his telling me just how important I was to him that I started to see the possibility of falling in love with him. I moved in with him and we started preparing for our sweet little baby.

Finally the moment arrived. It was time to meet our little love. He was a trooper through the long and exhausting labor and waited on me hand and foot. He never left my side. He held my hand in the operating room and reminded me I was going to make it through and that there was nothing to fear. Then when our beautiful little girl entered our world he cried and thanked me for having given him a beautiful baby girl.

He was perfect during the hospital stay. He helped me tremendously when we got home from the hospital and I was moving slow and still recovering. Then in an instant all changed and we were face to face with yet another challenge.

The girl was back in the picture and this time he had given into her temptations. He did the unthinkable. He cheated on me. I had always said that was the final straw to any relationship. I could not maintain a relationship with anyone after they had cheated. I took our daughter and went to my moms house for a few days to have some space. It was the hardest few days of my life. My mom looked at me and told me she supported me in whatever decision I was going to make when it came to him, but I needed to start making some decisions. I needed to decide if I was going back to the house, if I wanted to try to work things out with him, etc. So him and I sat down and had a conversation. We laid it all out there. I even told him I loved him for the first time in that moment! I decided that if he was truly remorseful and wanted to try to fix it, I would give him one last chance. He cut off all ties to the girl and any other girl for that matter. He worked hard to prove his trustworthiness. He respected my desire to sleep in separate rooms and begin dating again. 

We moved out of his mother’s house. We were working on us and raising our daughter. Things were going well. But there were still moments when I was hurt and angry with him and was struggling to move forward. We had countless conversations about the whole thing and none of them ever made me feel better. Then came another challenge— the darkest and hardest moment of my life. The night that I just wanted to escape all the pain and hurt. The night I decided to take revenge on him and swallow an entire bottle of pills in front of him in the middle of an argument. Luckily one of my best friends was already on her way to our house to come and get me so she sat at the house while our little girl slept and he took me to the hospital. We agreed that it was best if I entered a season of therapy (which I was completely against, until that moment.)

Counseling was the best thing I ever did for myself and for my family. I dealt with things I had kept bottled up for years. We moved forward. I was able to truly forgive him for hurting me and to move past it. We continued to grow in our relationship with each other. I finally started to let my whole guard down and learn to love and be loved in return. We fell madly in love with each other. We knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with each other, and not just because we had, had a baby. So a year later he proposed in our living room with our daughter and a year later we were married.

We are now going on four years of marriage and it has been the best four years of my life. I wouldn’t change any of it for anything and all those challenges  in the beginning were worth it to get to this place. We fall more in love with each other everyday. We are parenting two beautiful children right alongside each other and we are the best of friends. He knows the deepest parts of my soul and I know his. I share everything with him and he does the same with me. We are a team. We choose each other every day. We face challenges” because that’s the consequence of living in a fallen world, but even in those moments we know we will make it out on top! Against All Odds we will make it, we already have.

“Every love story is beautiful, but ours is my favorite.”

     

Photo credit: CorrieBphotography

Have Courage

“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.”

Mark Twain

Just recently I watched as my daughter exuded courage. She had been given a bike, this bike didn’t come with training wheels. We attempted to ride this bike once before and that ended in frustration all around. I had a squirming toddler in my arms and it made holding her stable on the bike nearly impossible.

Having a perfectionist, strong-willed daughter makes for a challenge all its own, but it makes for a bigger challenge when something is not mastered the first time. She is good at many things, she is wise beyond her years… but she is stubborn and determined. Since the first attempt at bike riding was an epic fail she was determined to never ride a bike without training wheels again.

Well the other day seemed like a good day to ride a bike. The weather was beautiful, the sun was shining and it was just one of those days you didn’t want to spend inside. Daddy was home this particular day so we decided to give bike riding another go. Emma huffed and puffed and threw a tantrum of epic portion. She was determined to never ride that bike again. She stormed all over the house with her arms crossed and yelled all about how her bike was “stupid” and she “was never riding the stupid bike.” Now in our home “stupid” is a word we don’t use and she is fully aware of that. She faced a consequence and then my husband and I pulled her close to us and talked with her.

We talked about how we have two choices in life– we can choose to always do the easy things or the hard things. Les Brown says it like this, we can do the easy things and have a hard life, or we can do the hard things and have an easy life. We went on to talk about how in life we have to do things that are hard, things that scare us, things we might not want to do and things we may not be any good at. It’s how we experience life. It’s what makes us who we are. We all have to do it. We talked about how its okay to feel afraid. It’s okay to not be perfect at the task or to even master it. We talked about how we don’t have to rely on our strength, but that we have the strength of Jesus Christ and because of that we can do all things. We shared moments when mommy, daddy and her baby brother had to do something hard. She agreed to give the bike a try as long as daddy promised he wouldn’t let her go.

So outside we went. She hopped on her back and after just a few minutes she asked her daddy to let her go. He did and she rode her bike. She only made it a few feet before she took her feet off the pedals and fell down, but she got right back up and did it again. She rode her bike for a long time that afternoon. She would repeat the falling down and getting up bit every few feet but she never gave up. She was determined. She was beaming with pride. The smile she wore across her beautiful face said it all. We celebrated and cheered her on. We filled her with praise and told her we were proud of her.

We got back home and asked her how she felt. Her response floored me. She said, “I’m happy that God gave me the strength to do it!” A few nights later at dinner she shared her most thankful, “That God gave me the strength to ride my bike.” She gets it. God is going to use that girl to help him move mountains. She humbled herself. She knew that accomplishment was not done on her own accord. She took a risk and she had courage.

Youthful Perspective

“Those who look for beauty, find it.”

-Unknown

The other morning I was driving with my daughter and we had come to a red light. We had the most beautiful view of the snow-capped mountains right in front of us. Nothing was blocking that view. I sat in silence admiring the view and taking it all in. It’s so refreshing. It breathes life into my soul.

My daughter broke the silence. She wasn’t speaking to me per-say, she was just stating what she was seeing. From the back seat I hear her say, “wow that is such an amazingly, beautiful view.” To which I responded with, “yes, isn’t it so amazing to look out and see the snow-capped mountains in all their beauty?” She then said, “no mom, I was talking about those little dirt piles that look like mountains and have snow on them. They are so beautiful.”

Instantly my five year old is teaching me a lesson and reminding me of truth.

She reminded me of what was said in John 1 verse 3, that through Him all things were made. God created that very dirt. God created man from the dust of the ground. He created the snow and He told the snow when to fall and it obeyed and because of that it lay peacefully on the pile of dirt. Then I was reminded of what was said in Ecclesiastes 3 verse 11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” EVERYTHING is made beautiful. God made in that perfect moment a beautiful snow-capped pile of dirt in line with beautifully, majestic snow-capped mountains.

I wonder what our lives would look like if we decided to stop for a brief moment and look around at the beauty that surrounds us. Would we even notice? Would we stop and let that beauty breathe life into our souls? Would we thank God himself for the beautiful snow-capped pile of dirt, knowing He created that?

Not only was I reminded in that moment that EVERYTHING has been made beautiful in its time, but I was reminded about perspective. It really is all about our perspective. In that moment all I saw was what I wanted to see. The beautiful mountains in front of me. I didn’t want to look around and notice the piles of dirt or anything else that surrounded me in that moment.

Then I think about the things that happen in life. The crappy, painful things we all have to endure at one point or another as the cost of living in a fallen and broken world. I really have two choices in those moments. I can chose to only look at the mountain in front of me or I can open my eyes and see the beauty around me.

What would happen if in the face of ugly dirt piles we clung to the truth and clung to the promise that God will use EVERYTHING for His purpose? What if we looked evil square in the eye and spoke the words of  Genesis 50 verse 20, “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” How much more beautiful our lives would be if we simply looked at the piles of dirt and reminded ourselves that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) and He has made EVERYTHING beautiful in its time.

It’s easy to be consumed and narrow minded in the face of adversity. Let’s start being consumed more by God and less by ourselves and the things of this world. Let’s start opening our minds and seeing beauty in the snow-capped dirt piles rather than only the snow-capped mountains.

Fighting the Good Fight

I was reminded of Theodore’s words in his speech often referred to as The Man in the Arena this morning.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
–Citizenship in a Republic, Theodore Roosevelt
Oh what a true and powerful statement and one that is oh so fitting for my current stage of life. My passion and calling are coming alive before my eyes and I am sometimes holding on for dear life wondering what the hell I am doing. I am in the arena right now and in some moments I feel like I am getting my face marred and at moments I am failing. My failure may not be seen by those on the sidelines watching. But my opponent sees and he relishes in that. He knows where to hit to knock me down and he knows which words to speak to weaken me. He is cunning. He is a master of the arts. He knows how to fight. He is ruthless. But I’ll let you in on a little secret… He is weak. He has no power, unless I relinquish control to him.

He tried last night to knock me out of the arena. He tried to convince me I couldn’t do it. He was right. I couldn’t do it without my trainer. It’s my trainers knowledge and strength I draw from. When I wanted to be selfish and enjoy my night my opponent fed that. He almost had me for a moment. Until my trainer reminded me that this was what I was built for. This is what I had been training for. He put on my gear and sent me into the arena. When I struggled with what move to make next he gently reminded me. When I was up against the ropes he gave me a little extra push off so I could regain my composure and keep pressing on.

My place will never be with the cold and timid soul because that’s where my opponent rests. Even if I loose a few I will not fail. I have a trainer who always wins out. The victory belongs to him and to him be the credit, because after all it really isn’t about me.

TAKE A STAND

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This bracelet is more than a piece of jewelry or fashion statement. It’s a reminder. Every time I look down at my wrist I am reminded to pray. To pray for the 27 plus million men, women and children who are currently suffering globally– suffering because some pimp has no regard for human life and wanted to earn some extra money on the side. It’s a reminder for me to pray for those 100,000 US children who are at risk of being sexually exploited and sent into commercial sex-trade.

It’s a reminder because that bracelet was handmade by a young girl who was rescued from the commercial sex-trade industry. Check out http://www.destinyrescue.org/us/ to get your own jewelry! They are a wonderful organization making a HUGE impact on young individuals lives. They are rescuing them from sex-trade and standing up for them. They “speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.” (Proverbs 31:8)

It’s up to us to make a difference. It’s time for every one to rise together and speak on behalf of the voiceless and stand up for the rights of all who are vulnerable! It’s time to educate yourselves on the sex-trade industry and get involved. Organizations like Destiny Rescue and the others out there need us to help take a stand against sex-trade!

You can make a difference– YES YOU!

You can check out this website: http://consciousmagazine.co/8-brands-fighting-human-trafficking-need-know/?utm_campaign=coschedule&utm_source=facebook_page&utm_medium=Conscious+Magazine and spend your money wisely!

OR

You can check out this website: http://dontsellbodies.org/ and start educating yourself and those around you about the problem!

So I am challenging each and everyone of you reading this post to do something! Share this post on your social media, with your friends and family. Educate yourself. Buy a gift for yourself or someone else from an organization that gives to help solve the problem. Let’s take stand and fight for FREEDOM!