Normalizing divorce

I said the “D” word again, oh boy.
* I know that not everyone will agree with me here, and that’s cool – I’m interested in understanding your perspectives too! But know that this is my truth.

I think about divorce often, because it’s part of my story and at any given time someone I know seems to be trying to navigate the murky icky waters of divorce. Divorce sucks, but it isn’t always bad. I found myself and true joy when I ended my marriage! Because it was not right or good for me.

As a Christian person I was raised to believe that divorce is bad, and you simply don’t do it – but you know what I say to that now? Ouch! That teaching is why I stayed in such a toxic relationship for so long and why it took something so big for me to finally be able to rationalize leaving that marriage. I do believe that marriage should be a lifelong commitment – but I also believe that if either of you is breaking your promises, or even not feeling fully committed anymore, or simply not happy, then separating is the lesser of two evils and it might be the best option. I of course would suggest counseling and reconciliation first (especially as a social worker!), but sometimes even after that things just aren’t going to work out and that is OK.

Imagine if we as a culture could come to a place where we understand that not all relationships are meant to be, and we were able to create safe spaces for people to get out! It takes a lot of imagination for me because I did not experience that, especially in the church/Christian context (as a whole). 

I did have very supportive pastor friends who loved me through my divorce and supported me, even though divorce likely made them uncomfortable. Based on my lived experience it was also a biblical reason to end the marriage, so that probably helped, but I can’t imagine that it was comfortable or felt “good” to them – but they loved me nonetheless. Not everyone treated me that way though, I’d dare to say that the majority of the church folks I know did not support my decision initally – and they didn’t even know why I was leaving. I was sent letters telling me to stick it out and not give up on my husband, telling me that I was not honoring God or my Christian faith well… and as I was trying to find a church closer to home to go to, where I could be known as simply me (not part of a broken couple), I was invited to a dinner and it turned out to be an intervention of sorts, to try to make me stay with my ex. NO ONE knew how bad my marriage was, but they all felt responsible to tell me why I was the sinner and letting God down.

I don’t blame them, though, because I was raised the same way and I think that I would have likely thought the same kind of things (though I doubt I’d have said them out loud), and I know that I was incredibly judgmental in regard to divorce before it was my lived experience, which is why I think that it’s so important to tell my story.

I still believe in the church though, and I refuse to give up hope that our generation can create safe Christian spaces for people ending relationships/marriages, where they can come to feel safe and held as they navigate the changes – rather than pressured, ostracized, and shamed like we as church folk seem to gravitate toward.

So why am I writing this post today, out of the blue? 

Because currently more than three people who are close to me are trying to navigate separation, divorce, and being alone and single for the first time as adults – and I don’t want them to feel like I did.

What I want to see from us, from our culture and from the church, is the normalization of divorce. As I keep saying, I still believe in the sanctity of marriage, but I also believe in the beauty and holiness of divorce. Bet you’ve never heard divorced referred to as holy before – but I think it can be! I know that my life is holier now and my relationship with God is stronger now, after my divorce than it was in that marriage.

SO how the heck do we still honor the biblical principles of holy/pure/honorable marriage while also honoring divorces? It’s not an easy question and there isn’t an easy answer – but I think that it can be done. Here are some of my initial thoughts/ideas for how to make that happen:

  • As a community we need to create safe spaces to talk and share our experiences. Especially in my experience with the church, we readily share our accomplishments and the “good” things that are happening in our lives, but rarely do we talk about real, personal issues. We might occasionally offer vague prayer requests during sharing time, but I’ve never heard anyone ask for help in navigating abusive situations and getting out, talking about problems with intimacy or sex, feeling depressed and lonely, really struggling in general. I think we can prove this theory too, because when someone does share this type of struggle it gets awkward and everyone whispers behind their back, and kind of judges their stability for even bringing such a thing to the public table. If we were to make space for this kind of conversation more often, then it wouldn’t be so difficult.
  • Listen first. When someone shares something private, simply listen – don’t offer suggestions or opinions unless asked, and even then, assure that what you’re saying is with the goal of being helpful to the other, period. Don’t talk to make yourself feel better, just shut up and listen. Also remember the importance of privacy! I remember when I first told folks about my divorce, the news of it spread like wildfire – even when I asked that it be held in confidence. I don’t blame people for this, it’s juicy gossip and everyone wants details, but I BEG you – do not do that to anyone else. Keep your mouth shut. If people want to share their story, they can. If they don’t want to tell anyone but you, that’s their choice too.
  • Honor the person for their individual gifts, strengths, and wisdom – apart from their “couple” role. I felt like people didn’t even know ME as a person without him, especially because I was so reserved and quiet when I was a part of that marriage. One of the most helpful things that my pastor said to me at that time was that he saw me for me. I didn’t believe it at first, but it’s seriously one of the most meaningful things that I heard initially. I doubted my worth immensely, so simple statements of encouragement meant more than anyone could have known.
  • Another thing that is incredibly important is believing what is told to you – even when it seems a little unbelievable. Most people were shocked when I told them that I was getting divorced. There are people to this day that don’t believe the truth about why my marriage ended, which no longer affects me (just annoys me), but initially I felt crazy and constantly doubted myself because I was being questioned so much that I started to believe their stories over my truth. (THANK YOU to everyone who has loved me through all of this!!).
  • Shift the focus. We assume that marriage is always the answer, but more and more that might not be the best option for the individuals – and that is NOT for us to judge or try to help decide. I didn’t tell anyone my plan for divorce until I was set on it, and I think that’s often the case with people – so don’t try to change their minds. I was probably my harshest critic and I shamed myself as much as anyone, so I really didn’t need that from others – I needed support, that’s it. I had already made all of the pro/con lists, I’d considered the fall outs, the possible good things that might come from staying – I thought a LOT and ultimately made the best decision for me.
  • Recognize that prayer doesn’t fix everything. It made me crazy when people told me that they’d “pray that everything would work out”, by the time they knew there were any issues, my marriage was 6 feet under and dead cold – prayers wouldn’t help. The prayers that DID help were the ones offering me comfort, strength, and love as I navigated the struggles of divorce. Those prayers made me feel held when I felt completely alone otherwise. Those are the kind of prayers that I pray for my friends who are currently going through this. Prayers for comfort are incredibly important and meaningful.
  • Acknowledge that everyone is different, every situation is different, the answers/journey/conclusion will be different. Be open to understanding and growth; we all have a lot to learn and teach one another.

I hope there’s something helpful here in this blog, sometimes I feel like I write to help you and honestly other times it’s just to get it off of my chest. My goal today is to accomplish both things. I hope that this helps, I hope it encourages understanding and reflection, I HOPE that we can decide as Christians to move away from shaming one another, to a place of acceptance and love – because ya know, Jesus called us to LOVE each other, not tear each other down and guilt/hate/shame/devalue one another – that’s worldly nonsense that we’re called to live above. So as I said yesterday in my blog, let’s walk the walk and talk the talk as we grow in our love of Christ and love for others.

I have faith that we’ll do better at this someday, but I think it will take time… So let’s start working to shift narratives and become more inclusive and loving now. Let’s own our stories and not try to control or dictate others. Jesus loves divorced me, no less than he loved married (unhappy) me. I think that God wants us to be happy, at least the God I serve does. Life can be beautiful and full of joy, and I’m so thankful that my marriage ended because I wouldn’t have known it the way that I do now. I wouldn’t understand love the way that I do now either; I honestly didn’t know what a good relationship felt like – but now I do, and it’s amazing. I wouldn’t change any of my past because it brought me here to this place and moment, and here is good.

I have lot’s of questions for God, and I’m curious to know Her real feelings about divorce someday – so unless God comes back before I’m dead, I’ll add it to my list of questions for the gates!

Thanks for pondering this topic with me – ask me your questions, tell me your thoughts, & let’s learn from one another 💙

Words & Actions

As you know, I’ve been reading my Bible faithfully again for the first time in years – probably since college days, if I’m being completely honest with you (and myself). I’m enjoying it so far and learning a lot already! Yesterday we read from Matthew 21 and part of the chapter talks about the parable of the two sons, and it says:

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Matthew 21: 28-32

I’m struck by this story – because it seems kind of dumb to me at first glance, but as I spend more time thinking about it, it’s pretty darn profound. The whole thing is this – both brothers are in the wrong! One is not better than the other, they both disobeyed. And even though the first brother decided to do the task after saying no, he still said no initially.

As a child, one of the lessons that I remember my Dad really drilling into us was that we should do the things that need to be done, before even having to be ask. Then if we are asked, we should do them immediately. Though this usually pertained to chores around the house, it applies to all of life too and I think that the lesson has made me more effective both personally and professionally. I now enjoy doing tasks and projects before I’m asked, people are more impressed that way and it gives me a greater sense of accomplishment. It helps me prove my desire for quality too, and it shows that I truly care.

Another lesson that we were taught is that if you say that you will do something, you do it, period. If you don’t intend on doing the work don’t say that you will. This forms a solid layer of trust in relationships, and it also gives credibility.

One of my biggest struggles during COVID so far has been trying to remember everything. I’ve noticed in myself that I am more forgetful and my follow-through isn’t what it was before the pandemic. I think that a lot of this has to do with the fact that I’m just really tired and overwhelmed most of the time. I’ve never struggled to remember to do things before, so it’s a little weird for me. So I’ve had to come up with different ways of staying on top of things and now I write everything down, even more lists than before (which is a lot!), and that’s helping me. Keeping my word and doing quality work is incredibly important to me and I’ll do whatever I have to, to make sure that I honor myself and my peers in that way.

So back to this idea of words vs. actions. It struck me how in this Bible reading we tend to think that the first son, who did the work after being asked and saying no, is somehow better (or at least that’s how my brain worked it out). But I think that the whole reason this parable is even shared in the first place is to teach us that both of the brothers are in the wrong – neither better than the other.

Words without actions…

I keep coming back to this phrase. I think that words without actions can be one of the most painful and damaging things that we can do to one another. I think about relationships here – we can promise the world to our partners, but then not do a thing to make any of it a reality… many of us have probably experienced that! My dead marriage had a lot of those interactions; broken promises and statements without follow through. I’ll be honest, I thought that was how all relationships were – but now I know that is not true, and I see that they can be holy and good. 

This is a lesson to us as Christ-followers, too! We are to read, learn and live as Jesus tells us to. Reading the Bible then hating LGBTQ+ people doesn’t work. Reading the Bible then sending the homeless away without shelter doesn’t work. Reading the Bible then shaming the single parent doesn’t work. Reading the Bible then… then… then…

If we’re going to call ourselves Christians, then we need to BE Christ to others. The Bible is so clear about what that looks like! Words without actions are pointless and pathetic. It’s not easy to be a kind person all the time, to follow Jesus when it means denying ourselves, to commit to non-violence and love in a world where that’s counter-cultural… But if we’re going to claim it, we’ve got to live it! If we’re not committed to that way of life, than that’s ok – but we need to stop saying that we are. Our words need to match our actions.

This scripture today was really a call to action for me. One that I fail at, but that I need to consciously work towards every single day. I want my life to be an example of God’s love, and I need to be more intentional about aligning my words and actions. I’m realizing how hypocritical I’ve been as a Christian for the last years – talking about God and claiming lots of knowledge, yet not opening my Bible. As I’ve said before, this year I’m connecting those actions better and I’m fully committed to reading the Bible for understanding and growth.

So here’s to owning our junk, acknowledging it, then deciding how we’re going to move forward – we’ve got to walk the walk if we’re going to talk the talk, so let’s do it friends.

The Helper

Have you ever taken the enneagram test? It’s a personality quiz and it categorizes you based on how you answer questions; your personality traits, preferences and what motivates you. My enneagram type is 2: The helper.

I think that the type accurately describes me; it identifies me as someone who puts others needs before their own, who is very in tune with the feelings and experiences of others, a “people please”, a friend who wants solid friends, a good listener, generous, and above all else – I want to fix things and help people. 

The first time that I ever took the enneagram, back in my college days, I was intrigued by the accuracies of the test. It was the first time that I had taken a professional personality test and I felt seen and understood. Reading about the different personality types helped me to better understand people in general. Since then, my interest in personality tests and evaluations has grown – I think that my favorite is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), but I’m also intrigued by the Love Language evaluation. Anything that provides insight into why we do what we do is fascinating to me. I also like that they create a sense on comradery and help us recognize that we’re not alone in our thoughts and how we process the world around us – in short, it helps us understand and allows us to be understood. 

So back to the enneagram, there are down sides to being a 2 as well, the biggest (that I relate to the most) is the tendency to rely on repression as a coping mechanism for self: avoiding my own needs and feelings. My “type” also leans toward anxiety and the desire for perfection, which is very true for me. Under stress I also tend to over commit and make myself incredibly busy as a way of coping, even though I know that it’s not helpful or healthy in the long run. And at the core of all of this is a sense of shame and not feeling good enough – probably because my self-standards are at times unattainable and ridiculous, honestly.

So why in the world am I brining this up? Well, because last week I was given some wisdom that has been stuck in my head since: Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you have to. Such simple words, yet incredibly profound and helpful to me.

This was shared in terms of my need to help others, and how I put that desire above my own needs and well-being, even when I don’t want to and feel some resentment toward it. Now I have amazing friends and people in my life, there is no doubt about that! But there are also always people in my life who I feel some sense of responsibility to care for and help, even when I don’t really have the energy. I tend to always make time for people who need me, even when I know that I don’t have the emotional capacity or energy to be effective. I let people use my skills, out of the work context, because I feel like God has given me the gifts that I have so that I can use them and be helpful (insert self-imposed Christian shame here).

But just because I know how to do something does not mean that I have to or that I owe people my free labor. I have a strong foundation in social work and counseling at this point and I am confident in my ability to help others, but that doesn’t mean that I must give out that skill for free. Of course, if my dear friends need support and a listening ear, I will always be there for them – because the relationships are reciprocal, but when the relationships aren’t mutual, then I need to give myself permission to not engage in them when I do not want to or don’t feel like I can.

Every year I set a theme to focus on, Joy is always an underlying word, but this year the action that I’m choosing to work intentionally on is boundaries. I’ve always thought of boundaries as something that limit and push away – but I’m changing my perspective and starting to see the real beauty in boundaries! They are there to protect and guard, but not necessarily isolate – rather, liberate! There is freedom and beauty in strong having boundaries.

It’s hard for me to create boundaries, especially when they haven’t always been there. But I’m finding that when people really do care about us and respect us, they will appreciate that we do set boundaries. One example is this: I recently got a work phone, because my work-life balance was becoming problematic. I let my team know that I was going to start only responding to work communications on my work phone and that I would be shutting it off after hours. For a time, I was allowing people to reach out to me at all hours of the day and night on my personal cell, and I was getting some serious compassion fatigue. I knew I needed a change, and I felt that this boundary setting would help – and it has! People respect me and they respect my request for communication changes, which means a lot to me. 

Boundaries create clarity, too. I think that there is beauty in clear expectations and desires – in every kind of relationship and interaction. Boundaries are healthy and they protect us, sometimes from ourselves. As I said earlier, I’m a recovering people pleaser and I feel guilty for saying “no” to people when they ask for support or need my help. But here are some of the things that I’ve recently come to recognize:

1.       The person who I need to care for, help, and love the most is me, because if I don’t do that, I can’t help other people.

2.       It’s not my responsibility to help everyone else – people need to take responsibility for their own healing and growth, just as I have had to do for myself in the past.

3.       Not everyone even wants help/to get better – some people just want the attention and support, so by giving that to them I may be contributing to a negative and detrimental cycle.

4.       By having clear boundaries, I limit my sense of stress and feelings of shame. When I know what I want and deserve, and refuse to settle for less, I am honoring me – and that feels good.

5. Having high standards is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s actually very good.

6. Boundaries can shift and change, as we grow and change.

7. Shame is dumb, we need to get rid of it (more on that later!)

So how in the world does a person who has always put others needs/feelings/wants before their own start to shift that narrative? Well, it starts with recognizing how awesome you are as a person and buying into the truth that you have a lot of wisdom and skill to offer the world, and that your heart is good. It’s knowing your worth so deeply that you’re ok with people not liking you and getting mad at you when you have to finally say enough is enough and set hard boundaries.

It’s a process and a learning curve for me; it can be a struggle, but it’s also the biggest gift that I’ve given myself in a long time. Freeing up time and space in my mind for me has been just what the doctor ordered, and I’m proud of myself.

Here’s to boundary setting, recognizing our worth, loving ourselves for who we are, and continually growing into awesome-loving-smart-sassy humans. We got this, friends. Peace.

Bible. Blessed. Beliefs.

Do you enjoy reading your Bible? I struggle with it.

One of my commitments to myself this year is to be more intentional about my faith and my relationship with God. I’ve been actively evading my Bible readings for the last few years, because honestly I felt pretty hurt and defeated by the church (in general) as I was trying to navigate my divorce, and I haven’t settled into the Word or Christianity fully again since.

I will say this though, if 2020 taught me anything it’s that I cannot do this alone and I NEED God in my life. My faith went through a lot last year, but never once did I doubt the love or existence of God. However I certainly doubted Christians and the church. I still find myself in a place of questioning and discomfort.

I’ve always been part of Christian circles (obviously since my parents are both pastors) and I will say that I have learned a lot of really good things because of this opportunity. But as I’m getting older, I’m recognizing that I also learned things that are rooted in the opposite of what Jesus taught us: oppression and ostracization. I played a holier than thou Christian for a long time, but that’s worldly non-sense, not what God actually wants from us.

So how do we actually know what God wants from us and what God’s about when Christians are often the ones spewing hatred and nonsensical rhetoric? Well, go back to the source, the Bible.

This year Dave and I are going to read the entire Bible together. I think that this will really help me, because I’ve become dismayed and frustrated with Christianity – and I need to remember what the bible actually says, rather than how it’s interpreted to promote the values of humans.

It’s so clear to me now that the Bible can be used to back almost any view that one holds, but I think that what it really comes down to is following the examples and teachings of Christ – as a Christian person. And what are those teachings? It’s pretty darn simple if you ask me; love your neighbor, do no harm, love and honor one another and above all else – put God first.

So I’ve been faithfuly reading my Bible again since the start of this new year, so I’m only 26 days into this journey and already, I’ve learned (and remembered) so much! One of the most helpful passages that we read recently was the Beatitudes:

Matthew 5:3-12a

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are they merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…

I love this! Jesus blesses those who society decides are not worthy or “enough”. We often seem to think that the people who deserve the most love and respect are the perfect Christians, but Jesus is like yeaahhhh NO. Love the LEAST of these. The people that society hates and looks down on; love and serve them. I LOVE THAT. I love the person that Jesus was/is/always will be.

My approach studying the Bible this year also incorporates reading a lot of commentaries from folks across the spectrum of Christianity (very progressive and also very conservative with a bit of in-betweens too!) to gain a better understanding of how they’re interpreting the Bible. The interesting thing is that everyone is incredibly convicted and totally believes that their view is right – at times their views are in complete opposition to how I read the scripture, which is fascinating to me! It just goes to show that we all see and understand differently, and there is grace – but also truth.

A couple of months ago Dave and I were attending couch church, as we call it, and listening to a message by his pastor at Life Church via the interwebs. The sermon was about the importance of grace AND truth. He spoke of how some churches are all about grace and making people feel ok about everything as long as they repent, by relying heavily on forgiveness and freedom. Then there are other churches that are all truth focused; lots of rules and ritual, more accountability and likely more fear of failure. The ideal church leans on both grace & truth – in this scenario God is more like mom or dad, providing structure, guidelines and rules (truth) to help us grow into holy and honorable people, but also extending understanding and forgiveness (grace) when we do inevitably mess us and question what we’ve been told. This sermon has been on my mind a lot and I find the concept very helpful in understanding the parent God that I choose to live for.

There was a time over the summer last year that I think I was getting a little too loosey goosey in my faith with God. I was heavily relying on the “grace” rather than recognizing and abiding by the truth. I didn’t do anything bad, but I wasn’t intentionally living right either – I was sort of just existing. I was trying to connect with God; in nature, in trying to decide the characteristics of God, and even in trying to come up with what my perfect God would look like… I forgot that the bible really does have a purpose and it does help us know God and also understand how we are to live.

As I’m re-reading the Bible with a new, open and explorative lens, I’m seeing the outlines for living more clearly and I’m excited to learn more about God again from the biblical perspective. Since I started allowing myself to question my beliefs more, I think I’ve unintentionally seen “rules” or living guidelines as somehow oppressive, because I’ve been affected by the teachings of the Bible that are oppressive (for example purity culture, being “against” people for things out of their control, and being a “godly woman” that can lead to being taken advantage of). But in reality, there is a TON of freedom in the Bible, and what it really says is actually empowering and life-giving! When the Bible is used to oppress, I think that we’re doing it wrong.

I’m excited to keep reading and re-learning who God is, and to do it with someone who has so much wisdom and insight. It’s exciting to read commentaries too and to know that I’m not the only one doubting some of the beliefs that I held in my childhood, asking hard questions, and developing new ideas and thoughts. One of the coolest things that I came across when reading about the beatitudes what this newly written version that is more applicable to todays’ culture and society, I think that it’s incredibly relevant, so I have to share:

Beatitudes for the 21st Century by Rev. Becky Withington

Blessed are the marginalized, fort they are extravagantly welcome in the culture of God.

Blessed are those who care for the earth, for they promote a healthy, dynamic ecosystem that cares for us all.

Blessed are the bold, for they see the culture of God manifest before their eyes.

Blessed are the empathetic, for they heal the brokenness of the world.

Blessed are the inclusive, for they see through the eyes of love.

Blessed are those with integrity, for their hearts, minds, words and actions are one.

Blessed are those who commit themselves to peace, for they disarm violence.

Blessed are those who organize, struggle, and sacrifice for freedom and equality, for they bed the moral arc of the universe towards justice.

Blessed are we in the amazing diversity of our ethnicity, age, ability, and orientation, for we make visible the glory of creation.

I think that what it comes down to is that we are no better than anyone else and as Christians we’re called to love and to stand up for all of the marginalized among us. We are to live with grace and truth, we are to seek the Lord, we are to follow the word and emulate the example of Christ. Part of this is taking responsibility for ourselves; our actions (past/present/future) and questions, and being willing to learn and grow. Part of being open and willing to ask questions is accepting that we will be wrong sometimes and we need to take wisdom and correction at times. None of us have all the answers, but what we do have right now is time to ponder and grow – so let’s use that time wisely and get on it!

My prayer for us this year is to be fearless in our pursuit of the Lord, deeper understanding, fuller love, and more joyful lives all in the context of God-centered living. Be well my friends.

guess who’s back, back again…

Hello my blog friends. I’ve been feeling really uninspired in my writing lately. I’m not completely sure why, but it’s true – and evident, since I haven’t written a blog on here since well before Christmas. But I’m back, and better than ever? Time will tell.

A wise woman asked me this week what I was avoiding internally, by ignoring blogging and art – both activities that usually feed my soul and help me relax, both activities that I haven’t been making any time for lately. She encouraged me to really think about it, and while I don’t have answers to that question yet, I do plan on giving it some serious consideration and thought. Because I love writing and I love art; I want to spend more time pursuing both in this coming year. 

It’s hard to believe that 2020 is finally over and that we’re embarking on this new journey into 2021; we’re 21 days into this new year already which is almost unbelievable. Time goes by so quickly. It feels difficult to even express all the feelings, experiences, and changes that occurred last year – from a global pandemic to relationship changes, civil unrest to community building, death to new life, isolation & loneliness to connection, pain to joy. It was a weird one! There’s no doubt about that! I have had a difficult time trying to process this last year, and I think that in reality it’s going to take a lot longer than it usually does to reflect, but here’s a start.

This year I learned who I am and who I want to me.

I found confidence in being uniquely me, and in that came a lot of freedom. I’ve spent a lot of my life so far trying to be the person that I thought others wanted me to be, instead of being my authentic self. But this year helped me realize that I don’t have to do that! I can be exactly who I am and still be loved and feel worthy.

I also learned how important it is to accept that I’m not going to everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone will agree with me or like me, and that used to really bother me – because I want to be liked! But now, I honestly don’t really care. As long as I love myself, that’s really all that matters and, in that self-love, I’ve connected with people who love me more than I knew was possible. So that’s proof enough that self-love leads to deeper interpersonal love, and most importantly more intimate love with God.

This was a year of growth.

I stepped into my power. I found my voice and lost the fear of what others might think. I stood up for the things that I believe in, I asked a whole lot of questions, I embraced vulnerability. I finally & completely let go of my dead relationships, through reflecting on painful memories and walking through the hurt to real healing. I worked with a counselor and I did a lot of work on my own, and I’m proud of myself & I’m embracing my newfound freedom. 

I also allowed myself to explore my faith and religion more. I’ve always been a little scared to question my Christian beliefs and values, but I lost that fear somewhere in 2020 and in that, I found a lot of truth and clarity. I totally value my Christian faith and I love me some Jesus! I’m excited to continue pursuing the Lord this coming year, without fear and with a heart wide open. 

I also grew in my role as a professional social worker and leader, as I tried my hardest to support and manage a team through this pandemic. I certainly wasn’t perfect, and I didn’t always make the right decisions – but overall, I feel good about the work that I did this past year.

This year I remembered what I want.

It’s pretty simple actually, I just want to be happy. I don’t need things to make me happy, I don’t need social media, I don’t need toxic/one-sided relationships. What I need is my family, my loved ones, my friends, my dogs, nature, and God. Period. Many other things that brought me a joy in 2020 too including: writing this blog, reading, journaling, crafting, kayaking, hiking, (trying to do) gardening, virtual friend dates, lots of phone calls, spending time with quality people, listening to podcasts and books, playing board games, sitting by the fire – the simple things.

Thank you for being here, for supporting me and loving me for who I am. Here’s to loving hard, listening closely, living generously, and simply being our authentic selves.  Peace, friends. 

Joyful. Patient. Faithful.

This morning the Bible verse of the day is from Romans 12:12 and it instructs us to Be joyful in hope. Patient in affliction. Faithful in prayer. I like this scripture! It’s full of good reminders, so I figured it’s the perfect writing prompt for the day and a good verse to reflect on.

BE JOYFUL IN HOPE.

This phrase reminds me of two of my very favorite scriptures: Jeremiah 29:11 & Proverbs 31:25, both of which discuss God’s good plans for our future and how we don’t need to worry. I can be an anxious person sometimes, I’ll admit. I worry about the future and I can be quite pessimistic, or is it too realistic, at times. There’s this thing we do in social work called the social work game… The whole point is that you ask what could go wrong (with your plan or statement), then you catastrophize until you reach death – because that’s always the worst thing that can happen. The game of sorts is something that we do as a reality check because it shows us how much we overthink, and it helps us take a chill pill and realize that most of the bad things we think, really won’t ever happen. I think that in general, helping people, are more prone to anxiety and worry more about outcomes than others, because we want to do the right thing and promote the best outcomes.

If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll probably remember me talking about the importance of choosing joy. It’s a motto that I live by, probably the next tattoo I’ll get as well! I fully believe that being joyful is a choice because life isn’t always hunky-dory, sometimes it sucks! But usually, if we practice gratitude and take a step back, we’re able to see the good things in life.

In general, this year has been hard, but as it’s nearing the end, I’m certainly becoming more joyful in hope for the future.

PATIENT IN AFFLICTION.

It’s not easy to be patient when we’re suffering, simple as that. But that’s what we’re being encouraged to do in this Bible verse. There is immense suffering in the world right now and has been all year! It seems like everywhere you look there’s more destruction, hatred, pain… it’s almost unavoidable. 

How do we cultivate patience in a world and culture that is so impatient? I’m not sure. But I know that it’s important. I consider myself to be a very patient person, but this year has tested me. Speaking of patience, my mom is such an incredible example! We often talk in our family about how she has the patience of a saint. It takes a lot to rattle her, which has always been impressive to me. I want to embody the patience that my mom has; especially if I’m ever a mother, with my children. She’s always been a safe and loving person, and I so appreciate that about her. 

When we’re suffering, our initial response is rarely to wait and see – we want to know what to do to make it end… But this verse says sit in that space and be patient, embrace the pause. I think that one reason for this is because we often learn the most about ourselves and others in these moments of affliction. If we skip to the end, we lose the lesson. I’ve watched this scenario play out over and over in my life.

FAITHFUL IN PRAYER.

My prayer life isn’t fantastic lately, I’ll be completely honest with you. I like the idea of prayer and the conversation that it is meant to be with the Lord, but I’m not good at it. I believe that prayer looks different for everyone and what it really comes down to is simply just being present in intentional space with the Lord. Prayer for me is often writing, art, and music. But sitting and actually praying is not easy for me at all, I admire people like my dad who are very faithful in this regard, because I get bored and sidetracked (God already knows, so I’m not outing myself here). I wish that I had the wisdom and words that my dad does when he prays, and also his discipline to engage faithfully in the practice of prayer.

I really want to be better and more intentional about my prayer life, because I do believe in the power of prayer. I’m committing here with you, to being more intentional and faithful in my prayer practice, and I also commit to holding you, my friends, in prayer.

Joy. Patience. Faith. These are the things that we ask for O God, fill our hearts and lives with the desire to love others with your unconditional, unending love. We need you, we will wait on you, and we hope in you. Amen.

Growing and evolving..

My reflections on the love languages and personal growth.

The first time that I read the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I was riding in a bus from Guatemala to Honduras while on my college cross-cultural. I read the book in one day and was fascinated and intrigued by the new concepts that I learned, simple yet very applicable. If you are unfamiliar with this book and the concept of love languages, the idea is that we all experience love differently and have different needs – but if we can understand what we need, and the needs of our partners and loved ones, we can better show love to each other. The 5 love languages as described by Chapman are: giving/receiving gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, and acts of services.

When I first took the love language quiz at age 20, my top two were quality time and words of affirmation. I’ve always identified my love languages as these two traits, so I decided to take the quiz again this week, and I learned that my preferences have changed a bit! Which is interesting to me and really got me thinking. Now, my primary love language is still quality time, but it is followed by physical touch and acts of service. I have a few theories for these changes…

Quality time has and always will be the most important thing to me. I love being with my loved ones, and when we’re spending undistracted intentional time together that means a lot (in all relationships). It is interesting to me that my second-place languages have changed as I’ve gotten older, but as I’ve spent more time thinking about it, it makes sense to. As I’ve grown and changed, so have my preferences and needs.

Words of affirmation used to be a lot more important to me than it is now. I think that one of the reasons it’s further down on my list, is because I’m a lot more comfortable and confident in myself. I have also proven to myself that I can do it on my own, so I don’t need other people to tell me that I’m good enough now – because I already know that. I see this change as a positive one; I’m stronger and more self-assured now, and I love that about myself.

Physical touch and acts of service have now become my tied-for-second-place love languages. I’ve always been affectionate, but I think that it means more to me now because of the genuine care behind it. Physical touch used to have negative connotations to me in relationship, but I’ve reclaimed that, and I now again appreciate the beauty of physical connection – even just holding hands and hugging. I think that another reason why I value this more, is that since this pandemic started almost 9 months ago, our physical connection has significantly decreased as a society – so when it does happen it’s even more comforting and nice.

Acts of service also moved up in my list, which makes sense to me. I used to hate having people do things for me, because it felt like a degrading thing, but I’ve reclaimed that too! Now it’s nice when people go out of their way to do things or help me, it’s nice to let people take care of me sometimes too (even though it’s still hard to let that happen!).

We’re constantly growing and changing, our mindsets are shifting and evolving. I think that these type of personality inventories can be helpful in gaining better self-understanding, and it’s interesting to take them from time to time to see how we/our needs shift.

Knowing the love languages of our loved ones is also helpful and important, because we want to make sure that they experience the care that they need too! It’s important to remember that we’re all different and need different things – so for example, words of affirmation might not be super important to me anymore, but my partner or best friend might need verbal reminders of how important they are to me, so I want to do that for them to assure that they know how much I care about them. Or maybe gifts are what matter the most to my loved one, so I would want to give them little things to show them how much I care, even though I do not need gifts to feel cared for.

I think that another thing worth noting is that even though we have our strongest love languages and preferences, we likely still appreciate all of the different love languages! Because love looks different day to day. Knowing our preferences and being willing to communicate them openly with our loved ones can really enhance our relationships and interactions. Being open to hearing feedback on how we’re showing love is also incredibly important – we can never go wrong with honest communication.

That’s another thing that I’m working on personally; being open with my experiences and feelings in relationship. I struggle to verbalize this at times, because I’m a fairly private person and I’m also an internal processor. But I fully believe that the most successful relationships occur when communication is open, clear, and honest. I’m pushing myself to be more transparent, and I appreciate when my loved ones encourage me to share and be open, because I don’t always even think to share what I’m going though.

Anywho, that’s all I have to say about that right now. But if you’re interested in learning more about your love language, I’d encourage you read Gary Chapman’s book and take the free quiz at:www.5lovelanguages.com then click the button that says, “learn your love language”.

Toodles my friends.

Energy & Validation

Ok so forewarning, this blog isn’t like most of my blog posts – it’s more theoretical and less mushy gushy uplifting, possibly even boring if our interests don’t align. But nevertheless, here goes nothing!

Lately I’ve been thinking about the idea of internal vs. external validation a lot. Doesn’t everyone keep themselves up at night thinking about theories and the complexities of life? Or is it just me…

If I had to define internal validation, I’d say that it’s when we’re able to validate, or affirm, our own feelings/beliefs/accomplishments/successes without needing the input of others. We are able to accept ourselves for who we are without judgement. We accept blame for what we do wrong, but we also don’t blame ourselves for our shortcomings because we are, after all, only human. I also think that internal validation allows us to be less emotional, because we don’t need others to tell us that we’re enough – so even when we do make mistakes, we’re more forgiving of ourselves. We know our inherent worth.

From my perspective, external validation is the need to have others approve of and recognize us for our work and accomplishments. I believe that external validation pays more attention to emotions as well, because often the motivation for doing things is to receive some sort of affirmation in return. I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but it does allow more space for self-doubt. I believe that there is a link between the love language words of affirmation and the need for external validation as well.

Now I believe that at our healthiest, we’re able to receive both internal and external validation, because there are certainly pros and cons to each.

I’ve mostly been considering this idea in the context of the work environment; however, I believe that it applies to our personal lives and interactions as well. But let me first explore work with you.

As a caveat, I want to say that this is simply based on my perception – and I believe that everyone sees the world differently based on their experiences and lenses, we’re constantly changing and growing in our understanding. I’m certainly open to learning more and exploring your ideas too!

I love my work; I find a lot of joy and fulfillment in what I do. But my job is only a part of my life and part of my personality. I certainly value my career as a social worker and I feel that I’m able to help others with the work that I do, but I’m also very passionate about my faith, I love doing art work and writing, being outside brings me a lot of peace and joy, my friends and family mean the world to me, and I feel that every one of these pieces adds to my life – no one things makes up “me” or my worth. 

We used to make diagrams in social work school, often, to describe ourselves and how we use our time and energy. So I want to do that here to show you how I see myself and my life right now. If I had to make a piechart representing how I use my time vs. how I want to spend my time this is what it would look like for me right now:

I think that it’s a really good practice to take self-inventory and to actually write it down and visually consider how we’re extending ourselves and our energy. As you can see, I seek more balance in my life than I currently feel like I have – the pandemic certainly impacts this and the amount of time that we are spending working, but I’m also noticing that I’m overextending myself in other ways too, which I believe then promotes more time-wasting/numbing behavior. I’m committing to finding more balance and practicing better self-care, so that my current time/energy tracker starts to look more like my ideal one.

Below is another diagram that I use to check in with myself. In the social work wold it’s called an eco map. It represents my life and how I’m using my energy. The lines represent relationship security and the arrows show where I’m giving and receiving my energy.

*It’s important to be honest in this exercise and really check in with how you are using your energy.

For me right now, I see that I’m not necessarily putting my energy into some of the things that give me the most energy in return (specifically exercise/physical health and my faith/church life). It’s also important to do this with an optimistic, judgement free attitude – the point is to get a pulse on where you’re at, not shame yourself for what you could possibly be doing better. There’s always room for growth and improvement.

Ok, so that was kind of a side track… But let me get back to my point… I certainly consider myself an internal processer and I find my fulfilment within myself, rather than based on the opinions and affirmation of other. I think that this directly relates to the workplace, as I briefly mentioned before, so here’s my theory on that one:

In the content of the work environment, we each preform differently based on how we receive our validation. One of my biggest downfalls as an internal processer in this environment is that I like to fly under the radar, but in doing so, people do not recognize the amount of work that I am responsible for and complete. Usually this does not at all bother me, because I don’t need, or even really want, people to make a big deal out of the work that I’m doing – because I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for our clients and staff. But because I don’t talk about the work that I’m doing, at times, people assume that I have a lot of free time and give me more and more to do until I’m overwhelmed. And as a perfectionist and hard worker, I tend to keep taking on more until I literally cannot handle the workload. 

But overall, I think that being an internal processor and receiving my validation from within really allows me to do my best work, because I’m not waiting on the affirmation of others and I know that my worth and value is based on more than just my productivity. I appreciate this about myself. 

I think that if we don’t have any internal validation in regard to our work we’re probably doomed to failure. I’m also wondering if there is a like between internal/external validation and introversion/extroversion? It seems to me that extroverts are more likely to need external validation for their accomplishments. I see this in my work as well; when my extroverted colleagues and friends do something good, they often share this with others and we provide positive reinforcement and feedback. I certainly don’t see anything wrong with this, it’s more our innate need for acceptance and affirmation. It’s just really interesting to me to see!

My one coworker and I often talk about the importance of work life balance and finding our worth in more than just our work. Because if we’re only finding our self-worth in the work that we do and the validation that we receive from others we are doomed to fail, because there is no way to always be perfect or productive or good at everything! We MUST have energy/affirmation sources outside of our jobs if we want to be able to do our jobs successfully and for the long run.

Now in regard to our personal lives, validation is also very important. When I’m getting to know new people, I like to understand their personality types, motivations, processing styles, and beliefs. That probably makes me sound like a super nerd, but I find it really helpful to understand what motivates people and this information provides great insight into how to communicate, value, love, and serve others well.

So for example, I’m an ISFJ personality type in Meyers Briggs. This means that I’m introverted, sensing, feeling, and judging. I’m an Enneagram type 2 wing 1, which means that I scored as a “helper”. And as far as the long languages goes, I score highest for quality time, then my second 2 are physical touch & acts of service. I know that if you’ve never read about these personality profiles, this will mean very little to you – but if you’re interested in learning more I highly suggest looking into these tools! They provide excellent insight into how and why we do what we do and think the way that we think, I find it fascinating!

Now back to my point of validation in our personal lives. I think that part of the reason that I enjoy more solitary hobbies is because of my ability to validate myself internally without the feedback of others. I love art, writing, and doing things in nature. I set goals for myself and I meet them, but I rarely talk about my goals with others – because they are goals that I set for myself to meet my own expectations, rather than things that I want to do to please others or for their approval. Even when I accomplish big things, I rarely even think to share my accomplishment, because I’m not usually doing it for anyone other than myself. I’m always thankful for recognition when it’s done privately, but I never want people to make a big deal out of me – that makes me really uncomfortable. 

In relationship, it’s important to understand our partners/friends/family and what they need to feel loved and validated. We are all different and we have different needs, and part of love is figuring out what the other person needs to feel good about themselves and doing that for them – even if it’s not how we personally process and feel. For example, one of my dear friends thrives off of external validation & words of affirmation, and I know that about her, so I make a big deal out of her accomplishments – and she in return quietly affirms me, because she knows that I do not enjoy the attention. It’s a dance, and it’s important that we figure out the steps in all of our relationships.

So there’s a little insight into my head. I feel like this is a concept that I’ll probably keep rolling over in my mind for a while, so don’t be surprised if it comes up again! Just think of this as the preliminary post to my musings on validation.

I love the complexity yet specificity of life! It’s fascinating, beautiful, and so big! There’s always more to learn and explore, which is incredibly exciting to me. I’m so grateful that God gifts us each with such unique interests and minds, so that we can continue to explore and understand the world more fully. We have SO much to learn from one another.

My goal is to more consciously use my time and to allow space for the exploration of new ideas and topics. Daydreaming and thinking isn’t bad, though I sometimes make myself feel guilty for spending time doing so… but I think that is when we discover new concepts and ideas. So dream on, my friends, and please share with me what’s on your mind! 🙂

Finding the words

I love words and language in general. From the time I was a little girl I’ve enjoyed writing, here’s my most fabulous poem from when I was seven: Frogs are neat, frogs are cool, frogs don’t have to go to school. Frogs are neat, frogs are cautious, frogs are almost never nauseous. So as you can see, I’ve always had a way with words haha. My parents, especially my Dad, always encouraged me to write and I’m so thankful for that!

Words have always provided me with a sense of comfort. Most of my life I’ve had a journal and I’ve used it to help me process me feelings, experiences, beliefs, and life in general. I still have journals from when I was really young, writing about my crushes (including, but not limited to: Zac Efron, Josh Groban (obvi.), and Francois from the band Hello Kelly!) and other silly kid stuff; to journals from Cross-Cultural in college when I was grappling with the inequality of the world, depression, and incredible poverty that I was seeing; to writings from my divorce, relationships, and faith struggles along the way. There’s a little bit of everything in my journals and I’m so glad that I’ve kept them all this time. Some years I faithfully write every day, other times I only write every once in a blue moon – but I have always written in some capacity.

I have an eye for written detail and accuracy; at work I am often used as a proofreader or someone to bounce written ideas off. I feel that I’m able to eloquently express myself with words in writing, more so than in speech. Writing allows space for us to explore our inner worlds without being rushed. We are able to put our ideas down on paper, then return to them as many times as we want before choosing to share them… or keep them to ourselves. I only share about 5% of what I write, if that, but writing helps me process, regardless of what I do with it when I’m done.

Lately I haven’t been writing very much. Well, it isn’t really that, I just haven’t been able to write concisely or finish my thoughts. I haven’t posted a blog in over a month; not because I don’t have ideas – but rather I cannot seem to find the words. I currently have 39 blog posts in my drafts started without conclusion. I think of ideas then I struggle to process them and complete them lately, and I’m not totally sure why. But instead of being annoyed with myself for my (personally perceived) lack of productivity, I’ve given myself a break. 

Sometimes when words can’t be found, peace can. 

Here is a glimpse into what that peace has looked like for me these past few weeks: hikes and time in nature, videochats with best friends and babies, watching movies & getting excited about the holidays, cooking, listening to lots of good music, playing board games, driving around looking at Christmas lights, simple dates – enjoying quality time with my loved ones and my dogs. Peace is good, words are good, listening to what we need in the moment is good.

As I write about this topic of struggling to find the words, I’ve been reminded of the song by Mercy Me called Word of God Speak. These are some of the lyrics:

I’m finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it’s okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say
Word of God speak
Would you pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That you’re in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In your holiness
Word of God speak

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been super intentional about my God time lately. Aside from couch church on Sundays, I’ve been stinkin’ it up in regard to reading my devos and Bible, and even doing my daily gratitude journal. These are some of the most important things in life that help me stay grounded, yet I haven’t been making the time for them…

I also can’t remember the last time that I really allowed myself to be still and sit listening intentionally to God. I’ve been totally numbing my mind with Tiktok, social media, and trashy TV – I think because I’m scared to relax and actually have to deal with what’s going on in my head and heart. But you know what? I think that the quite Jesus time is just what my heart needs.

This last week Dave & I decided that we were going to take a break from social media, so we deactivated our Facebook accounts together. There is a lot of stress in life lately and Facebook just adds to it. Honestly a couple of weeks ago I felt it all coming to a head, I haven’t felt that panicked or stressed in years; it’s hard to even express what was going on in my head and heart, but what I can say is that my glass was completely empty but I was still trying to pour from it (in work and my personal life).

I’ve been working with COVID positive clients lately and I’m really struggling to process that experience. It feels like an incredible honor, but it’s also really scary to put yourself in a situation where you know that if you accidentally touch your mask you might breathe in the virus. It is also amazing to be among the people, privileged enough to spend time with those who are suffering alone with this virus. I feel really good about the work that I am able to do in this setting and it has reminded me why I am a social worker.

Now I haven’t let myself break down in a long time, because it’s very uncomfortable to me and I hate feeling that vulnerable. But I was on the edge a few weeks ago, and you know how Dave handled it? With love. He validated my feelings, helped me process my fears, and ultimately just sat in that heavy/dark/scary space with me until I saw some reprieve again. I’ve never had someone do that with me, and I’ve never before trusted someone to. Being vulnerable is scary, but it’s also healing.

I’m incredibly thankful that God brings people into our lives exactly when we need them. Friends, family, partners, and even pets! Having encouraging and loving people in our lives, who remind us to make time for the things that bring us joy is incredibly important. I hope that I’m the same kind of encouraging person to my loved ones, as they are to me.

Let me ask you, have you been struggling to do things that usually come easy to you lately, like me?

I think there is a HUGE lesson in this, and it’s a lesson of self-care. I believe that sometimes our bodies and minds make us take a break when we’re not willingly doing it on our own. I’m currently home sick and I think that a big part of that is because I literally ran myself dry and my body NEEDED a break, so it’s making me take one. I think that I was struggling with words too, maybe because I needed a break from the computer so that there was more time to connect with my real life and loved ones… I also think that I needed a mental break and time to just BE, instead of always doing. I have a hard time relaxing in general, because I’m very goal oriented and value productivity a lot, but this reprieve has been important and really good for me.

So I encourage you, my friends, to do a little self-inventory. Are there things in your life that you need a break from? Things that you need to make more time for? People that you crave more connection with?

We cannot do it all, so it’s important to focus our energies on the things and people that matter the most to us. For me, right now, this looks like spending time with my loved ones and puppies, making my home feel comfortable & safe and, of course, very ChristmasY! making time for writing and crafting, and simply being present and spending more intentional time with the big dude upstairs.

My prayer for us today is simple: peace.
Peace of mind, peace of heart, peace of spirit.

Leaning in.

As social workers we’re taught to lean in and dig deeper into hard statements, stories and experiences. We are trained to ask difficult questions, sit in the uncomfortable silences, hold hard emotions, and walk with people along their paths even if they get dark. Being a social worker means sticking around and being present for the whole journey, not just the “good” parts along the way.

In my personal life though, I’m a lot more passive. I tend to pull back rather than lean in. Especially when it comes to vulnerable conversations and experiences, or interactions that may lead to some kind of conflict or big emotion. I don’t like when things in my personal life are unsettled, it makes me feel really insecure and anxious.

So I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to learning about theories, sociological and psychological perspectives. When I was younger and newly married, I read a lot of really relevant and interesting books about marriage and relationships, and one concept that continues to stand out to me is the importance of leaning in instead of pulling back. The idea is that when you’re feeling uncomfortable, scared, worried, vulnerable, emotional, etc. you should lean in to your loved one, rather than pulling back and doing the protective armadillo thing. I don’t know if that’s a saying, but it should be, because armadillos ball up into their shells when they’re scared or feel too much. So basically, I’m an armadillo. (Sorry for that digression….)

Being vulnerable and allowing myself to rely on someone else to help hold me and what I’m experiencing is terrifying to me. The more I think about it though, the more important I feel it is to push myself to allow that to happen again. I still struggle with trust, because honestly, the last time I totally and completely trusted someone with every part of me they betrayed me in the worst and most hurtful way. But most people aren’t like that and they can be trusted. As a wise woman in my life one said, it’s impossible to know if we can trust someone unless we give them something to hold and trust with – then their response to our sharing will teach us if we can lean in more and trust them with more. But if we never open up, we will never know if we can.

I’m starting to really believe in the power of vulnerability and the beauty of sharing, once again. I am seeing the fruits of the labor, so to speak… the trust and safe spaces that can be built with others when we let down our walls enough to be truly seen. I think that that’s a whole other layer of this too – the fact that being vulnerable means taking our masks off and being fully seen, and being seen is scary. I don’t mean being seen physically; I mean being seen emotionally, psychologically, spiritually – that’s what freaks me out the most.

There are truly people who will meet us in those spaces though, with mutual vulnerability and respect, and those are the people who it is safe to be open with. I certainly will never be the type of person who openly and readily shares my heart with folks who I don’t know well, but I do think that I need to be more open and honest with the sweet people that I do have around me – because they will love me, even the weirder darker parts of me.

Leaning in is certainly a conscious practice for me, but I can tell you, the more I do it (with safe people, of course) the more comfortable it becomes. In spaces of vulnerability we can connect with our authentic selves; we can ask hard questions, explore deep emotions, wonder, process, and really simply just be. It’s still scary to me, to let myself be seen, but I’m starting to appreciate it more.

One thing that I have to constantly remind myself is that not everyone is like people I’ve known in the past who have betrayed my trust, people are still inherently good and I believe that most all people have good intentions. I think that it can be really easy to get stuck in bad thinking cycles where we convince ourselves that our worth is based on past relationships and decisions that we’ve made, but in reality, our pasts do not define us. I have to remind myself of this often, especially when I start to think about my divorce or question the decisions that I’ve made since – but the right people will meet us where we’re at and love us for exactly who we are. Right here, right now.

I’m excited for the future, for learning to trust & leaning in more intentionally – because I completely believe that if and when we are able to do that, we will experience deeper and more beautiful joy! I also think that in relationships when we’re working on this concept, it’s important to have mutual agreement and respect, of course, but also accountability in the practice. I know that personally, I can be avoidant when it comes to emotions – so sometimes I need to be directly asked about my feelings or pushed a little bit to open up. And when people show me that they truly care and are interested in what I have to say, then after a while it becomes more natural and easier to do.

So here’s to being more open, leaning in, and learning to trust and love again. 
Good things happen. Love is real. We will be okay.

I encourage you, my friends, to really lean in to the relationships and friendships that you have. I think that as the winter so quickly approaches us and the darkness and loneliness of the season draws near, it’s more important now than ever to truly lean on and love on one another. We need people and people need us, so let’s hop out of our comfort zones and show our love more openly to the people in our lives who mean the most. Also, let’s remember to simply be kind. We will never all agree, but we can all proceed with love. I think of this especially as we come to the end of the election season. I’m scared for the future and angry about politics, but you know what, “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things – LOVE never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Let’s not forget to move forward with love, regardless of the outcomes of this week and this year and this life… We are and always will be in this together, and I’ll never stop standing by you. Peace, dear ones.

Bye 27, Hi 28.

Year 27 was one of profound growth for me. It was great, terrible, painful, confusing, and full of joy.

I always love spending time around my birthday to reflect on the year passed, like I do at the new year. I appreciate the year for what it has offered me and taught me, and think about what I hope for in the coming year of life. 

It certainly has been an interesting year… If you had asked me where I would be right now, a year ago, my answer would have been completely different than what is actually true. I honestly wasn’t sure that I wanted to be in Vermont a year ago, I felt totally unsettled, I thought that my life wouldn’t move forward if I remained in this place… But I must say, I’m quite content with my life, and I’m thankful to be right here, right now, in my cozy home in Vermont with my snuggly puppies. Life here is happy, it is full of love, it is good.

I feel like I’ve returned to my true self in many ways this year. I spent a lot of time this spring especially, really working to process my past and how I view myself and relationships now. It was really hard to intentionally walk though painful memories and experiences, but it has given me new life – and parts of my old life back that I thought were gone forever.

This year I’ve committed to self-love in a way that I had not before. I believe in putting myself first now. I believe in boundaries again; with time and with people. I know what I deserve and I will never again settle for less than that love & respect. I value me again, and though I’ve certainly gained the Covid 19 (lbs), I’m thankful for and love my body again. I feel happy with my life and excited for the future!

Year 27 brought me a lot of heartache, but also a lot of joy. This year relationships ended, but stronger ones started. Friendships were renewed, family ties strengthened, and coworker comradery enhanced. I spent more time outside this year than usual, which made me really happy! I went kayaking at least once a week this summer, did some fun hikes with beautiful views, explored new places in New England, and walked my dogs a lot – which made all of us (Lucy & Brook) joyful! I also started this blog, which I’d been contemplating for a few years, and I’ve kept it up faithfully. I’ve spent a lot of time journaling, reading, and practicing intentional self-care. I’ve also met some pretty amazing folks!

I was challenged a lot this year, but now I feel more secure and grounded than I have – probably ever. I’m so thankful for this beautiful life that I have; for my loved ones, my work, my pups, my home, my faith… all of it! I’m incredibly blessed and thankful, and excited for year 28.

My hope for this coming year is that I allow myself to be vulnerable and embrace change. I pray that I continue to grow in my faith, self-understanding & love, and my courage to share with you, my blog people, my inner world. I think that year 28 is going to be the best yet! Pandemic aside, I feel like there is a lot of joy & love to be had. Here’s to this next year of life, and thank you to everyone who walked with me through this year – even if our paths only crossed briefly and we’re no longer walking together, I’m thankful for the times that we did have. But most importantly – thank you to those of you who continue to walk with me every day, knowing that you’re always with me makes even the hard days ok. My life is full of love, I feel so grateful.

So in conclusion: bye 27, it’s been something. And HELLO 28! Also, how am I getting so old so fast!? 

Know your worth.

“Never beg someone to be in your life. If your love and emotions get ignored, walk away. You’re worth more than you think. Be with someone who is proud of you. Someone who knows your worth. Someone who’s there through thick and thin, with no regrets. Because that’s what you deserve, that’s what your life needs. Never forget your worth.” – unknown author. 

We’re taught to seek the love and approval of others. I’ve always struggled with this, as a people-pleaser. It’s taken me YEARS to realize that I’ll never be able to please everyone or be liked by everyone – and that’s ok! Because my worth is not based on other people’s ability to see it. 

What is my worth based on than? My worth is defined differently by different institutions, of course. In the church it is based on the fact that I try to lead a holy Christ-centered life, I know how to navigate the Bible, I know the right words to pray, I know the words to the hymns, I tithe, I try to love my neighbor as myself and practice other Biblical principles… My worth as an employee at my job is based on my intelligence and skill, my productivity, the difference that I make in the lives of others, the promptness of my documentation, my time management and efficiency… My worth as a member of society is based on my vote, activism, work, tax payments, volunteerism, local spending… and then there’s the trickiest one, my worth to me.

So what’s my self-worth based on? Most importantly, the fact that I’m a beautifully created child of God, made in Her perfect image. Each of the afore mentioned intuitions/circles contribute to my self-worth, but they do not define it. My self-worth is based on what matters the most to me… What I value the most about myself is my love and empathy for others. I truly feel called to serve others by being a good friend, listening, providing safe spaces, reaching out to those who do not have anyone else to turn to, and trying to live a Jesus lovin’ life. My strength is also important to me; mentally, emotionally, and physically. I also really value my independence and ability to care for myself and my pups. I like feeling as though my work and life is making a difference for others.

Sometimes I base my self-worth on dumb things too; like my weight and body image or my math skills (that are non-existent), the people who like me or don’t, my past mistakes and failures, my style or lack thereof, my inability to do everything all the time or do everything perfectly…. Worldly things, that we’re told define us by our culture, but they actually don’t really matter at all. When I start thinking in this way, I start to feel worse about myself, so it’s important to keep a check on those thoughts. 

Disciplining our thoughts and limiting the negative self-talk is a form of self-love and it’s something that I think all of us could probably utilize more than we do. It’s important that we speak kindly to ourselves and truly value what we have to offer – because we’re amazing!

I really liked this quote when I stumbled upon it this week. It was an important reminder and it came at a moment that I needed to hear it, especially the part that says, “never beg someone to be in your life”, if you’re ignored – be done! Walking away is so flipping hard. Especially when you see the potential or possibility. But you know what? It’s necessary and it’s worth it. At some point you have to just say enough is enough and you have to choose yourself over anyone else.

I struggle with this a lot, because I always try to be optimistic and see the good in situations and people. But at some point, I think that it’s important to recognize that someone is not good for you and you simply need to let them go. Even when it’s incredibly hard, it’s necessary and important. Better things are coming if you can lift your head up and start moving forward…

We need not subject ourselves to ongoing interactions with individuals who make us feel less-than or make us question our worth, we all deserve so much better than that. We need to surround ourselves with people who build us up, not folks who tear us down (intentional or not).

“Be with someone who is proud of you. Someone who knows your worth.” As I’ve said for a while now, I have no interest in being with someone unless they add joy to my life. But I think that this has to also go along with the joy – we all deserve partners who appreciate us for exactly who we are, and who remind us how awesome sauce we are, when we forget. We’re also to be this cheerleader type of person for the people in our lives who we love. Our partners, our best friends, our coworkers, our families!


There are people out there who really will and do care. Who truly have our best interests in mind. Who will love us for exactly who we are, without regret. Seek those people and hold tightly onto them when you do find them.

Self-worth is probably one of those things that I’ll always struggle with a little bit and have to consciously work on, but I have to say, I’m incredibly thankful for the amazing people in my life who remind me of my worth when I forget.

Don’t downplay your intelligence, wisdom and skill, friends – you’re amazing and you deserve to be seen, known, and loved. Let go of the people who really don’t need to be in your life and cling to those who value you for being exactly who you are. You are incredibly loved and worthy, don’t forget that – and when you do, call me and I’ll remind you how amazing you are.

Kindness.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aespo

My parents always say “it’s nice to be nice”. It is so simple, yet it’s an excellent guide to life! Being nice is never the wrong thing to do, it is never a mistake and it is never wasted. 

There are so many kind people in my life, it’s incredible. My friends who text me when they know I’m having a rough day, my coworkers who leave me little gestures of love on my desk when I’m working with difficult situations, my parents who put little notes around my house for me to find… Kindness is everywhere, if we take the time to see it. 

It’s often the little things that mean the most, too. The unexpected random acts of kindness. 

A few weeks ago I was having a bad day, I’m not even sure why anymore, but it was just not good. I was cranky at the world and felt like nothing was going right, so I decided that I needed a coffee – because coffee makes everything better, like chocolate. Well, the lovely lady in front of me decided to buy my drink! That one little thing fixed my attitude problem and shifted my entire outlook for the rest of the day. One small act of kindness.

This makes me really think about how important it is that we take care of each other. I’m a firm believer in telling & showing people that they matter, whether that means sharing Instagram stories and memes that are uplifting, telling people things that you like about them (strangers included), reminding people that you’ve got their back, buying strangers coffee, listening when someone needs to talk…. There are so many ways to be kind. 

Going along with this idea, I think that it’s incredibly important to remember that being kind doesn’t always mean that things are happy – being kind can also mean asking hard questions and making sure that our friends are ok. I’ll never stop saying this because it’s important, but if you feel like something is off you should ask. Mental health is a beast, and it’s important that we become more comfortable asking our loved ones if they’re truly ok. A small act of kindness isn’t wasted; your kindness could literally save someone’s life and you might not even know it.

I find that my initial response to people in general is to be kind to them, but I’ll be honest, when I’m tired or run down it takes more effort. I think that especially during this time of pandemic, we need to be aware of this and adjust – because it’s nice to be nice, but we’re also exhausted.

“Kindness begins with the understanding that we all struggle.” – Charles Glassman

The pandemic is hard and sad, there is no way to deny that, we’re all riding the struggle bus. One of the best images that I’ve seen floating around the Facebook world says something about how we’re all in the same storm, but our boats are all different, and our journeys are all different. I think that this provides a helpful and important perspective. We all experience life differently, based on our various beliefs, values, lenses, and experiences…

We need to recognize that we’re also all experiencing the pandemic differently. Some of us have fairly normal lives still; we go to work, go grocery shopping, go to church – now we take precautions like wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, but overall, not a ton has changed. Others of us are completely stuck in our homes, due to our health risks or those of our loved ones. We cannot go outside around people, because if we were to catch the virus there could be seriously threatening outcomes. Other people have literally died, or lost people who were very close to them. Every one of us has a different experience with this pandemic, but we’re all trying to navigate it and live the best way that we know how. 

I’m thankful to have a supportive group of people around me as I try to navigate through this crazy time, because every day is kind of a struggle honestly! Today my best friends had a baby, and I want more than anything to be there with them, but the pandemic doesn’t allow that. I think that, at this point, we can all come up with pretty long lists of things that we missed or weren’t able to do due to the pandemic, and it is so sad! But what if we shifted our focus and tried to see the good things that are happening instead of focusing on what we cannot change?

During and after all major events in the world/nation/town/community/home/relationship, there is always light amidst the darkness. People seem to come together in tough times and we are reminded of the goodness of humanity. 

We can see this happening right now in our country if we step back and look: there are many fire fighters out West trying to put out the massive forest fires, there are volunteers, medics and people helping those who have lost their homes and even their loved ones. We also see people standing up to support their sisters & brothers during this time of incredible inequality and injustice, protesting and calling for reform. Then we can look to our communities for more examples: the small churches opening their doors for food pantries, the numerous businesses offering discounted services for people in need, even the covid test site workers who daily dress up in hot and heavy PPE to test our community and protect us as best they can from this virus. Then we have the lights in our own lives… There is still so much goodness surrounding us, even during this time of darkness.

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” – unknown  

Let’s take this advice to heart. If we don’t have love, we really don’t have anything (1 Corinthians 13:1ish). We need each other now more than ever and I think that it’s important to be intentional about showing kindness. Let’s also commit to taking time to notice this kindness and practice intentional gratitude.

Today I’m thankful for my sandwich-artist-hospice-lovin’ coworkers, who bring me joy even when life is poopy. My best friends who now have a happy & healthy baby girl. Genuine kindness and connection, blog ideas and uplifting texts. Cozy PJs and puppy cuddling, comforting hugs, and so many other good things that happened today. It’s easy to get bogged down by the heaviness and darkness of life… but why? When we can focus on the good and lift one another up.

So let me ask you, how have you shown kindness today & what are you grateful for?

Try to notice the helpers, my friends, and the kindness of those around you. Don’t forget how loved you are.

Fall. Complacency. Growth.

Life in the fall is vibrant! We’re nearing the end of the colorful season, but so many leaves are still in the final stages of their beautiful transition. This weekend really highlighted the beauty of autumn for me again; as we took the cozy ski lift to the top of a mountain, drove through the majestic roads that looked like a storybook, and hiked to see stunning overlooks. I feel such a sense of awe and wonder in this time of year.  

As I’ve said before, fall is the time of transition and change, which can be sad. But right now, I’m feeling the joy of the season. Fall is bringing new, good things and people into my life. It is helping me feel freedom in the process & practice of really letting go.

Stepping out of my comfort zone is scary. Putting my trust in new things and people is scary. But you know what’s even scarier to me? Complacency. 

Life is about growing and changing, and becoming better people, neighbors, Christ followers – we’re called to step out and GO – not sit and stay where things are predictable and comfortable. Life there is simply ‘fine’, but we’re not living for fine anymore! We’re living for good/great/exciting & joy-filled!

My mom laughs at me, because no matter what’s going on in my life, when asked how I am, I almost always say “I’m fine”. It’s a catchall response that keeps people at a distance, keeps them from knowing my soul. Fine isn’t always fine though. So, my new self-goal is to try to be more deliberate with my responses and more honest with my feelings and experiences. We’re not always fine, and that’s fine 😉

One idea that’s been floating around in my mind as I’ve continued to consider the changing season of fall, is that risk is good and maybe even necessary for change & growth. I’ve never been a risk taker, per se. But what if risk is actually a good thing? Risk can lead to reward, as fancy folks who care about stocks and understand them, often say. But I’ve never really been of that mindset. I’m more of a comfortable, small, planned-change kind of person. But what if I’m actually limiting my experience by being stuck in this narrative? What if joy is right around the corner, but risk is the necessary step that needs to be taken in order to find it. I’m trying to push myself a little bit more and take more risks (nothing crazy, don’t worry) in order to grow and experience life more fully. 

For me those risks have recently looked like: deciding to make my divorce records public in order to FINALLY be done with all of the proceedings, saying ‘yes’ to dates and new adventures, making decisions at work, and the obvious one – blogging about what’s truly on my heart and putting myself out there for the world to see, er, read.

“The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage.” – Brene Brown

Being vulnerable is SO scary to me. It’s letting down my guard and allowing someone a window into my soul. I can count on one hand the people who I allow myself to be completely vulnerable with. It’s not something that I readily do or enjoy, which is why I keep my totally safe group so small.

I tend to trust people easily, until trust is broken. But I don’t let myself really go deep with people until I know that they’ll hold what I say and truly listen. I hate feeling like I’m not heard, because as a quiet person I’m often spoken over in my everyday life – so when I’m talking about things that are really important to me; my feelings, fears, and my soul, I need to know that you care and truly hear me.

Here is where I take a moment to thank my girls who are ALWAYS there for me. Rebecca who understands me and my heart in a way that literally no one else can; Maddie who is always there to make me smile, bring me beans, and love me unconditionally; and Michelle who provides profound wisdom, understanding and Jesus lovin’. There are so many beautiful souls in my life including my family, friends, and co-workers and I feel incredibly blessed.

I’m finding that in order to start new relationships I need to get over myself a little bit too, and let my walls down. Brene Brown talks about trust and vulnerability, and how we cannot truly know if we trust someone unless and until we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our emotions and give them something to hold, something to prove their trustworthiness with. I’m really trying to do that more, but for me, it’s a very conscious effort and decision.

Being vulnerable is scary, but being alone is scarier. We need one allow people to truly see us and love us – and in return, we need to truly see people and love them for exactly who they are. None of us are perfect, but we all have a lot of good and beauty in us.

So as the beautiful colors of fall start to fade and the temperature drops, I’m committing to growth and vulnerability. I believe that every single one of us has greatness to share! Let’s be more intentional in our listening, more honest with our struggles, more curious in our questions, more open in our conversations, and more freely giving of our love. 

AND remember if you’re going out, wear your mask. Let my friends who have compromised immune systems still have a life, please. And while we’re at it, don’t forget to vote. We NEED change.

List

I can’t think of anything interesting to write about, so I’m going to share 25 things that made me happy this week 🙂

  1. The colorful leaves and beautiful scenery
  2. My sweet friends; thoughtful conversations & quality time
  3. Cooking and having nice fall foods
  4. Sweaters!
  5. Dog walks through the forest
  6. Iced coffee, of course.
  7. Driving through the mountains & taking pictures
  8. Starting a new journal
  9. Autumn scented candles
  10. Evening tea
  11. Feminist T-shirts
  12. Cozy Sherpa blankets
  13. Letters from my pen pals
  14. New month & new calendar pages
  15. Sweatpants and fuzzy socks
  16. Fun with coworkers; silly songs & too much delicious food
  17. Negative Covid test result
  18. Puppy snuggles, as per always
  19. New books! Just started Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”
  20. Meaningful necklace in the mail
  21. New connections & fun plans
  22. Anticipation for new babies to snuggle & love on!!!
  23. Solid social working, counseling
  24. Familia
  25. New beginnings, acceptance of endings, forward motion

May this coming week bring you joy & peace my friends, be well.

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