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

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“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.

Security Blanket

The other day my husband and I were in the kitchen cooking a meal when he grabbed me and begun to dance with me. We slow danced in the kitchen to whatever was playing on Pandora. I glanced over and caught a glimpse of our daughter– she had the biggest smile I had ever seen come across her 4 year old face as she watched her parents dance with one another.

A few days later my husband wrapped me in his arms and kissed me. I then caught a glimpse of our son intently watching us. His face displayed pure happiness and security. My husband held me while we looked at his sweet face and I wept.

I wept for my own grief of not having that with my own parents. I also wept tears of joy and thankfulness that my children will only know that kind of love and security.

I longed and desired to find some security in my parents, their marriage and in love. I never saw it. I saw instead pain, anger, sadness and no sign of love. My parents loved my siblings and I… but deep down I knew that their marriage was never going to last. I ached for it too. I longed to have parents who set an example of a loving, strong marriage. One I could look up to when the time came for me to get married. That never happened. I had friends whose parents loved each other with a love so fierce. I longed for that.

My parents eventually divorced and I was devastated. I was thankful for the fighting to end. I wouldn’t wish for them to still be unhappy and married. However I believed that love looked like my parents and I refused to ever submit myself to that.

I wanted passionate, fierce love. I wanted authentic, raw and honest love.

I found that kind of love. I have that kind of love with my amazing husband. We had to fight for what we have now and I would do it all again to have what we have now. I am thankful for him and his love everyday and I am thankful that our children can rest in the security that their parents love and respect each other!

 

Peaks and Valley’s

Call it bias but I live in the most beautiful place on earth. My view day in and day out is breath-taking. I get to stare at the beautiful Rocky Mountains. I am blessed that I can drive 20 minutes to be completely engulfed by their presence. It is not a sight I ever take for granted.
I escape to those mountains often, especially when my heart is heavy. They are a safe place. They serve to remind me of truth, of who I am and who I am meant to be. They remind me that there is more to this life than what’s in front of me.

Recently my family and I decided to go spend a cooler summer day in the mountains to hike and bask in the beauty that surrounded us. I took in the beauty, I breathed in the fresh mountain air, I silently listened to the sound of the rushing river below and I let it all consume me. It was a healing moment. It was a majestic moment. It was a moment that reminded me of part of my own story.

The mountains do all those things because when I was a lost, hurting, scared, lonely, heavyhearted teenage girl I spent a week backpacking in those mountains and my life was forever changed.

I showed up over-packed and naive. Truthfully I thought it would be a cake walk. I didn’t realize I would have to carry a heavy pack with all my things, plus food up a mountain and back down. I didn’t realize I would have to sleep outside in a sleeping bag vulnerable to anything wild that lived there. The trip was suppose to be a week of escaping my ugliness not facing it head on.

As we hiked along the trail I remember saying to my trail guide that, “ it was really cool when you can actually see how far you’ve come and can actually see you’re going up.” My guide made a comment following that, that has stuck with me ever since; she said, “ yeah it’s kind of like life we can’t see where we are going until we get to the top and then we can see how far we’ve come.” That very conversation is why the mountains will always be my go to place when my heart is heavy. Sometimes when we are in the valley it’s hard to see where we are going. We feel like we are doing all this work and nothing is changing, we aren’t going anywhere. Truthfully it’s like that when climbing to the top of the mountain as well. There are so many moments when you feel like you have made no progress and you’ll never reach the top. Life is much the same way. We gotta hike through the valley to get to the top of the mountain. We can sit and relish in that beauty for a moment. We can see how far we have come and then we begin to make our descent back down the mountain.

That’s where I struggle. I so often want to stay on the mountain top where life is quiet and peaceful. I don’t want to have to climb back through the valley just to go back up to the top of the next mountain. Then I am humbly and graciously reminded that life is meant to be lived in both the valley and the mountain tops. It’s a beautiful and wonderful mixture of both.

So here’s to living in the peaks and the valley’s because both are equally as beautiful, breath-taking and exhilarating as the other.

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.

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.

Simple Humanity.

Sitting down at dinner last night I found myself eavesdropping on a conversation happening at the bar. I felt honored and humbled to be listening to their conversation and walked away feeling inspired.

My family and I went to this hole in the wall bar and grill for dinner last night (they have delicious tacos) and sitting at the bar was an older homeless gentleman and next to him was a younger gentleman (maybe in his late 30’s or early 40’s). The younger gentleman was chatting with the older gentleman– the bartender came over to collect the younger gentleman’s bill when he stopped her mid transaction and said, “Sir are you hungry? Order something off the menu.” To which the older gentleman resisted. The younger gentleman said, “Just give him an order of warm tacos.”

I was of course intrigued by what I had heard and of course decided to listen in on their entire conversation. After the food was ordered the younger gentleman turned to the older gentleman, as the older gentleman proceeded to tell the younger one some of his story. I could hear him talking of his journey from St. Louis to Colorado.

At one point the younger gentleman looked at the older one and asked, ” So Tom what does your future look like?” The homeless man got a little agitated with the question. The younger gentleman looked at him and said, “Sir I am only asking because I care. It’s the only reason I wanted to buy you a drink and a meal. To let you know someone cares. So tell me sir, what does your future hold?”

I don’t believe the man answered him and if he did I didn’t catch the answer.

However the younger gentleman went on to share of his struggles with his teenage son. He was about to leave to go have a meeting in regards to his son and how he can get him motivated and to keep him out of trouble. The homeless man sat and listened to the younger gentleman share of his troubles. The wise older man spoke words of wisdom and asked questions.

It was beautiful. Two very different men. One young. One old. One wealthy. One poor. One with a family and a home. One alone and homeless. Yet they had something in common. They were both hungry and needed to be fed.

What a beautiful picture of simple humanity. What if we all took a moment to give of ourselves to another. The reward and the outcome might start to surprise us. Oh and what a simple world we would live in. A world free of judgment. A world free of having to take from others to satisfy our own needs. A world full of love and grace.

Oh what a world that would be.

So I challenge you to sit down next to someone different than you and feed them in the way the need fed. It might just surprise you.