Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mirror, Mirror


It occured to me today as I filled in my thinning eye brows, that I am going to be thirty this year.

Thirty.

Where did the time go?

Not that I would ever want to re-live my twenties.

No. Thank. You.

However, I am starting to think I've misplaced the confident, vivacious girl-woman I became in my twenties and I wouldn't mind to go back and look for her.

I thought your thirties were supposed to be your confident years-the new twenties- so, why do I feel so unsure of myself?

It's a question that has been plaguing me for weeks and I can't seem to find the answer.

When I stare at the woman looking back at me from the mirror, I can't seem to convince her that she's the same beautiful, confident, sexy girl she was in her twenties.

And it occured to me today that I can't even remember the last time I felt like any of those things.

I wonder if that girl even still exists?

Now don't get me wrong, I already know all the Sunday School answers about what true beauty is.

I have written here, here, here, and here about self confidence and valuing yourself-it just happens to be a soapbox of mine.

I know all about wrangling your inner demons, drowning out the media, and loving yourself for exactly who you are.

But, lately I seem to have lost my faith in those things.

I feel more like a scared, insecure girl of fourteen than a woman who is almost thirty.

And I just don't think that is normal.

I don't think the Lord wants us to deny ourselves and let ourselves go all for the sake of inner beauty. I think it's normal for women to want to believe that they are the beautiful and confident beings they were created to be.

And all the books and articles promised that I would feel this way going into my thirties, so why isn't that happening?

What's wrong with me?

Maybe this is all part of the transition.

Maybe I'll come back into my own eventually.

But, right now, I'm not sure when that will be.

But, could you do me a favor if you happen to see her?

Will you tell her I miss her and she can come back anytime now?

Thanks.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dear Emma: A Letter About Friendship

"Oh, the comfort, 
the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person;
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but to pour them all out, just as they are,
chaff and grain together,
knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping, 
and then, with a breath of kindness,
blow the rest away." 
~George Eliot

My Dear Emma,

It's been an amazing privilege for me as your mother to watch you begin your journey of friendships. A journey that will bring many, many people in and out of your life who will play a part in shaping who are and who you will be. In your short 5-almost 6-years, I have watched your friendship circle grow from your cousins to the children of my friends and your Dad's friends to preschool and kindergarten classmates. I have watched these friends already begin to shape you-teaching you valuable lessons about sharing and conflict resolution that you won't get from being an only child. I have watched with wonder your joy of sleepovers and imaginary dress-up games that are best shared with a friend-each playdate teaching you something I have missed. 

While, I hope your friendships are always this easy. I know that most likely that won't be so. In this life, especially as you get older, friends will come and go. Some friends will move away and new ones will move in. Some friends will break your heart while others come along side you and help you pick up the pieces. Some friends will prove to be nothing but memories from your childhood while other friends will prove to be lifelong memory makers-the ones who are worth keeping-and I hope that you will find a way to handle every transition with gratitude and grace. 

I may not know everything (shocking...I know!), but I do know a thing or two about friendships and what the real ones will start to look like once you're a little older. I want to share that with you. Here are the 5 friendships that have helped me survive my adult life, and I hope you find 5 friends just like them. 

1. The "Crazy" Friend. Every girl needs a "crazy" friend. The one who is your constant reminder not to take life so seriously. The one who will drag you off of the couch after every heartbreak or week from h*ll. The one who knows how to make you laugh and who reminds you how to be silly. The one who shows you that it's just a bad day not a bad life. 

2. The "Compass" Friend. Your "compass" friend is your friend who keeps you constantly pointed in the right direction. The one who prays for you and who isn't afraid to help you get turned back around when you get off course. She is your "faith" friend. The friend who encourages your walk with the Lord and you do the same thing for her. You know how to strengthen each other up and you aren't afraid to step on each other's toes. 

3. The "Inspirational" Friend. This is the friend who chases her dreams and encourages you to do the same. The one with ALL the talent, but who pretends like your talents are even better. This is the person who pushes you daily to be your best, because you are inspired by the way they refuse to settle with their own life.

4. The "Boy" Friend. I know that as you get older, you will probably have lots of "boyfriends". Boys who will date you and break your heart. Boys who will try to measure up, but who just won't seem to make the grade. I want you to know first and foremost, that every broken heart will shape you into the woman you will be someday. Yes, those broken hearts will hurt and if I could keep them from you, I would. But please know that while some of them will be harder to get over than others, not every boy is destined to break your heart. I will encourage you to wait for the boy who truly wants to be your friend-not just your boyfriend. A boy who will understand you like no other and who will love you at your best and at your worst. A boy who will measure up. A boy who will go above and beyond for you. Wait as long as you must for a boy like that. He's out there. I promise. 

5. The "Best" Friend. Throughout your life you will probably have lots of "best friends". You will probably  have the elementary school "best friend", the middle school 'best friend", the high school "best friend", and the college "best friend". You will probably remain "friends" with these "best friends" you're entire life, and if you find one who is truly your "best" friend through all of these transitions, hold onto her! But, most likely, these friends will fade slowly out of each phase of your life. Always your friend, but not in your life enough to be the best one. But, have no fear, you will find her eventually. That friend who will stick by you through thick and thin. The one who has officially seen you at your absolute worst and lived to tell about it. The one who will always be honest with you and tell you exactly how it is. This friend will be your lifelong friend. You may find her when you are 6, but it may take until you are 27...just like me. Either way, when you find her she will become an irreplaceble part of your life and you should treasure her always. 

I know, baby girl, that throughout your life these types of friends may come and go. They may embody one person one day and a completely different person the next. But, you should always enjoy them when you find them. Treasure them and the lessons they will teach you. Confide in them. Grow with them. Let them become imprinted upon the fiber of your being and a part of the make up of who you are and who you are becoming.

But, more importantly, little one: guard your heart against anyone who would only seek to hurt you or belittle you. You don't need those friends.

You don't need that "friend" who expert you to be "the follower" or "the scape goat". 

You don't need that "friend" who will turn their back on you at the slight hint of a storm or a scandal.

You don't need that "friend" who acts one way to your face and says something completely different behind your back. 

Trust me, sweet one. 

Those types of people are not really your friends, and there will be many of them that will come and go throughout your life. I promise. 

Baby girl, I can't wait to meet all of the good friends this life brings you. I can't wait to see the parts they each play in your life from your first day of kindergarten to your wedding day. You are a special girl who will someday be a very special woman, and I know that the true friends this life will bring you will help me teach you that. 

Love Always, Mom

Friday, January 16, 2015

An Unraveling


"As close as we'd been when we were together,
we were closer in our unraveling, 
telling each other everything at last, 
words that seemed to us might never have been 
spoken between two human beings before,
so deep we went,
saying everything that was
beautiful and ugly and true."
~ Cheryl Strayed, Wild

I'm proud of us sometimes. 

Really proud. 

The way we land comfortably in each other presence. 

The way we find our way back to the old friends we once were. 

The way you get me unlike anyone else. 

These are the moments when I feel like we are truly going to be okay. 

That I am going to be okay. 

That we are somehow going to find our way through this awkward, hard place and emerge somewhere in the middle of what was and what is to come.

I struggle sometimes with what is best for her.

How can we be better?

Stronger?

More sure of ourselves?

And then we have these fleeting moments of assurance that cause me to wonder how we could be anymore sure of ourselves than we already are?

It's like our unraveling has brought us closer.

To this place where we know we must fight-not against each other, but for each other.

For her.

For the common good.

And, I know.

I know that I sometimes get caught up in the waves-the ebb and flow. One minute my feet are planted solidly on the shore where we are of one mind-one purpose.

And in the very next moment, I feel myself being drug back out to the sea-pulled beneath the dark waters of grief and regret.

Those are the moments when you always seem to come in for a landing.

You pull me back to shore and remind me what this is truly about.

And you remind me with your presence, that eventually the waves will calm.

That someday soon I will see more of the shore than I do the dark waters.

But for now, I am thankful for every moment on the shore-for this common ground where we find ourselves sitting peacefully. Our eyes cast out to the sea wondering how long our "normal" will last this time.

 I will revel in this moment.

I will find a way to stay here as long as I can.

I promise, old friend.

I promise. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Be Still


"The Lord will fight for you.
You need only to be still."
Exodus 14:14 

2015 came in a rush, but with little to no fanfare. 

I've spent days pondering what I would write about 2014 and how I would signify it's end. 

To be honest, I didn't wish it away, as I had 2013. I didn't spend countless hours planning and promising how 2015 would be so much better than the years past. There just wasn't any need too. 

2014 was everything I prayed it would be: a bright, cloudless blue sky of hope and promise after years of skies that were full of the darkened clouds of pain, rejection, and regret. 

It was a turning point. 

A year of change. 

A year of renewed hope and brand new love. 

It was a beautiful year.

It was a good year.

Just as I knew it would be.

However, the end of the year had it's moments.

Moments of weakness and fraility.

Moments that continue to teach me that grief is a funny creature-one I have yet to master.

And it's these moments, despite all the high's of 2014, that leave me speechless. In fact, they leave me in a place where I want to pull away from the world and surround myself with what matters, so I can move forward completely healed and in one piece.

****

For the last year and a half, I have held my ground when it comes to writing what is true, and honest, and real. I feel like so much of what we show on social media is fake or barely skimming the surface of our lives.

We read rants about "airing our dirty laundry" and about keeping the monsters in our closets locked away, because no one "wants to see that" or "read about it". And yet, they do read it and they do chime in on it, because I hold firm in my belief that people DO want to see that-they want to see honest, raw, and real.

The truth is that when we're not posting pictures of our "perfect" family moments or spending our Novembers writing a thankful post for every freaking day, our lives behind the camera and the keyboard are just that: honest, raw, and real.

Yes, it's okay to take pride in the beautiful moments.

The moments that fill us with so much love and excitement that we feel like we might burst: the birth of a friend's child, a surprise engagement, a long-overdue date night, a moment when he deserves to be bragged on a little, that hellacious stent of potty training that finally ended sucessfully...we should share those moments! I think that's exactly what social media is for, so that the friends and loved ones we don't see all the time can share in those triumphs with us.

But, I think deep down, the people around us crave honesty too.

Honesty that reminds them that they are not the only ones with monsters hiding in their closets.

Honesty that reaches down and says, "I've been there" or "I am there".

Honesty that shows that human life is hard...so very hard...but we're still here. We are still living and breathing and taking it one day at a time.

Isn't that all any of us want from time to time?

Someone to just understand?

Unfortuantely, we have been brain-washed that social media is only for displays of perfection and I,quite frankly, have a problem with that.

So, I will be taking a hiatus from most social media, primarily Facebook, starting Monday, January 12th.

I did this at the end of 2013 for about six weeks, and I found it to be a great time of reflection.

Not only do I have some grief that I still need to work through, but I also need to refocus on what is important to me going in to 2015: my relationship with the Lord, my mental and spiritual health, my family, and making strides in my education.

On January 12th, I will begin taking my first seated class in 6 years, and I need to eliminate as much distraction from my life as possible, so I can be committed to succeeding in that class. I also want to do more writing here-on my blog, and I want to finally start the book the Lord has been chastening after me to write for the last two years.

I've finally decided that it's time, and another break from social media is the place to start.

I need to quiet my heart and mind, and truly give this life and His plan for it over to Him completely. I need to loosen my hold on the reigns, and allow Him to finally heal me and make me new for the wonderful future I know He has planned for me.

He has surrounded me with some of the most amazing people: a daughter who already sees me as everything I long to be in this life, a man who shows me every single day what uncoditional love really is, a family who fights for me every single day, and a couple of the most amazing best friends a girl could ever ask for.

I've decided these are the only people I need to surround myself with for the time being while I refocus and heal.

****

So how will we stay in touch?!

Well, the faithful who aren't afraid of a little raw honesty can always find me here: speaking my mind and spilling my bleeding heart.

Feel free to bookmark this page on your phones, tablets, and computers. My goal is write something-anything-at least once a week. Don't be afraid to leave comments either or shoot me an email if something stirs you.

You won't find any fake cover-ups here.

I will also be leaving my Instagram account open for the occassional picture of Emma that is just too good to pass up. Feel free to send me a follow request here. I don't find Instagram to be the distraction that Facebook is, but I will still limit my use to a few times a week.

****

2015 will be the year of being still.

My year to open myself up to His will and His way completely.

My year to finally allow Him to do all the fighting.

My year to find my way back to wholeness:mentally and spiritually. 

I'm ready. 

I'm finally ready.

And suddenly I have a feeling that 2015 is going to be the most amazing year yet. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lessons In Grace


It's been a stressful two weeks around here.

As most of you already know.

As I grapple with my depression over things I really shouldn't be depressed about (I'm ridiculous. It's official.) and prepare for another hectic holiday season that I am dreading more than words can express, the act of getting out of bed every day and plastering a smile on my face has taken every ounce of energy I can muster.

To say that my parenting is suffering is an understatement.

Add a bouncing,constantly talking, opiniated, are-you-sure-your-not-going-to-be-thirteen-tomorrow, five year old girl to that mix, and it's only a matter of time before you officially lose it.

And I did.

Last night.

Over pink blush.

****

My daughter's Christmas play was last night at the Luthern school where she attends kindergarten. She has been talking about this play and her very small part for weeks. 

Literally

In addition to quoting her single line 3,000 times a day, she had been begging me to allow her to wear the white Christmas dress my mother had bought for her and I know why. 

This winter white dress is gorgeous. It's a simple sheath with a gold bow at the neck. My mother had bought winter white tights with little gold circles all over them to go with the dress, and these adorable gold shoes adorn with pretty little butterflies. The best part of the whole dress is the coat that goes with it. It's a long winter white dress coat with a fur collar and fur around the wrists and these beautiful little gold buttons that just completes the entire outfit. 

I too had been very excited for her to finally wear it. 

So, last night we left a little early and went straight home. I sat her in my bathroom and painstakingly attempted to curl her long strawberry blonde hair with my curling iron. 

For the record, I am NOT a hair stylist. I can barely manage to control my own shoulder length bob, so for me to take the time to attempt to curl her beautiful hair is quite a task. 

Anyway, she was very good and sat very still while she watched a Disney show on my iPad. It took me about 45 minutes, but I finally got all of it to curl. 

It looked perfect.

Afterwards, we went into her room and slipped on the dress, tights, and shoes and finished the look by putting a winter white headband that was adorn with glittery gold flowers in her hair. 

She looked gorgeous. 

Her strawberry blonde hair looked so pretty next to the winter white fabric, and I couldn't wait to get a picture. 

I had about 20 minutes to get myself ready, so I rushed into my bathroom and left her to play in her room while I touched up my make up and put on something slightly more festive than the jeans I had worn to work.

I noticed she was being awfully quiet, and I said to her from my bathroom as I applied my make up, 

"I hope you're not doing anything that's going to get all over that dress, Emma!"

She responded that she wasn't and I turned my attention back to the mirror. 

It wasn't even five minutes later and there she was standing next to me in my bathroom-apologizing, with bring pink play-blush all down the front of her white dress. 

I snapped. 

Literally.

<Enter ragging lunatic stage right.> 

I yanked the dress off of her-yelling and ranting all the while-as I rushed to the kitchen and scrubbed furiously trying to get it out.

It wasn't pretty. 

I've never seen her sit so. still. 

****


Obviously, it was NOT my proudest moment.

It was one of those moments in my motherhood journey that will serve as a reminder that I'm still allowing certain things to have control over me and that control is impacting everything in my life not just my parenting. 

I took a deep breath, re-dressed my crying child, and did what had to be done: I whispered an apology into those very sad, hazel eyes. 

She smiled and instantly threw her arms around me.

Forgiveness. 

These moments of grace are when I find myself the most thankful. 

I'm thankful for her forgiveness when there is no do-over. 

I'm thankful for her unconditional love when I am being very unloveable.

I'm thankful for her laughter and chatter that fills the car after a very bad moment. 

I'm thankful that when I am at my weakest, she still manages to be my strength. 

Because motherhood isn't always beautiful.

Sometimes we make it ugly with our failures, our imperfections, and our pure human-ness. 

Sometimes we get so caught up in the heartaches of this world that we forget the people who have been placed in our lives to bind up our wounds and forgive us even on our darkest days. 

I am humbled by them.

But, more importantly, I am humbled by her and her ability to see me as beautiful, even when I am at my ugliest. 

These are the moments that remind me that I am her mother. 

Just me.

Because that type of unconditional love cannot be bought...it is born. 

It thrives in the flesh of my flesh.

The blood of my blood.

The heart of my heart. 

I lose sight of just how strong our bond is sometimes.

And then she reminds me of it with her grace. 

Over and over. 

****

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Girl In My Closet

"I'll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife..."
Hozier, Take Me To Church

I forget that I am human sometimes.

That I hurt.

That I feel the things of this world too deeply at times. 

When I'm writing these new "positive" blogs and spouting off co-parenting advice and beautifully mature letters to her future stepmother, I feel like I am some supernatural being here to save the world from all of my mistakes!

But then something happens that brings me back down to planet earth. 

Back into the puddled mess of a girl I used to be. 

The girl who spent more time looking at the ground than at the sky. 

The girl who lost herself in a dream that turned out only to be a nightmare.

The girl who gave and gave and gave until every ounce of her childhood was stripped of her by rough hands and reminders that she would never be good enough. 

I hate that girl. 

I HATE her. 

But, she's still in there.

Still huddled in a corner somewhere waiting to be drug out from the darkness to face the light. 

In all fairness, The woman I am now is trying to be mature. 

Trying to bite her tongue. 

Trying to find a way to pick up the pieces again and move forward.

But, the girl in my closet demands to be heard.

She claws at my heart.

She fills my mind with her bruises and tears. 

And all she keeps saying over and over and over is this:

"Why wasn't I worth it?"

Why?

Yes. She made mistakes-terrible, awful mistakes that have required too many sacrifices and penance that never seems to be enough. 

But, you had determined her worth long before her mistakes were made. 

You had filled her heart, mind, and body with scars long before she took a bite of her poisoned apple. 

And she's still dying to know why?

What makes your new girl worth more than the girl in my closet.

The girl huddled, scared on the bathroom floor. 

The girl who gave you the most beautiful little love of your life. 

The girl who gave you so much of her childhood and growing up years.

Why is she worth more than her?

Why is her heart, body, and mind sacred to you and mine was just a vessel to be used.

To be forced.

To be bent.

To be broken. 

Why?

I wish I had answers for that girl inside of me, but I don't. 

The woman I've become who is loved more than she will ever understand by the most amazing man on the entire planet just can't seem to explain it to her no matter how hard I try. 

So, tonight I'm just going to ache for that girl and for all the lies she believed. 

Because despite what you told her, she is beautiful. 

She is worth it.

And she grew up into someone who is stronger than she ever thought was possible. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Boy


“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
~Maya Angelou

I'll never forget the night I met him.

I had been divorced for almost 6 months and I had just walked away from a failed attempt at a "rebound" relationship. 

My heart was so tired. 

I had officially given up.

We had taken one of my very best friends out for her birthday and as usual dinner turned into dancing as it always does with her. 

So, we took her dancing, because it was her birthday and that's what all amazing friends do. I was the driver a.k.a the babysitter, so I found a table, situated myself with all their purses and drinks, and I began to watch them dance. 

It was a good night.

A good night for forgetting.

A good night for allowing yourself to be carried away by the loud thump of the music and the healing that comes from a much needed girls night with your very best friends. 

He was totally unexpected.

Totally. 

The next thing I knew he was sitting next to me trying to have a conversation with me over the extremely loud music. I smiled. I nodded. I barely caught his name and filed it in the back of my mind as just another guy in another bar. I looked toward the dance floor. 

Wasn't my friend ready to leave yet?

I turned back to him trying to hear him. He laid his phone on the table in front of us.

He was asking me for my number. 

I don't know what it was that told me to do it or where my extremely jaded heart managed to find that spark of hope, but I reached down and typed it in his phone.

Suddenly the girls were ready. I was being shuffled out the door. 

As we walked to my car, they teased me. I laughed and said, "Yeah, right. I bet he never calls."

And then we heard him running up behind me and calling for me. I stopped and turned around-wondering what in the world he could possibly want.

He smiled, "I didn't get the last digit of your number."

And my life has never been the same. 

****

The thing about hope is that it begs you to believe even when your faith is worn thin. 

Hope takes your tear stained face in its hands and says, "Hold on. It's coming." 

Hope reminds you that there is still good in this world, even when everything around you seems so dark. 

It's a beautiful flame.

A ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. 

It's the seams that hold your broken heart together.

That's what he has become to me. 

He represents my hope. 

He is everything I never knew I needed, but now I can't imagine ever living without. 

He is the spark. 

The reminder of what it is to never give up.

Even when you are so worn out and tired from the journey, you can't give up.

Because what's waiting for you around the next corner, is the reason for it all-for every heartache, tear, and bruise to your soul.

A love with no end. 

A love that looks at you in the most dark and broken place of your entire existence, and says, "None of that matters."

None of it.

A love that chooses you. 

Just you.

Every. single. day. 

A love that has grown from the ashes of a condemned life. 

A love that is full of grace.

Beautiful, undeserving grace. 

****

Yes, I am blessed. 

Blessed beyond measure. 

And my heart has never been so full. 

I am thankful for him for all of those reasons, and so many more. 

I am thankful for mornings-for every single day that I wake up and he is still here loving me with a love I cannot possibly deserve. 

I am thankful for the way he loves my daughter. The way he has just quietly come along side us and fit perfectly into our lives. 

I am thankful for the way he loves me in front of my daughter-for the amazing example he is to her of what she should someday wait for in a man. 

I am thankful for the way he has become my partner and my very best friend. He is everything my heart could possibly need and so much more. 

I am thankful for his heart that not only beats for me, but for others. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and the way he loves people, especially his family. He is good. SO good. And he gives without ever expecting anything in return. He is the most loyal friend you could ever hope to have and I am thankful to call him mine. 

****

A year ago today, I wrote the post, The Boy I'm Waiting For

It seems fitting to let you know that I've found him. 

As I read through this list that was made months before I ever met him, I have to smile because it was like my heart already knew him. The Lord was preparing me for this boy who would come into my life so unexpectedly and would be everything I ever wanted on that list and so much more. 

All it took was a little hope, a little faith, and a best friend who always wants to go dancing. 

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I do not receive monetary compensation from any of the products, companies, or organizations I promote through my blog, unless otherwise specified during a giveaway or promotion. I am just your average mom trying to share products that I enjoy with other moms, as well as organizations and charities I believe in.