Waiting is hard to do. In fact, I think waiting seasons, at least for me, are the some of the hardest seasons in life.
With mountains and valleys, you kind of know what to expect; how and when to brace yourself. But what about plateaus? You're waiting to see what comes next and you don't know where to brace yourself for a fall into a valley, or a climb up a mountain, or smooth coasting
God plants a dream in your heart. You pray about it consistently. You seek Him and His direction. And you wait and you trust.
Waiting seasons are vulnerable seasons and that's hard. It's easy to get frustrated or sad or mad or any range of emotions. There are moments where it seems that giving up on the dream that God has planted in your heart may be the easier route.
We live in an age of instant gratification.
That makes seasons of waiting a temptation to plow over God's plans for us with our own plans. It's hard to resist that temptation. I know. I have been there far too many times.
Seasons of waiting are not times of complacency. They do not mean that you just sit around and wait to see what happens next. You dive into the Word. You dive into prayer. Talk to Him. Seek Him.
Sometimes, in the seasons of waiting, we may question His love for us or feel like He has abandoned us. But He is right there, friend. His love for you is indescribable. He has special plans for you in every season, but the waiting is where I find that He teaches me the most.
I know that at times you will want to cry out. Do it. He's listening. I know at times you will want to throw in the towel and think that the journey you are on is pointless.
But then, if you keep seeking Him and trusting Him, you will find Him in the waiting. It is in the seasons of waiting that you see the magnitude of your dependence on Him as you have zero control over what happens. It is in the seasons of waiting where you have to trust and you have to exercise faith.
It's still hard. It's not in our nature to wait and trust. Our human nature wants control over every moment of life. But that's the beauty of this time.
When we let go of that need for control...
When we completely abandon it for trust in the God who intricately wove us together...
When we put it behind us with the cross before us...
When we toss it aside and trade it in for radical faith...
We find beauty in the waiting. We find meaning in the waiting. We find value in the waiting.
It is crazy to me to think that tomorrow will be 2017. It seems the older I get, the more miraculous a new year seems. I've been blessed with the chance to see another year and to share another year with all of the amazing people in my life.
The common thing for this time is to set resolutions and often they are health related or something similar, but I am a fan of goals more than resolutions.
2016 had its downs and it definitely came with its many trials, but my family moved to Birmingham, I began to follow my passion of supporting sexual assault survivors, was blessed to visit Haiti, and so much more.
My goal for 2017 is to live. To really, truly live.
I don't want to just trudge through 2017...I want to embrace every moment of it.
I want to engage people around me and not just pass them by.
I want to be everything that God created me to be in 2017 as a Christ-follower, as a wife, as a mother, as an advocate, as a professional, as a student, as a person.
I want to believe in myself and others and to consistently choose to live in the belief of God's promises.
I want to grow daily and to strive daily to do better than the day before.
I want to do random acts of kindness every single day.
I want to let go of anything that holds me back or hinders me in any way.
I want to learn something new every single day and I want to continue to learn how to grow as a sexual assault advocate.
I want to live for Christ every single moment of every day with every breath that I take.
I want to give love and kindness abundantly.
I want to grow as a follower of Christ, as a wife, as a mother, as a friend, and as a person.
And I want to pursue the dream that God has placed in my heart with every ounce of my being. Much of my year will be placed on laying the foundation for Because One Ministries and seeking God's direction in supporting SA survivors through this avenue.
"I wish we had known. Things could have been different."
I heard these words recently and I have since thought about them a lot. They were in reference to the fact that I kept the fact that I was sexually assaulted in high school a secret. That secret turned into the raging storm of an eating disorder that plagued a huge part of my life.
And they were right...if I had told someone, things could have been different. Maybe I would have had the support I needed. Maybe I could have gone to counseling. Maybe the person would have been caught. Maybe I never would have started starving myself to cope.
But through my reflection on how things could have been different, God has shown me even more clearly the beauty of my journey.
Could it have been easier? It's possible.
But where I am now is worth every valley and mountain that has been along my path in life. The way my story played out has made me the mother I am, has made me the advocate that I am...the way my story played out is the root of my passion for sexual assault survivors, my motivation for open communication with my daughters...it is such a part of who I am.
I hate eating disorders and I hate everything that it took away from me...but I love the people that it brought into my life. I love the lessons that God taught me through it...about life, about myself, and about my place in this world. I HATE sexual assault and I hate everything that it took away from me, but I love the passion that God gave me through it and I love the people that God has brought into my life through it.
Things could have been different.
But if my road had been easier, I probably would not have Audrey. Maybe I would still be teaching elementary school instead of chasing my passion of working with sexual assault survivors. My love and passion for art might still be undiscovered. If I had not hit rock bottom with an eating disorder as a result, maybe I would still be back in that small town instead of living in this city that I love and traveling the world with a message of hope and love. If things had been different, there are some amazing people in my life that I never would have met.
It's easy to sit back and thank God for the good and easy times. But reflecting on these words has made me even more grateful for the hard times too. It's extremely difficult to see it at the time, but each one of them has made me who I am today and each one has played a part in bringing me to this exact moment.
Our journeys are riddled with road blocks, dead ends, and rough terrain. The important thing is that we don't let those obstacles stop us. We cross them and we turn them into dreams.
Oh my sweet baby boy...it's been more than four years since we said "hello" and "goodbye" in the same moments. I've learned to channel my grief into good by giving back to others or channeling it into art. The moments where it catches me off guard are pretty rare these days. It's always there, but those moments where the tears leak out happen less and less often.
But sometimes you surprise me.
This week it came in the mail. We received an invitation from our incredible church for a Mother/Son and Father/Daughter dinner. I smiled thinking of my husband who is an amazing father spending the evening with our precious oldest daughter. But then, as my eyes looked back to the invitation, they locked on the "mother/son" part of the invitation.
The reality that I would not be participating in this dinner hit me. But not because I don't have a son. But because I do, but you're not here to go with me.
For a moment I imagined walking into that dinner. The picture is blurry as I only have faint ideas of what you might look like now. But in my mind you look like your daddy. I see your precious tiny hand clenched in mine, dragging me behind you as you take in everything in the room, occasionally drawing closer to my leg when someone speaks to you and you feel shy.
I see your blonde, wavy hair curling a bit on top of your head as you are dressed in a tiny suit that your daddy always liked looking at in stores when you were still kicking away in my womb. You turn to look at me with a smile on your face and I see your daddy's blue eyes that you would share with your sisters glistening with excitement as you start to tell me about something you see.
Pregnant with Barrett - 2012
And then I'm back in my bedroom in our apartment and I feel the tears dripping down my face.
Baby boy, you've changed my life. You made me a better person, and I don't know how I could ever thank you for that. Your death is a constant reminder to me to never take a day that I have with your sisters for granted. And I know that you are watching over tiny Gabriel until mom gets to see you both again. What a blessing to be able to grieve with hope.
Not a day goes by that I don't think of you, with a smile passing over my face as I think of what a blessing you have been to our family and countless other lives. But sometimes, like this moment this week, you still surprise me.
You're not here for us to go to the dinner, but you are always in my heart and I will always, always, always carry you with me.
Motherhood is so rewarding, but it can be so draining. This is especially true in an age of social media when comparison is so easy to do before we even realize it. We forget that social media is but a glimpse.
My motherhood journey has been and will continue to be full of mistakes, but I now view each one as a learning opportunity because that is the best thing that we can do with those moments.
But in the last year, my views on motherhood have changed even more and I hope that I leave a legacy for my grandchildren and beyond that is full of mothers investing time.
When my girls think back, I hope they remember a mom who worked three jobs while in graduate school but still always had time for them.
I hope they remember a mom who may not have had a spotless home, but who always valued time with them more and had no problem immediately putting down the broom when they asked to be rocked or wanted to read a story.
I hope that they remember a mom who left the laundry for another day when bath time ran late because she got caught up in splashing and playing horses with them in the water after she washed their hair.
I hope they remember a mom who often said "those things can wait" and instead loaded them up and took them to the park to swing or play soccer.
I hope they remember a mom who knew when she was becoming frustrated and stepped away to let them wane before speaking to them so that the tone that came next was full of love.
I hope they remember a mom who disciplined by listening, explaining, and discussing; a mom who allowed them to have bad moods and bad days instead of holding them to a standard of perfection that it impossible to reach; a mom who taught them the importance of honoring emotions and not holding them in.
I hope they remember a mom who made sure she always had enough patience for them.
I hope they remember a mom who made sure they were at church with her even when everyone overslept and all arrived with ponytails and buns on our heads.
I hope they remember a mom who treasured curling up in the chair with them and reading to them or sitting in the floor playing in the dollhouse.
I hope they remember funny conversations at the dinner table and that their mom was never ashamed of being silly with them.
I hope they remember a mom who fought for what she believed in and instilled that passion in them.
I hope they remember a mom who taught them the importance of self-care so that you have a full bucket to pour into others.
I hope they remember a mom who cared about the world they would grow up in and fought to make it better.
I hope that they remember a mom who always reminded them the importance of kindness and loving other people.
I hope they remember a mom who told them that their voice was powerful and that they should use it for good.
I hope they remember that she made mistakes and she wasn't perfect, but that she asked for forgiveness and always worked to learn from those mistakes. I hope they remember a mom who fought for them and who loved them immensely.
This world your father and I are raising you in has not looked very pretty the last year. This election has brought up a lot of words and behavior that thankfully I did not usually deal with on a regular basis. With voting being in two days and the world being saturated with so many messages from these candidates, I wanted to make sure you got a message from mom.
You. Are. Enough.
Do not ever let anyone tell you that because you are female, that you are less. You are not less. Being a woman is not easy, but it is something that I am proud of, and I hope you are too.
The world will saturate you with messages that your beauty is determined by your weight or your body shape, the clothes you wear, or the makeup on your face. Do not believe those lies. You are beautiful because you are you. That's not a cliche. It is absolute truth.
In this world you will have struggles. God does not hide that fact. But don't let those struggles make you forget who you are. Never let them become more powerful than your identity as a one of a kind, made in God's image, beautiful, strong, woman. When struggles come your way, do whatever you need to do to work through them and heal. Do not ignore them. Face them even when it's hard and deal with them physically, emotionally, and mentally. Ask for support when you need it and be willing to be honest with yourself about when you need it. And then, let those struggles motivate you rather than define you.
Let those struggles, and your testimony of God being with you in the midst of them, be your motivation to make a difference in this world.
Never let anyone..ANYONE...tell you that one person cannot make a difference in this world. God has used plenty of individuals to enact incredible change...just look at David. LOOK AT ESTHER. The list could go on and on. If you seek Him as you seek to make this world a better place, nothing and no one can stand in your way.
My girls, when you hear messages from people around you that anyone is undeserving of love or assistance, call out those words for what they are:lies. We don't get to determine who gets our love and our kindness and our support; we freely give it and trust God to do the rest.
When you feel like your love is met with hate, love anyway. When you feel like your kindness is taken advantage of, be kind anyway. When your assistance is rejected, let your offer continue to stand in case they change their mind.
When the world tells you that you are wasting your time investing in someone, invest your time anyway.
Time invested in another human being is never wasted my loves. Invest away.
When you start to wonder if you are wasting your time, take some time for yourself, and then get back up and keep fighting. Sometimes you go long periods without seeing any fruit, but then one day you will be amazed when that person you have been investing in smiles at you and suddenly it is all worth it. That person may never tell you, but it could be that their story always includes "Because that person cared...", and though you never hear it, you made a difference.
Give kindness freely. Smile at strangers. Lend a hand. Sit and listen. Hold their hand when they're struggling. Hug them if they need it. And be willing to be on the receiving end when you need a smile, a hand to help, and ear to listen, a hand to hold, or arms to hug.
Love without borders.
Look in the mirror and see beauty.
Look at other people, all of them, and see beauty.
Look in the mirror and see worth.
Look at those around you, and see worth.
Look in the mirror and see a unique child of God created in His image.
And then look at everyone around you and see beautiful souls, each uniquely designed and created in His image.
Look in the mirror and see a beloved daughter of the Most High King.
And then look around at the world and see His beloved sons and daughters.
And then here is the kicker:
Believe that about yourself. Believe that about everyone around you.
Treat yourself like you believe that. Treat everyone you encounter like you believe that.
You will be a light; a radiating light.
In this world you will have trouble my incredible daughters. In this world you will see injustice. You will see bitterness and sometimes you will see people just being mean. You will be overwhelmed by the hatred you witness. Your heart will break and you will hurt. You will see things that make you wonder why you try.
Seek the justice you wish to see. When you see bitterness, be forgiving. When you see "mean", be kind. When you see hate, love. Allow your broken heart to heal and know that it's ok to hurt. And always, always, always, try anyway.
You are world changers. You are important. You are loved.
Love, your hard-headed Momma who refuses to believe she can't change the world with Jesus on her side.
I don't know your name, but I know your face. I don't know where you are, but I know that for years, your image lived inside of my mind. You thought you hurt me for one night, but it lasted much longer. Mostly because I let you hurt me for that long.
I need you to know that you had no right to hurt me. I need you to know that everything that happened that night, was your fault. It took me almost ten years to realize and accept that fact. I had zero fault. For almost a decade, I found every reason I could to try to blame myself to make myself feel safer; like I could prevent it from happening again. But that wasn't true. You made the choice to assault me.
I need you to know that I almost died because of what you did that night. I spent years starving my body trying to cope and I came dangerously close. What you did affected not just me, but my husband, my children, and our families and friends.
I would say that you changed my life that night, but you don't have that much power. But what you did sent me into a spiral that changed my life.
When I got home that night, I took my "True Love Waits" ring and slammed it in a drawer, convinced that you had stolen that from me. But you didn't. I just didn't have anyone to tell me otherwise since I kept that night locked away in my mind. But don't worry, the story of that ring didn't end there.
I missed my senior year of high school taking care of my four month old baby while my classmates graduated. Because after that night, I didn't care about my values anymore and I threw caution to the wind.
I lost myself in work and college and graduated with my four year degree in just over two years. I got promoted to a manager at my first job after only one month. I thought I needed to prove myself. I needed to reassure myself that I could still go on; that my life didn't stop that night in June 2007.
I was putting on a pretty good show until my son was stillborn in 2012 and I could no longer keep up. I had been starving myself as a coping mechanism since that night, but that escalated things. I wouldn't eat and I would exercise until I couldn't move anymore. I couldn't control what you did to my body, but anorexia made me feel in control of what went in and out of my body every day after that.
I spent more than half a year away from my family in 2015 finally getting the help I needed. It was then, that I finally allowed myself to be angry with you. The sound of ceramic plates crashing against a brick wall were the embodiment of the anger that I finally realized was justified.
I need you to know that for a long time, I thought you ruined my life. Buy you don't have that kind of power. You hurt me, and I let that hurt control me for a long time, but that ended.
I know that you probably won't ever read this. I know that there's a possibility that you haven't thought about me in years, or maybe even since that night. There's a possibility that, though I lived with the pain every day, your life went on completely normal as if nothing had happened. That wasn't an option for me.
In case you do read this, I need you to know that I forgive you. The pain you caused me was immeasurable, but I serve a God who is bigger.
I serve a God who took what you did to me that night and radically changed my life. He took that "True Love Waits" ring and placed it back on my finger until He presented me with the opportunity to pass it on to someone who needed to hear the truth that I didn't have anyone to tell me the night that I took it off.
My God took that pain and turned it into my passion in life. He took those wounds and He healed them. There are scars, but they tell a beautiful story of redemption and grace. He took what you meant for harm, and He turned it into good.
My God is a merciful Father who was waiting for me with outstretched, open arms when I finally went running to Him for the love and comfort I had been searching for since that night.
I need you to know that you didn't defeat me. I need you to know that I am stronger because I serve a God who promise that I can do all things through Him when I draw my strength from Him.
My God is a loving God who writes amazing stories. I never imagined on that night that He would lead me to spend my life working with sexual assault victims. Being an advocate as a career was not on my radar. All of the amazing people that came into my life through every single path that came as a result of that night have made my life incredible. He writes breathtaking stories.
I forgive you.
He loves me, oh how He loves me. He loves me. And oh how He loves you.