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

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

-Galatians 6:2

We are called to sympathize with our sisters and assist them in all their weaknesses, grievances and trials. I was recently reminded of why this is so important. I sat with some of my sisters recently as we all shared our hearts. We were all weary travelers who were in need of someone to carry our luggage.

I am not one who readily and easily admits that her luggage has become a bit to heavy to carry alone. I become so accustomed to the extra weight that I often forget I am even carrying it. Thankfully I have a village of sisters who so faithfully remind me to lay down the burdens and who so willingly help me carry them. I am not sure how women who don’t have a village of sisters manage. Without my sisters I would be buried underneath the weight of the burdens I carry.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

-James 5:16

The sins and the burdens I carry feel to heavy and dark. I feel suffocated- like I am gasping for air and hanging on by my finger tips. Then I sit with my sisters for a moment and confess my sins and lay my burdens down and then in an instant the weight is gone and the darkness fades to light. And in the same moments my sisters are doing the same. I am not sure about you, but I am not one who will easily confess my sins and lay my burdens down. But there is something about doing it alongside my sisters. When they are willing to show up and be seen it makes it easier for me to do the same and when we ourselves are willing to show up and be seen we leave a little braver than when we came.

My village is: Life-changing. Beautiful. Raw. Honest. Full of light. Hope. Grace. Truth.

What does yours look like? If you don’t have sisters who come alongside you and pray for you and carry your burdens, then you better go find some.

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.

Beauty

As a mother of a beautiful  daughter it is my  responsibility to speak truth  to her and to help nurture  and build her self-esteem.  This means I in turn also  have to build my own self- esteem and be sure to not  speak any negative things  about myself in front of my  daughter. I refuse to ever  look in a mirror and call  myself fat— even on the days  when I feel like a whale. Why?  Because I don’t want my  daughter to overhear that  and think that her worth and beauty are ever defined by  her outward appearance. The  outside world will soon  enough tell her otherwise,  but by the time that happens  I hope that our work inside  the home will have a firm  foundation that will not be  easily shaken by the things  and people of this world.

My child dresses herself (and  usually doesn’t match) and  sometimes refuses to brush  her hair because she likes  messy hair. Yes, I let her  leave the house looking like  a hot mess. The reason? One  day soon enough she won’t  leave the house because her  clothes won’t be what the “ cool kids” are wearing and  one day she will refuse to  leave the house with messy  hair and that will be the  start of “bad hair days.”  I  look forward to those days. I  look forward to them because  they will be teachable  moments. They will be moments  I can use to remind her of who she  really is and where her  beauty and worth come from.

I am sitting here writing  this after I received a text message from a dear friend that read, “It’s always a good  start to my day when my mom  calls me fat.” When did it  ever become okay for us to  tell our children they are  fat!?!?! It is absolutely  unacceptable. We are suppose  to be a safe place for our  children to land. A place  they come to for truth and  reassurance. A place to be  reminded that what the world  has to say about us and our  bodies doesn’t matter. I am  blown away. I am enraged. I  think about my friend who by  the way is the most beautiful  person I have ever known and  is not overweight by any  means, but mostly I think  about my daughter. I think  about my daughter because I  can’t imagine being a mother  who speaks those words or any  hurtful words that tear my  child down. Our words have a profound effect on our children.

We have a little conversation that happens anytime we are going to play with our friends whether they are new friends or old friends. I adopted this from my dear friend because I love the simple reminder that it teaches our children.The conversation goes like this:

Me: Okay love, look at my eyeballs (so I know that she is listening)– what is the most important thing?

Emma: That we love each other mommy!

Me: And how do we do that honey?

Emma: We use kind hands and kind words.

I love the simplicity of the conversation, but mostly I love that it teaches my daughter to be mindful with her words and her hands because they have just as much impact in a persons life as mine and my husbands words have on her. It also teaches my daughter the importance of being kind and loving to herself. We’ve all heard the saying, “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” If my daughter can learn that if she wants to be treated kindly and loved well she has to treat others that same way, oh what a difference that will make.

She is a beautiful soul and her love for life is contagious. She radiates beauty inside and out and I am quick to remind her of that daily.

I have had several important people in my life who have been torn down and belittled by the most important people in their lives– their parents. And the problem is not just with our daughters but with our sons as well. Their self confidence and self love are just as important as our daughters. And I for one refuse to ever belittle or tear down my children. They are perfectly imperfect and I wouldn’t want them any other way. I will love my children regardless of what they look like, who they become and the choices they make. I will be one to remind them of their beauty and worth and where that truly comes from, because after all they are fearfully and wonderfully made.

So let’s start loving one another and using kind words to build our children up so that they in turn can be individuals who use their words to build others up. Let’s learn to love ourselves and let that self love radiate onto others. And for those of you with kiddos whether they be itty bitty or full grown– start speaking kindly to them. Let your voice echo truth when others try to drown them in the lies.

Morning Tea

I had just put the baby down for his morning nap and my daughter and I had a little bit of time before she had to be at school. My daughter asked if we could have a tea party.

We went into her room and we had a pretend tea party. We then decided we needed real tea and rice cakes (her new favorite snack). As I reached into the cabinet to get the coffee mugs I saw two mugs that were packed full of memories.

When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time with my grandparents because I loved being there. We played, we rode horses, we played in hay bails, we rode in semi trucks and roamed pastures for hours.

Those memories are wonderful- but the most wonderful memories happened in the mornings. My grandma is an avid coffee drinker (must be genetic). She would sit in front of the mirror in her robe with curlers in her hair and sipped her coffee as she put on her makeup. I would sit next to her and watch her as I sipped my coffee from a cup that matched hers. They were sweet moments I cherish to this day.

As a kid we would always joke about how long it took grandma to get ready in the morning but I always admired and loved how she eased into her day. She never rushed. She took time to pamper herself and to make herself feel important. I rarely do that. I feel as though I am rushed from the moment I open my eyes to the second I close them at night.

As I sat there in my jammies and had a tea party with my little love I realized I am “missing it.” I am missing life because I am so often rushed from one thing to the next. I miss out on the things happening in front of me. Had I not taken a moment to slow down and just sit with my daughter for a tea party I would have missed a wonderful conversation with her. I would have missed out on creating moments for her and I to cherish with those same mugs my grandma and I used.

I could continue to live this rushed lifestyle of bouncing from one thing to the other and miss out on life. Or I could be like my grandma and take things slowly. I could sip my coffee rather than drink cup after cup just as quickly as I pour it.

For today I will choose to sip my coffee and embrace the day because I don’t want to spend another day “missing it.”