Toxic 

Lately I’ve been revisiting the past few years of my life, seeing how I got from point A to point B, from the girl I was to the woman I am. I’ve thought of the periods of grief, of joy, of growing. I’ve looked back and I’ve seen purpose. I’ve seen God’s hand in every season of my life. I see how He worked out every horrible thing into something good – even if the only good that came out if it was to relate to someone else.

If I were to tell you everything that God’s hand has been in, every bad situation that He turned for the good, it would take writing a book. Instead, I’m going to tell you today about just one area.

Since I was a Freshman in high school I had a tendency to get myself into toxic relationships – not all of them were, but some. It started when I got my first boyfriend. I was fourteen, naive, and honestly just didn’t know that the way I was being treated was awful.

I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be forced to do things I didn’t want to do.

I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be talked to like I wasn’t a person.

I didn’t know that I was being manipulated.

I just didn’t know, but when I figured out – with the help of my best friend – that the way I was being treated was not okay, I ended the relationship. And the three months that I was in that relationship impacted me for years.

I then dated someone else and he broke up with me because I stood my ground. Though I was heart broken, I moved on with a sense of dignity.

My Sophomore year of high school I got into a relationship that I was in for nearly two years. It wasn’t a bad relationship, it just wasn’t meant to be. But when it ended, I was heart broken so badly I didn’t know how I would go on; however, though I had been following Jesus for a few years at this point, He truly became my anchor at this time.

Despite that I began to trust Jesus and rely on Him so much more during this season of my life, I still wasn’t truly content in Him. Almost a year after that relationship ended, I dated someone else, someone I really shouldn’t have.

Things were okay at first and then red flags started popping up. I should have left, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to be alone. But because I didn’t want to be alone, I allowed myself to be treated horribly.

I set standards and boundaries.

He said he agreed.

Then he pushed them.

I pretended everything was fine.

The stress of dealing with – and hiding – the mental, emotional, and sexual abuse that occurred in the relationship left me physically ill.

It got to the point where I wasn’t staying because I didn’t want to be alone, I stayed because I was scared to leave.

Finally, after breaking down and telling my best friend what had really been going on, I ended the relationship.

The aftermath of that first relationship was nothing compared to this one. It left me so broken, so scared, so untrusting, that when I began dating my husband, I was terrified – even though I knew from being friends with him and knowing his character that he wouldn’t treat me like the others that came before him.

If I had to change plans, I prepared myself for the backlash – it never came.

If things were moving too fast emotionally and I told him we needed to slow down, I waited for him to get upset and tell me how stupid I was being – he never did.

He took everything at my pace. He was so patient, kind, and loving. It was amazing – and strange.

He accepted my past and took me as I was.

It was a beautiful display of selfless love.

But it still wasn’t enough.

I was still hurting. I was still scared. I still hadn’t truly given it over to Christ. So for much of the time that we were dating and engaged, I started giving Christ the pieces of my past, and for every piece I gave Him, He returned it with a peace of His own.

I truly forgave.

I truly moved on.

•••

I have been married to my sweet husband for four months now. I am at peace with my past. If it starts to try to work its way to the surface, I remind myself that it served a purpose.

Because of that last, awful relationship I learned what it meant to be content in Christ.

I learned to trust God with my relationships.

And, in a roundabout way, my best friend ended up dating her husband because of it!

One of the most important purposes I have found looking back on this time is the empathy I’ve gained because of it.

When I see someone in a toxic relationship, I no longer wonder critically why they don’t leave.

I look and I know that there are so many reasons why they might not, and it breaks my heart.

I look and I know what it feels like to be treated like you are less than human.

I look and know what it feels like to not know how to get out.

I look and I know that there is hope found in Jesus to heal their brokenness.

•••

This post wasn’t easy to write, but it’s been on my heart for some time. Though I have forgiven, moved on, and healed, it is still not easy to relive; however, it’s still part of my testimony. It’s a part of my life that screams about God’s faithfulness. So I sat down and wrote to share hope. Hope that God works in even some of the worst times in our lives. Hope that we are not alone in these dark times that we’ve gone through. Hope that someone out there understands. And, most importantly, hope that Christ is Lord even in the dark times, and He is the Healer of all broken things – including hearts.

•••

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

 

Photo credit: unsplash-logoKristof Rasschaert

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Battling Laziness

When my husband and I first got married, we had a pretty good routine going. We were eating healthy, meal planning, going to the gym, and we had a cleaning schedule for our apartment. A few months later, though, a series of unfortunate events happened that threw us off track and we never really recovered. What started out as actual reasons to neglect housework and whatnot, eventually just turned to laziness. After awhile, we decided something needed to change; this laziness wasn’t good for us in more than one way. Physically, we did not feel very well because we were not eating well and we were no longer exercising. Our apartment was also taking a toll as was our spiritual lives. I was no longer carving out time to spend with God, I was giving Him whatever time I had left over – if any.

Scripture is dense when it comes to the topic of laziness (seriously, if you don’t believe me, Google it); it’s even one of the 7 Deadly Sins! As I said, we decided that we needed to battle the laziness that was taking over our lives, and we decided to do it as a team. We knew that individually we didn’t stand a chance, but sometimes being a team is hard. It can be hard to encourage one another about something like this without it coming across as nagging. It’s hard to motivate someone else when you don’t want to motivate yourself to do the same thing.

Despite these things, we decided to give it a shot. Making lifestyle changes doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process that requires steps – and you have to remember that even baby steps are steps. So that is what we started doing – and are still doing – implementing baby steps to get our lives back on track to where we’d like them to be. We’re trying to avoid eating out when we can and to start meal planning again. We’ve started tag-teaming the housework.

A huge part of combatting laziness is effective time management. I’ve started using the planning app Cozi (it is AMAZING, check it out!) again. I have also created a quiet time basket full of everything I could possibly need during quiet time (Bible, highliter, pens,  Bible commentary, journals, lotion in case my hand get dry, etc). We are trying to work on getting up earlier so we can eat a good breakfast and have quiet time, but this has been our most difficult obstacle so far. I also use my 45 minute commute to sometimes listen to podcasts (my current favorites are the Read Scripture Podcast Series by Francis Chan and the Uniquely Woman podcast) – I can make the choice to wake up late and not have time for things, but I can’t make the choice to not drive all the way to work. Other times I listen to worship music, and, of course, other times I just have jam sessions.

Our current goal is to start going to the gym again. As I said, life change is made through baby steps and each baby step, no matter how small, is a victory that should be celebrated. Whether it’s laziness or some other obstacle that you are pushing to overcome, just remember that each day is a new day and a new chance – heck, each hour is a new chance – and to celebrate the victories along the way.

The Monster Inside Me

It starts sneaking it’s way in, and before long, you don’t really notice it anymore because it becomes the new normal. The sad thing is, you don’t even want it to be gone because it’s taken up a permanent residence inside of you; it’s a part of you. What you don’t realize, though, is that it’s squeezing the joy out of you life as it gets its sleazy little tentacles wrapped tighter and tighter around your heart.

Anger.

Are you surprised that that was what I was talking about? I would have been, probably. Throughout my life, anger has probably been one of the hardest things for me to overcome – especially since I didn’t know how it was affecting me. It has a snowball effect: the longer you let it go, the bigger it gets and the harder it gets to stop.

At some point I guess I either no longer noticed or no longer cared how the anger in my life was affecting me, because I no longer tried to keep it at bay. When something made me angry – even something minuscule that shouldn’t of bothered me – I just rolled with it. And the sneaky thing about anger is that it isn’t always obvious. I didn’t – always – lash out or express my anger in overt ways. Most of the time I just hid it and brewed about it secretly. Before I knew it, my little anger problem was breeding some ugly friends: cynicism and bitterness. Soon, they, too, were taking up permanent residence inside of me, robbing me of joy, love, and contentment.

I began seeing people only for what the did wrong or for how they were lacking, never for what they did right or the abundance of good things in them. I was quick to criticize (even if it was only in my head) and quite slow to praise. I thought, “Oh, sure, they did it right this time, but what about the other hundred times that they didn’t?” That kind of thinking kills your spirit, drains your compassion, and just plain hardens your heart.

I didn’t have an outlet; I just kept bottling up my anger and adding to my List of Things That People Do Wrong. It kept getting bigger and bigger and quite frankly I didn’t care; the problem was with them, not me.

I’m not sure when it happened – when I started noticing that my heart had all of these ugly tangles trying to squeeze every last bit of love out, leaving it shriveled up and dry – but I wasn’t okay with it.

I wasn’t okay with the fact that my husband expected me to tell him all the things he should have done or that he did do and should have done better. He should know that I appreciate him and all that he does – and he does a lot – but I wasn’t showing him that.

I didn’t want nearly every thought I had about my loved ones to be negative. I wanted to once again look through eyes of love, not the eyes of a critic.

So, I decided to change. The second half of 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I knew that my thoughts definitely weren’t falling into the “Obedient to Christ” category. So every time I was angered over something small or started criticizing someone or held on to bitterness, I rebuked the thought. I try to take a step back and pray, asking God for wisdom in the situation. I reflect and ask, “Is my criticism necessary? Is my anger justified?” And it’s not easy; it uses way more mental energy to change a thought than to just think it.

It can be hard and tiring and I fail sometimes, but my heart is no longer a dark, shriveled up thing, it’s filling with light and love and compassion again. I’d rather try hard and say to my husband, “Can we talk about this?” instead of yelling at him when we disagree – I’m sure he prefers that, too.

And, no, I don’t like painting this picture of myself. I don’t like saying, “See how awful I can be sometimes!” but the story ends with growth and healing. I also know that I am not the only one who has let the life-sucking monster that is anger make a home in my heart. I tell you this unflattering tale of myself so that if this is you, you might realize what anger is doing to you, or if you’ve realized it already, you can take heart and battle it.

Until next time, lovelies.

Worthless and Not Good Enough

Student. Wife. Friend. Daughter. Blogger. Follower of Christ. Babysitter. Employee.
These are all titles that I hold. These are also areas of my life where I often times find myself feeling like I’m not enough, and I know I’m not the only one.

How many times do we find ourselves thinking, “If only I had done it differently,” or “Why did I have to say that?” or “They deserve better than me”?

I know for me, it can be rather often. Especially lately as I’m learning to balance school, work, housework, and my relationships. I’ve often felt like I’m failing in one or more – and by more, I mean all – of these areas. I’ve been carrying around this weight of just not feeling good enough.

My thoughts have consisted of such negative statements about myself that I’ve been feeling pretty hopeless, honestly. Anyone else?

So am I sitting here on this beautiful Thursday afternoon saying, “What’s the point of trying when all I’m going to do is mess up?”

No.

I’m telling you that it’s okay to be human and it’s okay to mess up, but its not okay to get stuck. We can’t tell ourselves that we are worthless and good for nothing; that’s poison to the spirit and it’s a lie. I’m going to tell you something that you may find preposterous: you’re allowed to have rough days. You’re allowed to have rough moments. But the key thing is don’t stay there. Learn to let go. Learn to breathe and say, “it’s a bad moment or even a bad day, but it’s not a bad life.”

So what can we don’t feel like we’re good enough? When we are completely overwhelmed with everything going on? Here are a few things to try:

  • Learn to sincerely say, “I’m sorry.” You’d be surprised how freeing it is when you humble yourself and admit that you’re wrong instead of getting defensive.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this really worth arguing over?” If not, say, “I’m sorry, let’s drop it, this isn’t worth it.”
  • Take a walk and think and pray.
  • When negative thoughts are consuming you, combat them with truth.
  • Remember that even little victories are still victories.
  • Implement small changes; remember you aren’t going to change overnight.
  • Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Drink plenty of water. Exercise. Eat well. Have time to yourself. You’ll feel better all around.
  • Get up early and spend time with God.
  • Spend your time doing things that matter.
  • Take the focus off of yourself and do something for someone else.
  • Remember the truth. Christ didn’t die because we are wonderful human beings that are oh so lovable. Christ died because of His love for us. Remember you are loved. Remember Christ died for you despite of your shortcomings. Even on your worst day, you are loved.

We all have days where we feel like we aren’t good enough, and that is an awful feeling; However, we don’t have to passively sit by and let these feelings attack and consume us. We have the choice to not only change the way we talk to ourselves, but to actually do something! For example, lately I’ve been having an issue with getting angry with my husband over little things and it makes me feel awful. I don’t want to get angry with him, yet I do, and then I feel like a terrible human being and a terrible wife. So instead of spiraling into an upset mess, I’ve started trying to actually do something about the situation. I remind myself that this doesn’t make me a bad wife and then I choose to change my behavior.

So while I’m telling you to chin up, I’m also telling you that we need to take responsibility for ourselves. Feeling like we aren’t good enough is awful, as I’ve previously said, but we are capable of changing our thoughts and behaviors, and doing things to relieve stress and take care of ourselves. Every small change is a step in the right direction, even if that first small change is saying, “I don’t have to feel this way.” Some days you will be able to successfully combat your hopeless feelings and you’ll say, “Wow, that was awesome!” and other days the battle is longer and harder, and that’s okay. Fight it anyway.

And remember, these things we tell ourselves about being worthless and not good enough simply aren’t true; you can tell a flower it’s hideous, but it doesn’t change it’s beauty.

 

The Series of Hilariously Painful Unfortunate Events

5:30 came Monday morning just like it does every other Monday morning.  I reset my alarm for 5:45 just like I do nearly every other Monday morning.  I started to get ready just like I do every Monday morning – and that’s when things started to go bad.  I was putting on my pants as per normal and then there was this terrible pain in my hand that was not so normal.  Some how I managed to pull some muscle or sprain something in my hand by putting. on. pants.  It hurt.  Really badly.  Luckily, it wasn’t so bad that I felt the need to get it checked out – can you imagine that conversation? “What are you in for today?” “Well, I think I sprained my hand.”  “How did it happen?”  “I was putting on my pants.” Seriously, some things can seriously only happen to me.

So my day – painfully – continued and I got to church to help watch the youth leaders’ kids as I do every Monday.  I hadn’t been in the door for 30 seconds before the next Event.  One of our friends went to give us a hug and I thought he was going to hug Genelle first but apparently he was going to hug both of us.  Seeing as I thought he was hugging her first, I stayed back.  Once I realized that he was expecting to hug me too I went to hug him – about a second too late.  He went to close the hug and proceeded to hit me in the face.

Later on that night I’m sitting with one of the babies in my lap (do you know how hard it is to care for a child with very limited use of your dominant hand?).  She then decided she wanted to cuddle.  Violently.  With her head.  And my cheek bone.  Yeah, that one hurt a lot, too.

I got home that night and told my mom about my day (the pants Event amused her greatly) and she laughed and said, “I think you just need to go to bed,” and then proceeded to laugh at me for the rest of the night (granted, I was laughing at me, too).

After 19 years on this lovely planet I’ve learned a thing or two, one of which being that besides being a seriously clumsy person, I also attract ridiculous, painful situations like a moth to a flame.  I’ve also learned to accept these things, I mean, what else can you do? I laugh at myself, I enjoy life.  Even if I have to enjoy life with a pants-induced injury.  Until next time, lovelies.

Photo Credit: Lee Campbell