Out of the Dust

Change has always been difficult for me. My personality tends to lean towards the familiar and I find comfort in things I can predict, understand, and grapple with. Yet there is an amazing, hard-won beauty that comes from growth, which can only be achieved through change. I think we all know that you don’t progress by staying the same or remaining where you are, yet it is so easy to resist change because change forces us to be uncomfortable. It forces us into the unknown.

Last year I set out to get healthier and ended up losing 40 lbs in roughly 3 months in addition to participating in three different 5k races – the first of which was the immensely challenging, KC favorite: Hospital Hill. It was incredibly difficult, but I had just lost 40 lbs and I needed to do something with all my newfound energy!

This was me after the race last year:

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I felt so accomplished and invincible after that race! I am sad to say that since then I have gained all of that weight back and then some. This was honestly due to the stress of my schedule combined with choices I made to focus my energy and attention primarily on graduate school, work, and my family. Even though deep down I know I had plenty on my plate to deal with, I’ve felt like a failure the past several months to have made such amazing progress forward only to take 2 steps backwards. After I ran Hospital Hill last year, I had immediately signed up to run it in 2017. Little did I know how out of shape I would be leading up to this race.

It was the last thing I wanted to do.

Truly.

But I knew that if I chose to not run this race in my current state, that it would be the first of many choices to remain unhealthy. By running it (knowing it would be difficult and painful) I knew it would be the wake up call I needed to initiate some much needed change in my life.

So I did.

I got dressed after work. I put my headphones in my ears with my music set to shuffle randomly through all the songs in my library. I navigated to the back of the crowd behind the starting line knowing I would be among the slower participants in the crowd. Hospital Hill is nearly an all-uphill run; if it’s not truly ALL uphill, it certainly feels that way.

As I made my way up the first mile’s worth of hill, I felt my legs begin to burn pretty intensely. My lungs were already struggling to provide the oxygen I needed and it was only the first mile! I would push through as many steps as I could until I was forced to catch my breath, then I would resume running once I felt I could breathe again.

I began to feel discouraged, but then my playlist began a new song and I heard these words:

“All this pain. I wonder if I’ll ever find my way. I wonder if my life could really change, at all… “

One foot in front of the other…  I felt overwhelmed. What was I doing out here? God, this is hard!

“All this earth. Could all that is lost ever be found? Could a garden come up from this ground, at all…?” 

I don’t know if I can do this! I don’t know if I can finish this race! It’s only Mile 1!

Then….

“You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of us.”

In an instant I was a girl, running slowly with my eyes closed and literal tears on my cheeks. Overcome. In that moment, I realized something I once knew, but I’d forgotten:

I was beautiful in that moment of pain. I was beautiful because I was strong. Not strong physically (yet!), but a strength welling inside me that resolved to knowingly tackle something difficult and painful with a hope of things to come. A fierce determination in my core that refused to allow a lesser version of myself to exist when I knew who I was and what I am capable of. A strength that could see and acknowledge my own weaknesses and lay them before God’s throne in surrender, asking Him to help me.

So I pushed on.

Up and up and up past Mile 1, Mile 2, and Mile 3. Somewhere before Mile 3, I actually began hyperventilating because the hill I was climbing was so steep that even the seasoned runners were walking up this hill at best. I panicked because I was so miserable and so exhausted, but still only 2/3 of the way through this race. I also had the insanely embarrassing and socially awkward encounter of a fellow racer stopping to help me slow my breathing. That was very nice of her, I just hate feeling like I am burdening someone else for my sake – ugh!

Once I regained my composure and was breathing steadily again, I lunged forward. That last mile was honestly a blur as I just focused on putting one dead weight of a foot in front of the other. At this point I am sure those of you who run regularly are wondering how exaggerated and dramatic I am being, but I assure you this took all my energy, all my will, and all my focus. It really, REALLY sucked. When you haven’t been training for a run of any length and you have been eating unhealthy and weigh as much as I did on that day, each step forward in an uphill race feels like it just may be your last step on planet Earth altogether. With some unrelenting tenacity, I finished the race only 8 minutes behind my time the previous year. I thought it would be so much more!

This was me after the race this year (literally laying in the grass):

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I am sharing this embarrassing, 5k-from-Hell story to simply say that change (although difficult and sometimes painful) is uncompromisingly intertwined with growth. They’re a double-edged sword and you cannot have growth without change. In that crowd around me were numerous running T-shirts shouting things like “No Pain, No Gain,” “Sweat is fat crying!,” and my least favorite, “If you can read this, I am not last!”

But they reminded me of things I had learned a long time ago in my early 20’s…

“PAIN IS TEMPORARY, GROWTH IS PERMANENT.”

And this gem:

“But I beat my body and make it my slave, so that after proclaiming to others, I myself should not be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:27

It will be worth it and I am not alone.

So I am giving in.

To change.
To the pursuit of discipline.
To a journey full of ups and downs with my eyes set ahead towards progress and growth. To becoming stronger.
To living the life I want to live, not passively letting it slip away from me.
To focus, to work hard, to push harder, and to keep going forward.
To giving this challenge to Him day after day after day until He makes me new….

He makes beautiful things out of the dust…. out of us….

Adult Friendships: Better than Waffles?

Many of us spend a significant amount of our younger adult lives overcoming our childhood for a variety of reasons, while a smaller percentage must continue to strive to feel well-rounded, put together, and somewhat whole well past our 30’s. It’s sometimes difficult for those in that smaller percentage to even feel like you’re really an adult despite the number of candles on your cake when you have those moments, those days, or even sometimes those weeks where you feel small, insecure, and insignificant. Honestly, I often wonder if any adults ever really feel whole or grown up. There are some that certainly seem like it and I admire them immensely….but does everyone get these moments where they just can’t seem to figure out their role or their place in a world of people that seem to be thriving?

I have my moments certainly where I do some amazing rockstar things and feel unstoppable. Those times where I just can’t help but smiling when I think back on them because for those moments I used my God-given strengths to shine and it felt amazing. I hate that those moments feel unbalanced on the scale against the weight of doubt. Am I making the right choices in this season of my life? Am I where I am supposed to be or did I take a wrong turn somewhere? What more could I be doing that I am not doing? Do the people who seem to care about me really, genuinely care or do they just need something from me?

That last one especially plagues me.

It’s hard to be the one who chooses to be open when it’s so ridiculously hard to remain open. Safety is in closing off. Remaining guarded. Keeping a safe distance. Weighing risks. Approaching slowly. To choose to open yourself up to someone is to willing subject yourself to the highly likely risk of hurt or rejection.

I had a thought this week that sometimes my struggle seems to result from feeling like I oscillate between being a Leslie Knope and an April Ludgate (Park and Rec show for those of you who don’t know. Stop reading this and go watch it! It’s incredible).

Aside from our shared love for breakfast foods, Leslie Knope is the epitome of confidence in action, being an inspiration, and being an amazing friend.

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The thing is….Leslie is the friend everyone wants, but also the friend no one knows how to be or how to let in. She is unashamedly passionate about her friends and doesn’t hold back how she feels.

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I 100% agree with her philosophy on friendship and yet she is the mirage of friendship – completely fictional! Friendships don’t really work this way do they? (especially in our 30’s and beyond, amiright?) For me, being that open comes at a very high price. I have taken this gamble before and lost big time, which makes it exponentially harder the next time to get up the nerve to take that risk again.

Which is what brings out my inner April Ludgate.

April despises small talk, all things unauthentic, and prefers animals over people.

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She shys away – like we all so often do – from genuine intimacy. It makes her feel uncomfortable so she closes herself off. The thing we – and I – want (genuine connection) makes us uncomfortable because I think we either question if it’s truly genuine or because we’re weighing the amount of effort and risk it may require to form the connection.

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I will be honest… The combination of past wounds and a few gasoline-drenched, burned bridges have left me wondering if the effort and risk it takes to form long-lasting genuine connections with people is even worth it. It doesn’t help at all when you remove forced social situations like high school, college, and other venues where friendships are easily forged. The older we get the harder making genuine connections with people becomes; it honestly becomes awkward and makes me feel awkward. Isn’t there a happy middle place out there between the unattainable friendship bar Leslie Knope sets and the people-hating, closed off persona of April Ludgate? Or am I the only one that can’t seem to find that middle ground?

Whatever the answer, I am thankful for the genuine connections I have been lucky to find and the depth of friendships that have come out of those connections. When forming new connections, I will continue to feel awkward and insecure as I approach the risk the openness required for those connections necessitates…. But I can handle a little insecurity, a whole lot of awkwardness, and even some hurt if it means that there’s a chance that those connections can begin to form with the people who are worth it….

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Succeed on Purpose

Part of just wants to start this post with another typical “It’s been a while,” but I think we all can see that clearly. In some sense, I kind of started out that way anyway. Oh well 🙂

I just needed to write tonight.

This season is all consuming and I won’t really catch any long-term reprieve for a while. I work a job where I support others, so all day long I am meeting other’s needs whether big or small. Honestly, even though I can daydream about a job where I can read my homework all day long, I actually find it incredibly energizing to help people in my office who truly need the help. Not the mundane, boring stuff that anyone can do, but the stuff that I am particularly suited to help with. Those busy days when I am strategically solving problems, putting out small fires, using my writing skills, or lightening the load of one of my bosses are my favorite kinds of days… I wouldn’t want my days to be any other way…

I also come home to a little boy who looks to me to meet all of his needs. He brings me his shoes. He comes to me for snuggles and asks for his milk cup when he is getting tired. He now says “thank you” to me whenever I do anything for him and it’s incredible to me how much he looks to me for his physical, mental, social, and emotional needs. He is in that typical toddler stage where he LOVES his Mama and wants ME and I would not want it any other way…

Chad has learned how best to support me in this time and I could not do this season right now without him, but even he is his own person with his own needs and it’s a hard balance to find the time to be his wife, be his friend, be his support, and give him the time he needs to be himself when I rely on him so much right now. We’re being forced to communicate better, be more selfless towards one another, and look for the small ways to show we love each other in this season of very, very limited down time. We’re growing together and I wouldn’t want it any other way…

And then I am a student and my professors want so much from me right now because dammit I am in grad school and grad school is supposed to be demanding, so I just buckle up and do what I need to do. I am being challenged. I am learning things. I am navigating difficult waters, but “nothing worth having comes easy” and I wouldn’t want it any other way…

And so here I am drowning in the chaos of my own life… by choice.

I fondly remember when I used to be able to take a great novel to the Starbucks patio on Barry road and read for hours on end with not nearly enough sun screen. I remember when Chad and I could just go catch a movie because we wanted to and that that didn’t require any planning other than showtimes and ticket pick up. I remember when weekends were spent with friends and long conversations with those friends about everything and nothing.

I know that this is a season. I won’t always be an admin. I won’t always have a toddler. I won’t always rely on Chad so much as I do now. I will one day have friends again and quality time and deep conversations.

Until then, I am just managing more stress than I let on and trying to remain positive even though that is difficult for me.

I am tired.
I am drained.
I am sleep deprived.
I am lonely.
I am angry.
I feel guilty.

I have so many needs that are not being met, but I am taking things one day at a time right now. This is a season of growth, and perseverance, and strength. I have never been so busy in my life, but I have gone through hard times and I know now just how much I am capable of.

I am not lucky to be where I am or have what I have. I am thankful to have been given what I have and I have worked hard to get here…

I was inspired recently by a story of a young girl who with dedication, commitment, and hard work achieved so much at a very young age and was recently named “the most accomplished performer of UNO’s Division I era.”The thing is, she came from a long line of accomplished siblings because their parents taught them that with hard work and commitment, you can achieve anything.

I want to teach that to Travis. I want to model that for him.
It might be hard, but it will be worth it…

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Haters Gonna Hate (and other things that I don’t have time for)

For everything in our life that is worth holding onto, there are things we must choose to let go of. I feel like this is the essence of ‘growing up’ and maturing. What once used to send me spiraling in my 20’s, I am now forced to shrug off in my 30’s.

In the end, it all comes down to time and priorities.

I don’t have time to pander to someone else’s drama or political game. I don’t have time to hold someone’s hand beyond an appropriate amount of time for things I learned to do independently a long time ago. I don’t have time to play the guessing game, second guess myself, or dwell on someone’s true thoughts or intentions towards me. Did I have a dirty look on my face when you walked by because I was focusing intently on some task I was working on? Yes, yes I did. Did I not triple-double check with you on something that has very little impact on anything related to you, but you just want to feel involved? Sorry, not sorry. Did I offer up a glowing, flowery apology for something that offended you, but in reality I didn’t do anything wrong? Get over it.

It’s not a lack of heart as those who have been enabled and pandered to their whole lives may claim. It’s a sign of healthy boundaries and shifted priorities. I have a job to get done and I am trying to do it well, so I can’t play your game. You’re being a bully and I will not be budged. I have very little time to devote to people I deeply care about, so if you’re going to be a manipulator or emotionally exhausting – you’re gone. It is essential that I take time to renew and recharge myself (so I don’t become the world’s most heartless, overwhelmed bitch to my husband and son), which means that I can’t say yes to every single request thrown at me and I can’t apologize every two seconds.

In my 20’s I would bend over backwards to please people. It is my nature! I love to make others happy and, honestly, I still do. It is unbelievably difficult for me to tell someone no or to let someone down just because of a lack of time or my shifting priorities. My ungodly-high levels of empathy will certainly be the death of me someday. In those moments, I grit my teeth and think of all the massive amounts of things on my plate and choose to give only what I am actually capable of giving. If someone decides they don’t like me because I am not an overflowing vessel of sunshine and rainbows, so be it. If someone was used to me being their “yes” girl and going to great lengths to help make their lives easier, they’re in for a hard truth now. I just can’t anymore.

The only thing that has actually changed is that those who sought to use me, exploit me, or manipulate me no longer have any foothold on my life. Those haters no longer concern me like they once did. I just don’t have time for it anymore. I am baffled by how many people spend so much time and energy trying to make other’s lives miserable to make their own feel or seem better. These people have not hesitated to throw me under the bus, smear me with slander, and manipulate circumstances at my expense. How very sad their lives must be that this is what they spend their time and energy on.

Do you know how I spend my time and what I give my energy to? Do you know what I am still able to do with focused priorities and healthy boundaries? I can still love the least of these. I can still be a great wife, a loving mother, and an extraordinary friend. I can accomplish my goals, serve and love my family, give generously, and love deeply. I can still do all that I can to be the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world and to give to those who are in need. Love alone is worth the fight.

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Little Things

Sometimes it’s the sun steadily, but lazily warming your skin. It’s the earthy pleasure of fresh ground coffee and the effects of that 2nd cup at just about 2 in the afternoon. It’s flip flops with toes a fresh shade of walnut. It’s the contentment of turning that last crisp page. It’s watching shadows crawl across your skin as the sun dances in and out of the clouds.

It’s the sensation of butterflies that you didn’t see coming, but despite their chronic unpredictability you can somehow look forward to them nonetheless. It’s a true and unbelievable story following by synchronous laughter and wink that feels close and familiar. It’s anticipation and hesitation and a sense of hope and foreboding.

It’s the hug that melts away anxiety and the treasured words that absolve tension. It’s thoughtful prep work and setting delayed brew while singing old Folger’s commercials. It’s late nights and shared looks and interlocked pinkies and contagious laughter.

It’s blades of grass peeking between toes and tickling fat feet. It’s nibbling on iced, pumpkin-shaped cookies in the shade on a warm September day. It’s little hands that won’t be pudgy forever and an infectious smile of merely two and a half teeth. It’s giggles and unruly curls and a sticky chin with crumbs everywhere.

It’s short-lived moments and small details that magnify connections and love and life. Sometimes it’s the little things that make everything else worth anything at all.

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My Heart on the Outside

Today I realized how very much my heart is now and forever outside of my body and how very little control I seem to have over protecting it.

We woke up early this morning to drive to Children’s Mercy Hospital to take Travis to Same Day Surgery for a routine outpatient procedure. Even though this surgery is very common, he still needed to be intubated and put under general anesthesia, so it felt like a big deal.download_20160817_112303

I remained relatively calm leading up to the moment when we reached the double doors where they would take him back for the procedure and I handed him to the nurse. I watched his little curly head disappear around the corner and my eyes filled with tears I didn’t even know were coming. I felt sick. Shaken. I felt helpless. I knew in my head they were going to take great care of him and come get me when it was over, but my heart twisted in my chest as every fiber of it screamed to be with him. He is my boy and I am his Mama and it is my job to watch over him and protect him. Today that meant leaving him in the care of professionals and trusting them implicitly with his literal life. It was uncomfortably vulnerable.

Whenever I’ve ever felt vulnerable in the past, I always had a choice in how to handle it. If a friend or family member hurt me, I could forgive and choose to remain vulnerable and open while I sought reconciliation. If that friend or family member continued to wrong me or I realized a relationship was not mutually healthy, I could begin to distance myself, set up boundaries, or cut ties altogether in an effort to protect my heart from further unnecessary damage.

Having a son has completely changed the game now.

The amount of love I have for Travis is greater than I ever dreamed possible. It never runs out and never fades, no matter IMG_20160817_090952how he behaves or what he does. With that love comes an extraordinary amount of vulnerability that leaves my heart walking around on the outside with him wherever he goes. When it comes to Travis, my heart remains unprotected. If things get difficult or circumstances like today leave me feeling dangerously exposed, I cannot distance myself from my love for him or allow it to fade away in order to protect it. There are no boundaries, no limits, and no control.

When they walked my son back to the operating room, they took my heart with him. I knew God was watching over him when I couldn’t, but it was still a powerless feeling knowing that so much was hanging in that hour when I was waiting to hear that everything went well. In perspective, I felt grateful that this minor procedure was the worst we’ve had to deal with considering the countless amount of people I know who have lost their babies or had to deal with major illnesses or chronic conditions. This was a cake walk compared to most of the people who would visit that same hospital today.

I am honestly not sure where I am going with this except to say that this is my life now. I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to risk my heart for the joy of loving this sweet boy of ours. I don’t plan on every single blog post to now be about motherhood, but motherhood has certainly changed my life and I love every minute.


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Pace of Life

Last week I inched 1 year closer to my mid-thirties, in a few days Chad and I will celebrate 8 years of iron sharpening iron marriage, and in about 2 weeks my son will turn ONE.

Life has begun moving at the speed of light it seems. Some of the things contributing to this increase in pace are easier to accept than others, but I am learning to lean into this season.

I love the increased pace that naturally comes with motherhood and having to care for an entire other person’s every need and want because I still remember vividly the days when I wasn’t sure if I would ever have the privilege of washing baby bottles, changing dirty diapers, rocking a little one to sleep with a book and a bottle, and all the other little things that add up to consume most of my free time. It is so worth it and I love every minute.

I don’t so much care for the other things that consume my time. Though I am enjoying school and find my classes interesting, this degree is a means to an end and I already can’t wait to not have to do homework every night. I don’t love cleaning bathrooms or helping mow the yard unless it’s a particularly nice, crisp day – but this is life. Life is full of responsibilities and things that just have to be done and maintained, so that things don’t begin to quite literally fall apart.

This doesn’t leave as much time for things I used to hold in very priority. There aren’t as many hours for unencumbered down time. I can’t as easily find time to journal or read something just for fun (reading time is strictly for homework when you’re in school!) and what I wouldn’t give for an easily arranged, spontaneous trip! Life has to be planned now, not spontaneous. I cannot just go about each day accomplishing things as they suit me. I have to manage my life and my time or the toppling Jenga tower will come crashing down.

This is very difficult for me. My personality loves down time and reflection time. I like having certain routines where I recharge and renew.

I used to wake up with a mug of coffee as I got ready for work. Now I wake up way earlier than I would prefer, jump into a quick  5 minute shower because, as you with curly hair will understand: a nighttime shower simply cannot happen if you want to look remotely decent the next day. I throw clothes on, get Travis breakfast, load the car, get Travis dressed, and run out the door. Most days Chad takes Travis to daycare and I pick him up, but some days I have to take him. I often don’t have my first cup of coffee until 3 hours after my morning has started once I am sitting at my desk at work.

After work, I used to be able to sit in my car checking the Facebook and Instagram notifications I missed during the day and trying to decide if I wanted to run to the store for groceries or maybe just grab an iced coffee and wander around Target under the ruse that I needed to buy paper towels, but instead would come home with a new candle, a cute picture frame, fancy soaps, some random little things, and – oh yeah, paper towels… and toothpaste… and a cute new eye purple shadow. Sometimes after work I would go for a walk or go swimming at the YMCA or something endorphin producing to revive from the long day at my desk.  NOW, I try my best to navigate rush hour and get to Travis’ daycare before it closes. I take him home because he’s always hungry and tired after being at ‘school’ all day and then jump into dishes, or throwing in a load of laundry, and figuring out what I can eat for dinner before I have to wash Travis up after he’s smeared dinner all over his face and high chair. Somewhere in this busyness, Chad has gotten home and skipped lunch and is wondering what is for dinner and I am wondering how I can possibly create time to teach him how to cook a decent, healthy meal in the midst of everything else. The only endorphin producing moments in my days now come throw sweet snuggles with my boy as his eyes get heavy while I read to him and hope that he grows up to love books OR if Chad rocks him to sleep, the moment my weary body lays on our AMAZING mattress (best thing we’ve ever purchased) and I close my eyes. I often tell Chad I want to sleep the sleeps of forever. It’s not as morbid as it sounds.

I say all this to highlight how different life is now verses 2 years ago… 5 years ago… 10 years ago. I don’t have as much time for myself, hobbies, friends, or even necessary tasks like chores and homework. I have to be much more vigilant with my time and what limited resources I have to offer the world. My priorities are obviously my family: Chad and Travis, as well as making sure I am taking care of myself as best as I can so that I don’t become the irritable, impatient monster that I know Chad and Travis really don’t like to live with.

But you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. This pace is not forever. I will eventually be done with my Masters. I will eventually have a boy entering Kindergarten or dare I say, moving away to go to college! *sobbing!* I will eventually miss the late night snuggles, packing peanut butter and jelly sandwich into the Toy Story lunch box, wiping the runny nose that can’t wipe itself, and folding laundry that is still so small it feels somewhat silly to even fold it at all. I will miss buying school supplies and the sense of accomplishment from having a paper I worked hard on receiving not only a high grade, but being accepted to present at a conference (oh yes, this is happening!).

I won’t always be a student. I won’t always be the mother of a baby/toddler. I used to think I wouldn’t ever get the chance to do either. I am embracing the fast pace of this season. There will always be time for reading novels for hours on end, getting back into oil painting, Netflix marathons, or spontaneous Happy Hour dates with friends.

For now, I am here. I am overwhelmed for sure, but my cups runs over with gratitude and joy.

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