Sunday, December 20, 2015

in the darkness


In the light of the holidays it can feel isolating to be covered in darkness. But it's not only this time of year that it's difficult to breathe under the weight of happiness and good news all around. Engagements, marriages, babies, new jobs, new houses - it can feel like a merry-go-round. The merry that goes round and round but never stops where you're standing long enough for you to get on the ride for yourself. When everyone else's happy invades your hurt and it's painful to just be.

I've spent a lot of time mesmerized by scriptures about light and darkness. To me it has always felt like a black and white scenario. One or the other. Darkness and light cannot coexist. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Separate entities.

But then something happened that opened my eyes. A scripture that I've read dozens of times jumped off the pages into my heart and God spoke to me. The first chapter of the entire bible, in the book of Genesis, brought a new understanding into my heart. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters. This had me nodding my head in the parallels of my life to the creation of the world. The earth was formless and empty. Another version says it was formless and void. I sure feel that way a lot lately. Darkness was over the surface of the deep. That's where it's been lingering in my life. Not on the small day to day things, but the deep matters of my life. That's where darkness has resided. What blew me away? God hovers over the waters. When the earth was first made there was nothing deeper than the water. It was all water - God does not separate the water from land and sky until the next few days. So when I stop and really try to picture that it just blows my mind away. That on a formless and empty deep darkness, God hovered over. Covering the darkness with Himself. God of Light covered the darkness. In the beginning light covered darkness. Knowing God is immutable and never changing tells me that He still covers the darkness today. He will do this until the end of time. Does that bring you joy like it does for me?

The scripture then continues with it's awe-filled self, And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. Did you catch that? Because I never did before. But this time, it practically held me down asking for my attention. First God made light. Then He saw that it was good. Then after these things He separated the light from the darkness. Before God separated the two, they co-existed. Light and dark. Together. Mixed up. Which is how they are in my life. Not as one or the other, but together. As if the light is Gods grace for the tough days. I praise Him for every little glimmer. Every text, email or phone call. Every song as a reminder. Each smile from a stranger or hug from a friend. The light that mixes in with my darkness. I think of when I'm baking and I mix all the dry ingredients together and separating them would be impossible. But God does the impossible. He separates two entities that once were one and gives us the two so that we can use it as a tool to measure day from night, seasons, signs, and years.

And, God said, 'Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light to the earth.' And it was so. God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light to the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.

God never says that darkness is bad. But He does go to great extremes to make sure we always have a good light in the darkness. Whether it's the moon or the stars. There's always a small glimmer of light twinkling out from behind the curtain of darkness. Do you know what is the greatest part about all of this? Even on the stormiest nights, we can be sure that behind the clouds the stars are still shining and the moon is still bright. It's all about our perception. God is the same way. Even on our darkest nights, when the walls are closing in and there doesn't appear to be one good thing going right and the world feels like it's falling apart one frayed thread at a time, God is still there over it all. Even when we can't see Him. Just as certain as we can be that the stars and moon and even the sun are still there, so we can think of God. God gave the light to govern the day and the night. The storms come and they linger often times longer than we expected and longer than we like. But above it all is a Greater Light still.

In the book of Isaiah, it talks about God's mercies for Israel and foretells of the coming Messiah. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of His people and heals the wounds He inflicted. I keep holding fast to this promise. One day this darkness will seem like a distant memory. One day the blessings will be so great that everything will be brighter. I long for that day.

Here, in the beginning of the world, begins a foretelling of the story of the coming Messiah. The one who truly governs day and night. The one who will cast out all our darkness, sorrows, heartache and pain. Light, born in the darkness and then set apart. Born into the dark, yucky places where we lay down. The place where we fall to our knees in utter disbelief that a world could be so cold, that hearts could be so cruel and goodness is sometimes hard to find. The place where we throw up our hands and surrender to God's plan because we are out of ideas and out on our own. The place where isolation unexpectedly meets a Savior. In the darkest, most unusual place, a King was born. A light shined in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. He did not come in through a spot light. He wasn't featured on the news for 72 hours while the world awaited His arrival. No one had televisions on in their workplace awaiting the first sight of this newborn baby. Many didn't even know He was coming, not at this exact time. He just sneaks in under the radar.

This weekend my friend gave me a Christmas gift. She handmade me a nativity set. The timing of it couldn't have been more perfect. The night before I cried out and literally felt the hope sink down in me as I desperately sought to sit at the feet of the nativity at a local church only to discover the lights had been turned out. My friend gave me this gift and I unwrapped each member of the nativity set. Once everyone was positioned in their place she turned off all the lights. I wasn't sure what she was going to do and then she flipped a switch and all the stars lit up in the nativity! This is exactly how God works. He comes to us on a dark quiet night so that we can see how great His light really is. Those who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.

Last weekend there was a meteor shower. On my way home as I was crying and praying to God I saw a star fall right out of the sky in front of me. As a sign to mark a sacred time... For a time such as this. This darkness is sacred, an opportunity to see God do His biggest work but darkness does not come to stay. Even when it lingers I can be sure that God is hovering over it all and at just the right moment He will separate the darkness from the light and I will be able to see everything so clearly in the light of day. In the coming of Christmas, this is my advent. This is my hope, peace, joy and love. The advent that lasts all year. The assurance that I have a Savior who has been sent to be a light for me and for all those with broken hearts. To all those who find themselves crying out for hope. Desperately clinging on to each new sliver of light as if it might be the only portion they have for a while. One day our clouds will break and the sun will shine bright. Then we will sing praise for The Mighty Lord has done great things for us. Even before we see it, let's rejoice. Because we are not a hopeless people. We have hope. We have a Savior who came into this world to be our light in the darkest seasons of our life.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Influence Conference 2015


The past few weeks of my life have been a complete whirlwind! I am finally back home from all my travels and my heart is so ready to share with you all about the Influence Conference!

For those of you who don't know about Influence Network, it is a Christian women's online network. For the past few years the network has put on a creative women's conference in Indy. On New Years Eve this year I decided to take the leap and buy a ticket. I decided that 2015 was the Year of the Lord and that this was going to be the year where I watched God work mightily in my life.

Let's just say, so far I have not been let down.

At some point the week of the conference I realized it marked the two year anniversary since my world came crashing down. The irony that this was the same exact weekend I simply cannot believe as coincidence. I'm going to share what I wrote in my journal following the conference, because I don't think I really need to come up with new words for it, even if I could:



Wow! This weekend was amazing! I feel so incredibly blessed.

This weekend marked two years exactly since everything began to fall apart. To be honest, I wasn't sure I'd make it through two years or even one year or even six months. Things were hard and dark and so incredibly painful.

I did the best I could though some days that wasn't enough to keep friends by my side. Most days turned into many days which turned into fewer and fewer days where I wanted to give up my life. But it didn't happen in any sort of quickness at all. 

Some days I trusted God whole heartedly. Other days I stopped pursuing Him and lived in resentment instead. Some days I poured out my heart to others and other days I couldn't leave the house. 

I had a lot of quiet days alone. One night where I laid on the ground in a cemetery, reflecting on the irony that I was pleading to die among those who would plead for another breath. I prayed to God and saw a shooting star fall across the sky as I asked for God to make me a husband who would love God more than he loved me.

I have had moments of sheer terror. Panic attacks so bad my hands became stiff as plywood. Where I had to be met in a parking lot to calm down because it hurt so bad to breathe that I thought I would have a heart attack. Let's not forget the time more recently where a friend had to pick up take-out instead of me because the last time I went there I saw something that caused me to shrink back into darkness.

None of these hard moments are lost on me. That is why it is so great to say that this weekend I've been changed. I honestly didn't expect to be so changed but I totally was. 

See, this conference spoke some incredible God truths over my life. Those that reminded me I don't have to fight for any kind of worth, because my worth is rooted in Jesus. Though I've always known this to be true, I didn't know it like I do now. I learned how to trust in God whole heartedly and rest in what Jesus has already done for me. (And how I don't have to do anything more to earn His love or to be worthy of being called His). I was reminded to speak truth over myself and that I should be taking every single thought captive

Make it obedient to Christ. 

But perhaps what tipped the needle was this...

I was known. By people I didn't expect to recognize me. I was seen by friends and they spoke truth and life into my heart. I was sought after by people I didn't expect to want to seek me.

Lately my prayer has been to see signs of Gods love for me. I've literally been seeing hearts everywhere. But this weekend, I saw that love in so many places. And when I was tired and weary and starting to feel defeated that's when I was reminded that the battle has already been won!

The more I talked about how much God changed me these past few years - the more I realized just how free I am now. My eyes were opened and I learned some new things about myself:

- I'm not shy or as socially anxious as I used to be.
- I have so much more love to pour out and the more I hugged people, the more I wanted to do it again and again.
- I'm able to be much more open with others than I used to be.
- I'm able to take criticism in a healthier way and let it grow me instead of letting it condemn me.
- I still have so much life to live!
- Mostly, I am a daughter of the Most High God and my worth and identity rest solely in this!


Honestly, so many awesome truths poured into my heart and I was able to receive them. I may have cried a few good tears during worship as we sang. I didn't care who was in that room. I didn't care if people with hundreds or thousands of followers looked at me and I didn't give thought to what they may think of me. In the final moments of worship it was just me and God and a whole lot of thankfulness. My heart was free and open and ready. Ready now to live out that great commissioning. I'm so thrilled to be back home. I'm anxious (in the best way possible) to see where God leads me and how I may be used for His glory right where I am.

My life is in your hands, I trust it all, I trust it all to you. My dreams and all my plans, I trust it all, I trust it all. Forever I'm changed, I'll never be the same, because of your love, because of you Jesus. // brett stanfill, trust it all.

It's been a long two years, but praise God because He is the author of beautiful redemption stories! If you told me two years ago that in this present time I'd be attending a Christian women's conference and leaning on God for all my strength, I probably would have thought you were smoking something funny! It's truly amazing to see how much God has changed me and how abundantly He has blessed me. I want to talk more about this but I'm going to save it for next time. I leave you with lots of photos from the conference!

Xo, S.


























Friday, October 2, 2015

Oregon.


I have a lot of things I want to write about. I still need to post about the Influence Conference which was so incredible and life giving. But right now I'm just so upset that I feel the need to pour out my heart into what is incredibly awful and life stealing.

I'm talking about all these shootings and specifically attacks based on religion.

Now, I'm not here to get into some political debate - so please be respectful of my feelings and pain. But please also hear me out.

I've struggled with this topic for a while. I go through times where I think about it and then I am able to forget for a while and then something like this happens and it all comes back to me.

I don't remember where I was the day the kids were shot at Columbine. But I will never forget the fear I had. The horror. The absolute heart break as my mind tried to imagine what it would be like to go through such an awful thing. Who can forget Newtown and those sweet little innocent souls who lost their life because of someone elses inability to process their emotional anguish?

I know there are others but these are the two that always stick in my head. And now Oregon.

The similarities between Oregon and Columbine that has my heart aching something fierce today, is the question that ultimately defines if you will live or if you will die at the hands of a shooter;



"Do you believe in God?"


Life. or Death.


The spacing is on purpose. The question is heavy. Really think about it.


It feels like just yesterday that I wrestled with what I would do in that situation. Back then I believed in God but didn't know anything about a gospel or that Jesus died for me. Hanson wrote a song called "This Time Around" and it was written after the Columbine shooting. Some of the lyrics still haunt my soul;

"I heard they told her, it was tell and live or die. I didn't know her, but I know why she lied. I didn't know her, but I know why she died."

Like. Wow. Can you even imagine? Despite the rise in violence and heartache in this world, I still live a pretty cushy life. Yes, I worry about shootings almost more than is probably considered reasonable and I always have. But my life is fairly 'safe'.

I used to struggle with whether I'd answer truthfully or not. But now that I have this relationship with God and I know that Jesus died for me, I think I might struggle more. The natural tendency is to lie because the fear of being shot and killed is so powerful.

"All I know is that the fear has got to go, this time around..."

Yet, the more I come to know who Jesus is and what He did for me, the more I come to love Him. The more I truly, truly believe in the gospel and that's it's more than just something we talk about on Sundays. It's a way of life, down in my bones, deep in my heart, in the aching of my soul, it's the real deal. How honorable to die for the one you love? Especially when the One you love has already saved you for all of eternity?

The bible actually talks about this. In Revelation it says; "Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4)

They came to life.

The book of Matthew says "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." BLESSED. Blessed are you, so blessed you get to reign with Christ in Heaven. (Matthew 5:11)

Finally, I think of the book of Luke where he says "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." (Luke 9:24) Death is not really death when there's an afterlife waiting for you. When death has already been conquered and victory already won, death is not the end but the beginning of something so beautiful.

Living like your dying isn't living at all
Give me your cold hands
Put them on my heart
Raise a glass to everyone
Who thinks they'll never make it through this life
To live a brand new start
We are going to live tonight
Like there's no tomorrow
Cause we're the afterlife
- Ingrid Michealson

While I still don't know how I'd ever be able to stand up for my faith like those brave and beautiful souls who have gone before me, I know that I'm more sure of it now than I've ever been... My faith is strong and my God can save...and if not, He's still good.

To all those who have been and will be persecuted for their faith, I send you my heart. To all of those who stood fear in the face and said "I won't back down" I am in awe of you. You're bravery and faithfulness is such a beautiful tribute to your life and furthermore your faith. You are loved.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dear August


August, you were so good to me, in the most mundane-life doesn't feel like it's moving-lazy way possible.

We binged watched Parenthood like it was going to expire at the end of the month. We had a couple of days / nights out with friends. We saw new things, enjoyed friendships, poured ourselves out into indoor activities because it was so darn hot out. We received a beautiful package from a friend and helped my sister make a last minute gift for her best friends bridal shower. We spent a little bit of time truly focusing on the folks in the nursing home and since we were social media free, we were able to really engage in the conversation. Not only with the older folks though. Because there was a lot of time waiting (in grocery checkouts, in waiting rooms, in traffic) we were more open to communicating with those around us, even though they are but strangers. We now know that the cashier at Stop and Shop has another part time job and that the guy at the deli counter doesn't like peppers (but he does enjoy that pasta salad we recently discovered, despite the abundance of peppers in it).

Though these little details aren't really important, they really actually are.


This past month you have helped me be more open and observant to the world around me. I've seen things that have warmed my heart and also things that really upset me. I saw the simplicity of nature as birds and butterflies danced around my daily pursuits. I saw hearts everywhere. Literally everywhere. In the clouds, at church, on the ground, in leafs, etc. I actually lost track of all the places the hearts kept popping up.

I knew then just as much as I do now, that was God's love. That was His reminder that I'm seen and known - despite my emotions that feel the polar opposite. My eyes were open and I suddenly didn't just see a bunch of trees, but I saw the many colors that God had painted those trees. The different shades of green cued me in that I was seeing with new eyes. The way I noticed those pretty pops of yellow and orange blended in, for trees that are not watered enough begging for fall to rush in. Begging for the chance to release all that's weighing them down.


I felt that same way. I felt the pressure lifted off my shoulders. The need to press in rather than push forward. I felt the slow but steady release of expectations I placed on myself and instead rested in God's Sovereignty.

I can't say it was always easy. There was the mini-identity crisis in week one. There were the painful health issues and doctors visits and the scary unknown. There are things still left undiscussed and that's all still very real.

Yet, ultimately, my time was in God's hands. Each day, whether I was pursuing Him or watching yet another episode of Parenthood, He was setting the cadence of my days. Mostly unrushed and solitary. But it was all so perfect despite where I feel it lacked all I dreamed of. I didn't read a million books, but I did read the book of 1 Samuel. I didn't chase God as hard or diligently as I should have, but I was always aware of His presence with me.


Now September is here and it's ushered in with it new beginnings and hopes for me. I have a trip to the Influence Conference coming up later this month. Then I get to see my beautiful sister in law and my brother in Chicago and I'm so looking forward to giving them both a big hug. I have projects and dates already being booked up on my calendar. Last night I had a dream that I had no dates left on the calendar before my trip and I was panicked. So I'm going to do the best I can to keep my schedule wide-open so it can be filled in with last minute - spontaneous things. With friends and family and festivals and apple picking. (This WILL be the year I apple pick for the first time, please someone!!!) More time with friends who pursue me as much as I pursue them and less time with the busy to-do list that doesn't matter at the end of the month anyways.

September, you are beautiful and I can't wait to embrace you. August, thank you for all you taught me and showed me.

Much love,
Sheri

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sweetly Broken


This past week has been hard. Not for any particular reason but just because sometimes the weight of my future hopes begins to feel heavy. Sometimes I look around and think that I'm a bit too confident to believe in a future better than my past, when I know full well history repeats itself. Often I find myself taking the truths of the world over the truths of my God as reality. I tend to forget that in God's world things are upside down and backwards and it's in the moments when things make the least amount of sense and seem the most impossible, that God can show up and show off in big ways. It's the things that can be least explained by facts that often show up to surprise us.

So why do I hang my head in defeat and continue to cry for the bitter ache in my heart? Why does the stinging in my heart, burn straight through to my thoughts and spread like wild fire in my actions? It's so hard. To live each day in the grace that I've been given and know that it's sufficient. It's hard to trust and believe that God is on my team when circumstances don't seem to be improving. Many times I find myself questioning the God of the universe. As if I have any right at all to interject with my thoughts and opinions. Some days I laugh and call Him crazy and suggest that maybe just this one time He got it wrong. Other days I find myself convinced that God's good plan for me is directly related to me screwing up the good thing He previously gave me and Him having to make up a consolation prize.

I don't see myself as always being loved by God. Instead, I see the timeframe of our relationship truly beginning when I vowed to turn my life over to Him. I see the messy and broken pieces that I came to Him with and I see Him sighing heavily and picking them all up in disappointment. I imagine that God gets frustrated with how I've let my emotions dictate the course of my life over 31 years and have shamefully continued to do so the past two years. I see God blessing my ex by presenting him with someone who can emotionally handle the gift of marriage. I see His blessings poured out over my ex, who got it, who prayed right and hoped right and trusted God with his life. I see how God honored that with someone who was capable of loving far better than I could.

It breaks my heart. If there's one thing I've tried to do right, it's love. I never meant for things to fall apart and I never meant to hurt anyone. I truthfully couldn't see the forest through the trees and I started running wild in any direction. I tried to escape any way I could, to find some vast open space where I could see the sky and breathe deep in the air of hope. All that running and striving and trying instead left me more lost than when I started and now all that's left is a girl who is tired and full of despair.

However, when I look through God's eyes, I have to imagine that based on His character, He sees me a lot different. I wonder if God looks at me and His heart leaps for joy that I've discovered that He's here with me. I imagine that when He formed me, He smiled as He gave me the gift of art, knowing how much it would make me come alive. I imagine that through the years as I've struggled He's been there walking with me, holding my hand as I cried. I wonder if God rejoiced the moment I gave authority to Him and vowed to trust in Him for the plans of my life. I wonder if He smiled each time I prayed and set out hopeful for the day ahead. Does God look at my past as the building blocks for the things He has prepared me for? Is my future not a consolation prize but the actual prize that I've been hoping for my whole life? I wonder if when I question my worth God silently puts His plans into motion knowing that He's going to totally surprise me beyond what I could hope for.

In church we've been singing the song Good, Good Father by Housefires. I hear this song playing on repeat in the track of my mind lately. "You're a good, good father. It's who You are. It's who You are. It's who You are. And I'm loved by You. It's who I am. It's who I am. It's who I am."

I'm coming to realize that all this brokenness is kind of beautiful in it's own way. There's a part of me that's fighting against the natural urge to resist God and argue with Him and feel like He's cast me out. That part of me is pulling to rest softly in the brokenness. In the confusion. In the unknown. To surrender my hopes and dreams and just quietly sit in the peace of God and know that He will use this for good as well. There's no doubt it's created a desire in me to help others who are struggling with these same emotions and to remind them that they're not alone.

I saw a quote by Henri Nouwen that's been lingering in my mind,
"Just as bread needs to be broken in order to be given, so, too, do our lives."
Then as I've meditated on this I've wondered if it's far better to be broken and then strengthened, than it is to simply be blessed as my ex was. Not that being blessed is bad by any means, Lord knows I'd give anything for that kind of easy, a pleasant but welcome change for my normal cadence of always wondering. Then I read an Ann Voskamp blog post and in it she reverberates the Henri Nouwen quote I have been holding onto since last week. "We could be the community that offers the Emmaus option: Be the bread so broken and given - that a hungry world yearns for more of the taste of such glory." 

I am starting to think that this brokenness is a beautiful gift. I don't know how yet. I can't really figure that out and maybe it's not supposed to be something I find. When I was a kid I never liked to search for my Christmas gifts early. I knew exactly where they were in my parents closet. In fact, our closets connected so it wouldn't of been hard to climb through the hangers of clothes and shoes on the floor to discover what was on the other side. I like being surprised instead and have really come to learn that I hate spoilers. I love the authenticity of truly being surprised. Just as with Christmas, when there were gifts that were more great than I anticipated, I imagine so is the same with God's plan for my life. So I want to learn how to authentically rest in the broken unknown and trust that God has something great planned from this. That it's far better to be broken and used by God than to be broken by and used by the world.

I've loved slowing down this month and just resting. Not keeping up with the Jones' on Instagram and Facebook but instead spending those quiet moments resting my soul. It's involved a lot of episodes of Parenthood, home cooking, and the occasional adventure. It's not my perfect summer, but I am trusting God with the details that the summer I truly yearn for is still ahead for me. The past few days I've been praying a lot. Prayers that ask God to show me my worth, to meet me in my mess and to help me move on. I know that holding onto the anger and bitterness will rot away my soul, slowly but surely. I don't want it anyways and never did. So I'm asking for a lot of grace to work through this and get past it so I can embrace the future with arms wide open. I don't know if I'll ever believe I'm good enough or qualified for a Godly relationship. I don't know if I'll ever be married and have a husband that prays with me. But it's my sincere hope, that even though I don't deserve it and will mostly likely be inadequate in reciprocating these things, that it's in God's plan. One thing I do know, I am so full of love and I want to share this with others. I want to be able to give of myself and encourage someone else in their walk with the Lord. I may fail at a lot of things, but this is the one thing I want to do well. I think this alone is something fundamental to build a relationship from.

All the love.
XO


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Potter


The way things work in God's universe are so different than the way things work in the world. In the world, healing and insight come from bouncing back after tragedy. From working out until you're so fit you can run marathons. From starting new businesses and kicking major butt in sales. From getting a makeover and embracing the new life you have. By getting out there and dating new guys to prove your heart isn't broken and moving on from the old into the new.

These things aren't bad in small doses and in tandem with true healing other ways. However, these are just some of the ways the world has told me that I should heal and move on. I knew none of these things were right for me and instead were only covering up a deeper pain that needed to be worked through. As a crafter, quilter, and occasional DIYer, I can tell you that good quality work, the kind that lasts through generations, takes time. It's a slow and detailed process. It gets into every grain and fiber and cuts no corners. 

This is how it's been with me. Slow. Sometimes so slow it doesn't feel like anything is even happening. If we're honest, there have been days more recent than I'd like to admit where I've struggled as if I never knew Jesus. As if I never got the chance to walk into His warm embrace and hear Him whisper promises of hope and a future. 

It's felt a little like starting over. It's felt a lot like not being good enough and not really liking myself and believing with my whole heart that I'm not capable or worthy of being loved the way that I desire. It's ugly, but it's the way I've felt. 

Then I spoke to a friend who is going through something that had me looking back on my journey these past two years. This conversation where I shared my heart opened me up to some truths I haven't wanted to face. I want to share some of what I said.

It all started with accepting God's plan and letting go of our fears. Now, if you give me that Christian Cliche, "Let Go and Let God", I might hit you. I'm sorry, but this quote pops up everywhere. It's not that it's bad advice, but it was handed to me on Day One of the end. It's what my ex said to me as I sat in his car bawling my eyes out because he was dating someone new. I feared so much back then. My fearful imagination ran wild. I foreseen each bend in the road leading him further away from me. I was absolutely terrified that I was going to lose him. He told me, "Let Go and Let God." I could have hit him, too. It felt like a lousy way to escape from having a part in the way my heart was breaking.

One by one I lived through my deepest fears coming true. Each one was painful. Each one caused me to question God. Some caused me to question my life. Two had me with pills in my hand ready to end the pain. I don't say this lightly. These were my biggest fears and I held them tight. I put a cage around them and threw away the key because I was terrified of fear getting out and wrecking havoc on my life. Instead, every day I looked at my fear - terrified of how it would crush me if it escaped. 

I said to my friend, if I could go back and do it again - I would like to do it differently. I suppose what I should say is IF I HAD TO, I would like to do it differently. Cause, I don't really want to go back to the past two years ever again. Nichole Nordeman has a song called "The Unmaking" and it's become the anthem of my life right now. One of the lyrics says "The longer and the tighter that we hold, only makes it harder to let go." Every time she sings that I think, if I turned to God and turned my back on my ex completely in September two years ago, how much less could this have hurt? If I stuck to my words and said I couldn't be friends with him in November, even when he showed up at my door in a tux begging me not to leave, how much easier would it be now? How much quicker would I have healed? 

Bethel sings, "I'm no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God." - I sing it loud and proud but I was a slave to fear, and I didn't even realize it. That fear held me captive - held me as a prisoner in my own emotions and literally has left me clinging for my life. I was fearful of him leaving me. Of choosing someone else. Becoming engaged and then married. Of him never speaking to me again. Truth is, I fought against all these things and they happened anyways. So how much different would it have been if I just trusted God? If I just really let it go the way that Elsa shouts from the mountaintops of her ice castle?

My prayer came to me today and I wrote it down on a miniature post-it note. God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10.

Let me start again. Let me throw off the fear that has hindered me. The fear that held me captive when I thought that I was holding it captive. I want a clean heart, a fresh start, a new beginning. I want a steadfast spirit that hopes and believes in a God that is bigger than my past. I want to believe God when he whispers sweet words of being chosen, being worthy, being precious in His eyes. I am praying for the heart to believe these things, despite my feelings. I recognize that anything of value is not thrown together overnight but is carefully handled and planned. Each detail remarkably thought out and considered before it is presented to the world as complete. I once again turn my life back into the hands of the Potter and let Him continue to shape and mold me into something that can be used for His glory. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

ten years.


In a strange way, today feels like the closing of a decade of heartache.

Today is the 10 year marker of my dad dying.

No one has said anything. I suppose if I wasn't on a social media hiatus that I would have posted something and friends and family would have commented saying something nice. Maybe mentioning how they miss him. But they didn't live through the things I did.

There are things better left unspoken. Things that happened that I'll never repeat. Things that break my heart and make it really hard to trust others, especially guys.

It's hard for others to understand why I have a hard time when I speak of my father. He wasn't always a bad guy, but the times where he was sober minded and loving were few between. No one will understand how my heart breaks that he will never walk me down the aisle. How it makes me sad and mad at the same time. No one will especially understand how when he died I almost breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn't have to worry about him at my wedding one day.

Dads are supposed to love and care. My dad left me drunk voicemails the night of prom calling me a whore and a slut and accusing me of sleeping with my prom date. When I didn't come home he left quite a few of those. He didn't know that the reason I didn't come home was because I forgot my house key and he locked me out. He didn't know that in his drunken stupor that he couldn't hear me banging on the door to let me in. He didn't know that as he laid passed out drunk upstairs, I was standing alone in a parking lot at one in the morning in my prom dress waiting for my mom to come pick me up. He didn't know how much worse he made prom for me. He didn't know that I was being bullied at school by a girl who accused me also of trying to sleep with my prom date, a guy who was like my best friend, who was dating her much younger sister. He didn't know that prom was already a nightmare for me and that he made it worse. He didn't know that he didn't have to worry about me sleeping with this guy because thanks to him I was pretty afraid of guys.

But that all happened and it's in the past now. For ten years I have lived with all the hurtful things he once said and have known I'd never get an apology. No remorse and no attempt to right the wrongs. I'm just left here trying to pick up the mess he made.

Then I dated a guy who appeared to disprove my father. Who made me feel loved and respected and cared for. Then that guy left me feeling a whole lot like my father did, though his actions weren't the same - they weren't that far off. Again, I'll live through this knowing I'll never get a sincere apology or a hint of remorse. Again, I'm left trying to pick up the pieces of my very broken heart.

I look back at the past ten years. Where I lost my very dear and beautiful mother who never got a chance to truly experience a long season of happiness. I look at all the friendships that fizzled out. The many moves I've made. I look back at these past ten years and I see a girl with a very broken heart just trying to get by. Then I look at this girl today and I see so much of that same struggle. I wonder if life will ever stop feeling like such a battle for any ounce of joy. I'm in this really weird place finding it significantly hard to trust people. I have lost the desire to make new friends or meet new people because I expect they'll just keep going. I look back at ten very short but long years and wonder how the heck all of that happened in ten years.

But I also see good. I see two beautiful nephews that were given a second chance to have life abundantly. I see the friends who did stay and who really do love me unconditionally. I thank the good Lord above for them because I know it hasn't been easy lately. I see myself as adopted into a new family. Where I get to have Christmas traditions and family vacations with. I see clearly how the Lord provided for me my own place and the things I needed for it. I see the quiet times I've had to sit and reflect and the brave solo outings I've taken. Sunsets are more beautiful than ever and words of encouragement have never been so coveted. I see dreams and hopes and things that are so far beyond what I believe I am capable for and I believe God has some wildly crazy plan to work in my life. I see relationships as more sacred than ever before. I have experienced a lot of anger and bitterness but the flip side of that is a soft acceptance of life changing. I see moments even more special than ever before, not just because life can end in an instant but also because people can walk in an instant. Sometimes we can't control the changes and other times people choose to make a change and there's something so bittersweet to acknowledging that.

Lately I have been struggling with doubt and worth. The past few weeks I had a mini identity crisis. I'm not sure if I've fully recovered but I'll tell you what I'm praying infiltrates my heart. That I would see myself as good enough, worthy, chosen and loved. That I would look at the future with this hopeful expectation because I trust that God has a plan for my life. Lately this idea that came into my mind and has been exciting me. Right now my future is literally in God's hands. I don't have someone I'm seeing, I can't imagine who that person will be, where we'll meet, what he'll be like. So each and every encounter I've seen as potential open doors. I kind of look at each interaction a little bit differently. Not just because I hope marriage is in God's plans for me, but also because I have this new sense that plans are in fact in God's hands. Each interaction suddenly becomes a chance to change the course of my life and it's kind of exciting. Who will be my friends, what experiences will I have, what jobs will I do. Everything is open right now and I'm not chasing it. I'm letting God guide me to it.

So even though I wish that tonight when the clock strikes midnight that there would be a clean cut from the past ten years of my life, I know that it is not so. I know there's still healing to happen and lies to be removed. I know that tomorrow I will have moments where my heart aches for the losses I've had. But I am praying the next ten years look completely different. That my perspective would change. That God would show me that He is trustworthy and good. I pray I would see hope and that I would learn to lean into the suffering instead of running from it. I can't believe next month I get on a plane to go to Influence Conference. It feels surreal, yet, I can think of nothing better to begin the next ten years of my life than taking a leap of faith. Can you?

XO

Friday, July 31, 2015

August


I've decided that August will be social media free. It's not a decision that comes easy for me. In fact, I've felt lately as if things are finally moving in the right direction - so this almost makes no sense.

Yet, there's so many things that it is distracting me from. While some days I find it to be life-giving, there are other days that it feels like I can't win amongst all the noise.

Right now I'm extremely frustrated. There's a lot of negative emotions that have crept up and are choking the life out of me. Not all of it has to do with social media, but a lot of it is spurred on or made worse by the things I see. Sometimes it's things that I don't agree with, the ways of the world, the injustices and every single opinion that gets attached. Other times it's simply too hard to see everyone else's life and feel as if maybe God forgot about me. I've unfollowed so many people who were not posting anything wrong or negative, but simply have too much of a good life. It's just too hard for me right now as I come out of this season of grief to see that my life really has been the only one on hold (so it seems) while the rest of the world continues on, dating, getting engaged, getting married, having babies, buying houses, finding new jobs, taking dream-worthy vacations, experiencing life to the fullest. All of this while I desperately try to take hold of anything I can, knowing that it's all fleeting and temporary.


In addition to the emotional aspect, I've also discovered that I spend a lot of time aimlessly scrolling all sorts of social media. It's not that this is bad, but it's not really fulfilling. I could be reading a book or watching a good movie. I feel that would be better use of my down time. Not to mention, I would have more ambition to go forward in simplifying my life. Putting routines in place to make my life less stressful.

One of the things I am learning about myself is that I am simply not great at sticking to something for more than a week or two. It's just an area I struggle. I don't know if it's because I am not a type A personality or if it's simply because I lack the motivation or experience to know how to push ahead. Sometimes I think I struggle simply because there's no one to guide me. I didn't grow up with structure. Day-to-day in my house you never knew what you were going to get. Since I never had routine, I feel like it's just something that I haven't learned how to master, yet.


Summer is here but it will be gone soon. I'm in this peculiar place where I am seeking joy but often left drained by the end of the day. I want to embrace this last month of summer. I want to feel the fresh air blowing in the wind. To see the way the sun shimmers on the water. I want to take slow walks around unexplored places. To experience a significant amount of time without all the background noise so I can truly rest. I want to read as many books as possible and slow down to summer. September always reminds me of fresh starts and new ambitions. Maybe because that's when school starts or because fall comes in with it's new crisp air that I swear makes life good again, even when your heart hurts.

In this season that is mixed with grief and new hope for me, I find myself wanting to withdraw from life for a while. At least life as I know it. As a single girl who lives alone, social media is my way of connecting with people and not feeling so isolated. But I think I need to do it for this month. I feel really called to do it. I can't explain why but for weeks I've known that come August this was going to be my quiet time where I shut down from all the news feeds. It's something I feel the Lord is calling me to do and though I'm not sure why exactly, I know that it will be good for my soul.

September holds a lot of exciting things for me, but for now, I want to enjoy the simplicity of August. I've intentionally tried not to make "too many" plans. I hope to keep it that way as the days creep closer. Filling my schedule is an area I have struggled with so I'm hoping to be able to honor the quietness that it craves.


I haven't decided yet if I will blog still. I will still have my phone on. Friends can call and text and email. (and I hope they do!) For fellow Influence friends, I'll still be over there occasionally. If I do blog, I will not be posting the updates to social media, so I ask that if you're interested that you sign up to receive my new blog posts by email. This will keep you in the loop with any of my postings and musings. :D

I'm hoping + praying that September brings new starts, new hopes, and a healed heart. I'm ready to step into that and I ask that you join me in prayer that God will heal the final pieces that need mending so I can walk into the newness He has for me.

Lots of Love.
XO,
S

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Joy I Found in Disappointment


So lately I've been kind of a loner. Wow. That sounds depressing. Sometimes it feels that way too, but other times it is so fulfilling that I just want to hug the day and say thank you for allowing me to experience it.

Last week I was sitting at home and I was stewing in a lot of negative emotions. Something happened earlier in the week that literally made me so angry and full of hate and resentment that I could feel it rotting away at my bones. It was awful and I hated feeling those hateful feelings, but no matter what I did or how I prayed, it just wasn't going away. I was sitting in all of this and finally decided that I simply cannot stay here anymore. I don't know why but some days I just hate being inside my apartment. It's a lovely apartment, but it gets so dark and there's not a lot of windows so I just feel trapped. I could go to my balcony and sometimes I do, but it doesn't always help me clear the air.

Instead I drove to a beach I've never been to before. An area of RI that's so far south, they ask you if you're from Connecticut. It was beautiful and such an amazing experience. I will write more about what I learned there on another post.

But yesterday I went to a place in the opposite direction. It's in the woods and had a pond of some sort that kids were swimming in. It was really nice (and would have been so peaceful without the screaming children, but anyways...). It also seemed like the kind of place where you want to be on alert for any kind of creeper men who might want to kidnap you and bring you back to their cabin in the woods. Maybe I've seen too many episodes of CSI + Law and Order, but I think it's best to play it safe.


After reading for a while I started to not feel good. My IBS has really been out of whack again lately, especially on the weekends for some reason. So I packed up my things and put everything in the car so I could use the restroom. One of the downfalls of going anywhere alone is you can't really get up for a minute and then come back and trust that your stuff will still be there, which means you need to pack it up and take it with you even if you weren't ready to leave.


After that I got back in my car. It seemed weird to unpack my car and go back and sit somewhere again but I wasn't ready to leave. I pulled up the map on my GPS since I'm not familiar with this area and saw there was another park about 2 miles down the road. I didn't know anything about it but thought at the very worse I take a drive down there and discover it's not really a park and I turn around and head home.

I let my GPS, who I call Siri, though I'm not sure if it's really her... drive me to this new park. As I pulled in the lot I knew I wasn't in a park. A little frustrated but more so because there was a guy walking up the lot when I pulled in and I just hate when other people see me make wrong turns and look lost. I always try to pretend I belong and know what I'm doing, but it was clear I didn't and there was no where to go around, I had to turn around and go back through.

Before I could reverse that said guy was standing at my car asking if he could help me. UGH. Thanks a lot, Siri. So I explained to the cute park ranger who was about my age that I saw there was a park down here on my GPS so I wanted to drive over to it. Obviously realizing now, this is not really a park. Then the cute park ranger who was about my age told me where the park was, it's actually just a little ways up on the other side of the street. I thanked him and said I would head over and then he said that he'd see me down there.

Now my hopes are up. Such a typical girl, ay? I was thinking, this is it! This is my meet-cue! (If you haven't watched "The Holiday" please stop reading this right now, go watch that movie, and then come back. Thank you.) I was pretty interested to see how God was going to use this encounter. I got to the park which was another pond with lots and lots of picnic tables. I set up at a picnic table near the water but off to the side from all the screaming children (seems to be a trend) and finished reading one of my books. I waited. I thought that cute park ranger who was almost my age was going to come over and chat with me. Part of me realizes just how lonely I felt yesterday and would talk to anyone who was interested. But he never came. Eventually I saw him with some other park rangers but they were doing their thing and it was clear he wasn't coming back over. I realized that when he said he'd see me down there, he probably didn't mean he was going to come and have coffee with me, but that if he saw me he wanted to make sure I knew he wasn't following me. I don't know, I'm a little crazy, huh!? Haha... I digress.


I did feel a bit sad. Like my hope had been deflated and as if maybe i'm just not good enough. Funny how quickly those old tracks you thought you burned come back and haunt you the second something doesn't go the way you hoped. I pushed all those things aside and as I was driving I realized something that I'm so thankful for.

I'm thankful for this disappointment. I am actually happy for it! 

Let me explain.

I have hoped and dreamed that God has a plan for me, but honestly, I know I haven't been emotionally ready to even approach the idea of seeing someone new. It just feels like salt being rubbed in a wound that says "God didn't answer your prayers, so have this instead." Yuck. But yesterday I got excited about a guy potentially talking to me. I didn't feel the urge to run into the other direction, in fact, I was actually looking forward to it. This is new to me. I've never felt so open and ready before. Not even with my ex. He had to convince me to go out with him at first because I was so used to running the other way. Even from the things I wanted. But here I was hopeful and anticipating. Not just in the way where I would joke about it (like my marriages to Tom Brady + Taylor Hanson + Mat Kearney, etc). Here I was and I was actually looking forward to it, expectantly.

So even though this guy didn't end up coming over and chatting it up with me, I am happy! Because I realized that I'm finally on the edge of being ready for when that time comes. It means that even though I'm still grieving, that I'm also healing. There's hope even in the sadness and the let downs. There's hope even in the suffering and hurtful actions of others. That stuff won't hold me down forever. At one time I believed it would, even if I preached that it wouldn't. I don't think I believed it in my heart - but here I stood and I saw that I was ready to embrace new life.

I'm going to go ahead and dare to say it. I've never told a single soul this besides what I've wrote in my journal. I've had this feeling in my heart for a while that this is the year. This is the year that I meet someone and things change. I have no reason to believe that's true other than what I feel in my spirit. I've wrapped my arms around these days alone, gratefully, because I truly believe there's a day coming soon where things will be different. That's not to say that I don't think I'll have my alone time anymore... No. The best way I can describe it is that right now, all I have is hope. But truly, the future is uncertain. I want to rest in that hope and knowledge that God is good - no matter what, even in this season. I want to have that quiet time where I can reflect and ponder about the future - these days where I have no inkling of what will happen. Because once you're in a relationship, like it or not, even your alone time changes. There's this hopeful assurance that there's a future...less wondering about who and what things will look like. But right now, I don't really know what that looks like, and it's kind of exciting to wait to be surprised.

Today I am thankful for the disappointment because it points me to something much bigger. That God has done a number on my heart. All these days in between I haven't really felt it or thought it was real. But yesterday, I saw first hand that things are in fact changing. And it's so good. So, so good.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Seek First


I kind of feel like Jonah. You might know him as the guy who ended up in the whale (which is actually just a 'big fish', but fish do tend to grow in size as the stories are told, don't they?). I don't feel like I'm stuck in a whale, but I do feel like I've been avoiding God's direction for my life. Which if you don't know, is how Jonah got stuck in the whale in the first place. God told him to go one direction and Jonah, for many reasons, chose to go the opposite direction. God wasn't letting him go so easy, which long story short - explains how he got sucked up in the smelly whale!

It's strange, I mean - I'm not intentionally trying to avoid it, but it dawned on me this weekend that I think that's just what I've been doing. I have a few things that have been placed on my heart. I don't know if they are there from God or my own desires or if it was just a thought that popped up and I thought "hmm, that would be awesome!". I suppose it's hard to know if they are meant for me since I'm not spending as much time with the Lord as I should be.

I pray for friends and family and special requests. I count my blessings and thank God each day for the ability to notice them. I come to God with my needs and desires and feelings and hurts and I know He hears me. But I'm not sitting and reading the word, per se. Instead, I pick up one of many other books I'm reading, I spend time on social media, I watch movies or listen to music, I paint. None of these things are bad, but they are replacing my quiet time and I can feel my soul just twitching because of it. I can't get out of my own way and really it's for a lack of me trying. I feel stuck. I feel overwhelmed by the chaos of my life, the clutter in my world, the financial needs I have climbing up and up. I want to do more, be more, see more, experience more. I want to be a better friend, I want to grow my relationships with those I've known forever and those I've never met. I want to open up and get to know people more and talk about me less. I want to be a better person, I want to be more thoughtful, more caring, more proactive. MORE, MORE, MORE. ME, ME, ME. I WANT, I WANT, I WANT.

Gross.

I've been stuck in this "be better than I used to be" mentality since my last relationship devastatingly broke my heart. I keep thinking if I can figure out the magic formula to "make myself better", then next time, the guy won't leave me for someone else. I've discovered I am people pleasing to a high degree. I overcommit. I chase down dreams, buy a million books and devotionals, start countless workout plans - none of which stick. There's a heart issue here. It's not because I'm a failure, though that's what I find myself whispering each time I fail. I could list all the devotionals and studies I've started and never finished. The prayer routine I've stuck to for just a week. Even meal planning or exercising. It works for a burst of time and then fails. I'm run down because I'm running in every different direction. I want so much out of life, and these are not bad things - but I'm not seeking first the kingdom of God.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you." The things provided talks about the things we tend to worry about. The header for this paragraph in the bible is "The Cure for Anxiety". Jesus speaks about not worrying about life, what I'll eat or what I'll drink. He says don't worry about my body and what I'll wear. These things will be provided to me as needed and worrying / chasing / striving after them will never add value to my life.

These other things? They'll never fulfill me. They'll never be enough. Just like I'll never really be enough. I keep chasing this idea of good enough as if I could grasp it and hold it up for everyone to see so that they'll like me. There's the saying, "You could be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there's still going to be someone who hates peaches". I laugh because, I like the flavor of peaches, but it's a texture thing for me, so I wouldn't just eat a peach outright. So I really get this statement. I much rather have a donut!

The hopes and dreams I have for my life have me running the other way, even though I desire them. Why? Because it's hard work. Because I feel overwhelmed when I think about starting. Because I feel like I don't have the time to start, at least not without putting off something else that means a lot to me. Because I don't think I'm good enough. The most recent dream I've had is amazing and beautiful and would really take all this brokenness and use it for good. Yet, I haven't done much with it because I don't feel that I'm equipped enough for this. It would require a lot of work and focus and that's an area where I really struggle. Yet, if I spent enough time in my bible I might trip over the story of Gideon who took his army of 300 and beat and army of thousands with God's strength. Or the story of David and how he overcame a 7'2 giant named Goliath with just a few stones. Again, in God's strength. I might even find new stories of hope and inspiration and reminders of how God carries us through the things that we didn't think were possible.

I'm going to be taking some time and trying to figure out what God wants me to pursue and what He doesn't. Also, just to spend time with Him. I've had so many friends who are not single, tell me they wish they had this time to grow closer in their walk with the Lord and I don't want to take this for granted. My last relationship suffered because my ex was always tied up in something else. Helping someone do something, working overtime, chasing after his dreams, spending our time together either watching tv or on his phone. I didn't feel important or cared for, which is what lead to our breakup initially. I still loved him like crazy, but it was making me crazy and because my worth resided in how much he did or didn't care about me, I started to feel worthless. I know we could have worked through it, but we didn't. I am still suffering those choices to this day and I don't want to do that to God. This relationship is sacred and if I'm spending all my time reading blog posts and hanging out with friends and focusing on all the things I want out of this life, I'm going to miss out on all He has to offer. I'm going to miss out on the most beautiful relationship I can ever have and I most certainly will continue to suffer for it.

So here's to recommitting my time to the Lord. You should expect to see less of me online - and if you are seeing a lot of me - feel free to call me out on it. I actually implore you to do that. Sometimes I just need a healthy dose of encouragement or maybe a swift kick in the behind. Just not too hard, okay? ;)

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Only Guarantee


What do we say when our hearts break from hearing of tragic news? This week has been full of it. Everywhere I turn there is another death, another heinous act of violence, another scary diagnosis, and another broken heart just trying to live their life.

Relationships are hard. They are hard and tricky and sometimes oh so messy. But when you hear of these tragedies none of that messy stuff matters. You put down your arms of battle and open your arms for embracing one another. Life can be pretty mundane sometimes - but there are other days that just steal your breath away. Isn't it funny how until our walls are broken down do we stop building them up? It takes life changing news to stop us from sitting behind our wall and casting out our piercing arrows. You know the ones that are meant to hurt really bad when they hit? The ugly messy words that you shouldn't say, you know you shouldn't say, but you do it anyways because you're so fed up with dealing with life that you let it all come spilling out.

What will our last words be?

I remember the last conversation I had with a friend. It was move out day from college for the summer. I had waited all day for him to come to his room and move his stuff out. It started to look hopeless and I had this overwhelming sense of panic that I wouldn't see him. Just as I was about to leave he came in. There was 15 minutes for him to move his stuff out of his dorm and he hadn't even packed yet. (Laughing at this now because I realize just how alike we really were). Still he stopped to make time for me and to say goodbye. I was overcome by grief and tears just inconsolably crying. As I sat in front of him and I bawled my eyes out and I said some things that I'll never forget. Ever. I hugged him tight not wanting to let go and I told him that I'm going to miss him. I told him how much I cared about him and how I felt like I was never going to see him again. He called me crazy. He hugged me and told me it was going to be all alright. He told me of course we would see each other again and not to worry. As I drove away I watched him from my rearview mirror. I could have stayed there all day refusing to move, but I knew I had to leave. It doesn't make sense to stand in a place not moving when you have no legit reason why you shouldn't... When all you have is a feeling. I forced myself to get in my car. I forced myself to put on my seatbelt and shift my car in drive. I let myself look back in the rearview mirror of my red Honda civic and then I forced myself to keep going almost certain I'd never see him again.

A few weeks later I spent hours standing in the pouring rain waiting to say goodbye to him again. Only this time I couldn't see his face. I wouldn't want to even if I could they told me. I couldn't hug him and he most certainly couldn't talk back to me from the walls of his casket. I couldn't make eye contact with his best friend because Lord knows I didn't know what to say. 

Just a few months before I had broken down one night - I'm not normally this girl who walks around with this heavy weight of doom around her. But for whatever reason I was so overcome by this sense that something bad was about to happen. It could be because former classmates had died in a car accident the week before. But no matter the reason there was a random onslaught of tears one night when it was just the two of us. When I say random, I mean random. I remember calling for him. I remember just wanting him there by my side. One of my friends found him and told him and he came to see me. The next thing I remember I was a heaping mess. I can still remember him saying "What's wrong? What happened?" He was ready to fight the guy who hurt me. He was ready to console my broken heart. But he wasn't expecting what I said next. Through tears I told him that I felt like something bad was going to happen to him and I didn't want him to die. Yup. Hard swallow. I begged him to wear his seatbelt, not to drink and drive. I pleaded with him to not drive fast. I told him I felt like something bad was going to happen to him. I can still remember the look in his eyes as he promised me nothing was going to happen, he wasn't going anywhere.

You can probably guess how he died. 

I wish this story was something that I made up. I know it probably sounds that way. The whole thing is so surreal. When I look back on all of it, it feels like something out of a movie. Almost as if the whole thing was staged. I haven't talked about these events with many people. But I want to share it because I know I was given an opportunity to share my heart with him unfiltered. God prepared me for his loss and allowed me to tell him how much he meant to me. That's the good I want us all to receive out of his death.

I'm so grateful that for whatever reason that pushed me to, that I was given the opportunity to express how much I cared. Even though they were desperate pleas for his life, I still told him how much he meant to me. He knew and I knew that we both cared for each other as more than friends. Neither of us knew what would happen down the road for our friendship but we both had this deep love for each other that I can't explain to you. It wasn't being in love. It was different. We talked and our conversations would end up in deep and meaningful places. Places no other friend had ever gone with me. He shared parts of his heart and it was beautiful. To this day I can't say any person has opened up to me so easily before. We talked about death and life and how much we loved our friends and family. We never had to climb over each others walls to get to the point, our walls were down and open to give and receive back the kind of communication that I wish we all could have with each other.

I won't forget how we cared for each other. How we never spoke harshly to one another even though I can still tell you an incident I regret where I know I hurt him. He hurt me too. We didn't know better, we were just college kids trying to figure out how to get by. Yet - we shared this connection that I know will go beyond the grave. I try to make all my relationships meaningful. Maybe I take it too far sometimes. I may be too sappy, use too many heart emoticons or tell people I love them too easily. But you know what? At the end I want to know that I showed my love and appreciation for each and every person I come in contact with.

That's what we do with this sad news. We support one another through all these hardships. We don't forget to tell people how much they mean to us. We hug our friends goodbye before we walk out the door. We thank God that He gets us from point A to point B safely and that we get to have another day on this earth with each other. That's all we can do. Be loving and kind and then thankful for what we have.

Sometimes life becomes so repetitive that we forget that all it takes is a split second. We never know when life will change but there's one thing we can guarantee.... Life will change. Let's use these hard times as a catalyst to draw closer to our friends, family and Jesus. 

One bright morning when this life is over 
I know, I'll see your face. 

[in loving memory, jeff monica 5.29.03, thank you for being a light during such a dark time, and thank you that the light still burns bright after all these years without you.]


Monday, June 15, 2015

My Week In Review


Last week was really great. It's not often that I say things are great or even good for that matter. But all in all, last week felt like a turning point. This is not to say that emotionally I didn't struggle, in fact this past week emotions actually ran high. It felt like a constant battle between my happiness and my battle scars.

I thought it'd be fun to switch it up a bit and report on what I did last week. Partially because I'm still so excited about my week and partially because I am too lazy to handwrite all this out! ;)

I'll start with Tuesday. I was finally able to join some friends in the Federal Hill Stroll after years and years of wanting to do it! Actually, it has probably only been two years because I think that's how long I've known it existed, but I digress. You get this button to wear and a map of all the participating locations in the neighborhood of Providence's Little Italy. Each location that participated gave out samples of food and we also had two drink tickets!

It was a gorgeous night and we definitely got our fill. Some highlights:

The cupcakes at Scialo. OH. EM. GEE. So delicious! A few months ago I went to a state cupcake challenge, Scialo beat all the ones I tried there. Just sayin'


The strawberry sangria at Andino's was perfectly refreshing. It really was one of the most tasty sangrias I've had in a while and the strawberries tasted like they had been plucked locally that day. We might have stuck our fingers in our drinks to get all of them. :)



The bolognese at Zooma had miniature gnocchi's and they were so amazing!

The burgers at Harry's on the Hill had us agreeing we all needed to go back soon.

Just Yum.


Friday I met up with a friend and we got pedicures, hooray for finally being able to wear flips without shame! We ended up at Bluewater in Barrington for dinner. We started with the most amazing fried yellow tomato appetizer, our sparkling peach raspberry sangria was super yummy and served in a mason jar, so bonus points, and my scallops and risotto had me scraping the plate. I will say I wasn't crazy about their pudding chocolate cake. I really expected pudding consistency with cake mixed in but it was a very dense rich chocolate cake. It looks like pudding, but it wasn't soft. Good, but not what I expected.


We ended the night curled up in her bed watching Pitch Perfect 2. Her husband said we ruined our chance for a night out but if you ask me the night was perfect!

Saturday a friend and I went to breakfast at a new (to me) place called English Muffin. I resisted ordering the fruit stuffed french toast and ordered just some eggs and bacon with toast. We sat outside, al fresco - my favorite! (as I did at all my other locations, too!). It was such a great spot and the time spent with my friend was so encouraging and sweet. I just adore her.

In the afternoon I shopped a local garden shop, Jacavone, I've been wanting to visit and brought home a few pots of flowers and a pot of basil. It was a nice relaxing time followed by lounging out by the pool. I even went swimming which is something I hardly ever do - but when you have the entire pool to yourself, you just do it! 





Saturday night another friend came over and we tried the new Thirsty Beaver in Smithfield. We sat outside which was wonderful until the sun went down. I'm feeling the mosquito bites something fierce today. We ordered these pulled pork mac and cheese rolls for an app. So yum! And I got a burger for dinner which was tasty but really greasy. The sweet potato fries were on par though!

Then we drove down to Providence. They were having their International Arts Festival for the first year - streets were closed off. A local art company went through and painted a bunch of buildings to bring more art into the community. Makes this girls heart soar! There were bands everywhere, food trucks, craft vendors, and on and on. Also, there was a Waterfire so we checked that out too! The city was alive. It was really awesome.



We walked around a bit and then checked out Providence G which is Providence's only rooftop bar. It was nice but a lot smaller than I expected. We were able to be seated at a table even though we were only ordering a drink. This was good because it was crowded and I don't know any girl who likes to stand at a bar and wait for the bartender to notice her. We got a strawberry drink - it was really good however I'm not convinced it wasn't just fruit juice! The place was really neat but at $11 a drink it's not the kind of place you spend the night. Plus they were closing earlier than most places in Providence. The waitress explained to us that because it's a tenement building they can't stay open later than 12. I could have done without the tiny elevator ride down with the guys who had too much to drink though (stairwells are for emergency's only and forbidden otherwise!)

Sunday I spent some time with family for my 'mom's' birthday. Then I joined up with the Rhode Explorer ladies to go on a sunset kayaking tour with Narrow River Kayaks in Narragansett. It was quite lovely! Everything was so serene, we saw a deer along the river and some cranes. The sunset was a soft sky and the water was so calm by the end that I could have sat out there until the stars came out. Just lovely!







Here's to more weeks like this. Enjoying life to the fullest. Now I just need to find a way to do it on a strict budget. I definitely went over this week but at least I can say I absolutely enjoyed myself. Feels so wonderful to be able to experience life again and in a new way. There's more freedom now and I'm so grateful for the shift I've noticed. Life is hard but it is so so good.