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Friday, February 12, 2016

Life After Divorce: My Thoughts on Getting Re-Married

"Life is unpredictable. 
It changes with the seasons,
Even your coldest winter,
happens for the best of reasons.
And though it feels eternal,
like all you'll ever do is freeze. 
I promise spring is coming,
and with it brand new leaves."
~e.h.


If my current self could visit my past self and tell her everything I have come to learn over the last three years, I can guarantee you the stubborn girl I used to be wouldn't believe a word of it. 

The girl I used to be was proud. 

Too proud. 

Oh, and have I mentioned that pedestal where she built a shrine to herself and her pious life? 

Puh-lease. 

Don't even get me started.

The girl I used to be could of sworn she knew everything.

EVER.Y.THING. 

Especially when it came to marriage. 

I had my parents mistakes and failed marriage in my rearview mirror and a childhood of dialogue that was my constant reminder of what NOT to do.

Yep. I thought I had the whole lifetime commitment/marriage thing in the bag the first time around. 

According to "the church", we had so many positives going for us.

At least a full year of dating under our belt before we got engaged? Check!

Actually, we had been together almost 5 years the day my pretty little twenty-one year old self said "I do".

Same core values and belief systems? Check!

We had attended the same Christian school for most of our lives AND we belonged to similar Baptist churches.

Same goals and future plans? Check!

Sure. Of course. Don't all early twenty-somethings know exactly what they want from life?

<insert eye roll here>

Listen. Here's the hard truth on this: I was twenty-one, I was naive, and I wanted OUT of my parents broken home, so I pretty much just agreed to everything he said at that point in my life.

Those are the facts.

And, in the moment, it did seem like we wanted exactly the same things for our forever. 

Yes, according to "the church", the cards were clearly in our favor.

(Except people in Baptist churches don't play cards...but, I digress.)

They even tested our love and commitment to one another through extensive marriage counseling. 

(Another Baptist thing.)

Yep. 

We. were. ready. 

I mean, what could possible go wrong?

Oh, you know! 

Just...everything. 

Because here is the other hard truth: We were young. We were crazy. We were just plain stupid. 


We expected too much and we gave too little. 

We were selfish. 

We were children.

We were not prepared to live out our vow of, "for better or for worse", and too be honest, I don't even think we fully understood what that meant. 

And to top it all off, we were completely unprepared for the one consistent truth that comes with growing up: people change. 

The crazy, quirky girl who fell head over heels with a boy who was supposed to be the boy when she was eighteen years old was completely different from the girl who became a mother at twenty-four and a full fledged adult at twenty-five and the girl I am now at the very old age of thirty. 

I was evolving and leaving him behind, and visa versa. 

Sure there were other factors that played into our demise, and I've talked about those before here, here, here, and here, but these things were definitely at the core of it. 

And as the girl I used to be sat there on the stand in that courtroom bawling her eyes out while the judge granted her the divorce she so desperately wanted, I realized one thing: there is no such thing as ready. 

You see, "the church" has made up all these rules about marriage and what it takes to make a marriage successful. 

Marriage counseling. 

Couples retreats. 

Book studies. 

Weekly date nights. 

Going to church every. single. time. the. doors. are. open.  

And on, and on, and on. 

This is where they've set the bar.

And while these things are not necessarily a bad thing, because most of them come from a great place-a place where our churches only want our marriages to succeed-the truth of the matter is that the Bible has outlined THE ultimate key to a successful marriage in Ephesians 5: 

"22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 
23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, 
his body, of which he is the Savior. 
24 Now as the church submits to Christ, 
so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, 
just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 
26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 
27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, 
without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 
28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. 
He who loves his wife loves himself."
(Ephesians 5:22-28)
In my opinion, this passage of Scripture is misinterpreted a lot, and before all you die hard feminist start to spontaneously combust, please note: I do not interpret these Scriptures as women are worthless pieces of garbage that are meant to be controlled by their husbands, because they cannot think for themselves or be successful or blah, blah, blah. And if you interpret them that way, then sweetie, you need to read it again. 

Because when I read these Scriptures, I see one resounding theme: selflessness

My ultimate calling is to put God's will first and foremost in my life. His plan for me far exceeds any plan I could ever concoct by myself. And in order for me to do that, I have to die to self and submit my life to the Lord-which means that I have to give Him everything I have to give-even the things I don't think I am capable of giving-in order to receive the full blessing of God's ultimate design for my life.

And just like it says in the first verse, marriage requires the same thing of us.

I don't need to submit to a husband by allowing him to walk all over me and control every aspect of my life, but I do need to give a marriage everything that I have to give-even the things I don't feel like I'm capable of giving-in order to make my marriage successful and reap its blessings.

And in the same hand, a husband should love me as Christ loves the church.

How does Christ love the church?

Unconditionally.

Christ's love for His church is not circumstantial, because if it was, He would always be disappointed in us.

Christ sees our bad attitudes, our sickness, our humongous messes, our financial troubles, our really stupid life choices and says, "I love you anyway".

A marriage should be the same way.

A husband's love for his wife should never be circumstantial-as long as your saying and doing the right things I promise to love you-and in the same hand neither should a wife's.

When I read these Scriptures I feel like God is asking the same thing from both husband and wife just in completely different ways.

Now, you may think I'm crazy and it's okay, because most people do, but as impossible as these truths may seem, they are completely possible if you make God the center of it.

Why?

Because we are human.

And our human nature is going to cause us to fail at this every single day, unless we give it over to Him and allow Him to make our marriages exactly what is they were designed to be: a reflection of Him.

When I was twenty-one, I didn't get that.

I interpreted these Scriptures in a completely different way, because the conservative church I was raised in taught me to interpret them that way.

But, now that I have lived through it and failed miserably at it, I can truly see what it's going to take to be successful at this whole marriage thing the second time around.

Am I an expert?

NO WAY!

Like most things, I am floundering at this just as much as the rest of you. 

But, there is a wisdom that comes with learning a hard lesson that settles into your soul and plays a part in changing you from the person you were to the person you are becoming. 

And over time you learn that a successful marriage is not based on how long you were together before you got married, or how many sessions of marriage counseling you had prior to your wedding, or how many awesome marriage books you try to read, or whether or not you took anything away from that marriage conference last fall.

Nope.

It is based on one thing: your commitment to stick with it no matter how hard or ugly or painful it gets, so that we can be living, breathing examples of Christ and His love for us.

Because we are all just a bunch of imperfect humans trying to do impossible things that are only possible with His help.

And trust me, it's gonna get really hard some days, and really ugly other days, and sometimes, yeah, it's even gonna hurt...a lot.

But, if you can power through those moments.

If you can tether your life raft to the One who ordained marriage to be a reflection of Him.

If you can remind yourself that His grace is sufficient right in the middle of every single weakness.

Then you're going to be okay, and you are not only going survive-you are going to thrive at what will be one of the most beautiful parts of your whole story.

I know this now.

I know this with every fiber of my completely imperfect being.

And while getting married for a second time was never apart of MY original plan, I believe it has always been apart of His plan for my life.

This part of the story doesn't surprise Him at all.

I believe that He has allowed me to walk through every single trial and tribulation that I have faced for a very specific reason, and one of those reasons was to become the woman I am today.

A woman who is so much more sure of herself and what she wants from life.

A woman who is ready to make a real commitment instead of girl who is just trying to run away.

A woman who finally knows what it's going to take to be the kind of wife God always wanted me to be.

A woman who can allow herself to grow and change through every single season in her life without losing sight of her ultimate calling.

This is me.

This is who my soon to be husband is getting.

And to be honest, I think he's getting the much better end of the deal.

Because the girl I was nine years ago wasn't ready for this, but the woman I am today has never been more sure.

So, for every single person who doubts me or us or second marriages or the fact that we've only been together for almost two years, I would like to invite all of you to take a step back and watch us as we-with God's help-prove you wrong. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

This is Motherhood


This is motherhood.

It is endless worrying and following your gut instincts despite your toughest critics.

It's knowing that you and you alone know your child better than anyone else.

It's allowing your child to be weak, so her body can tell you what it needs to be strong again.

It's accepting that Tylenol and home treatments don't always fix everything, and that it's ok to ask for help when you don't know what to do next.

It's never going down without a fight.

Motherhood is sleepless nights and mornings that are fueled on the adrenaline of parenting and three sips of coffee.

It's finding time to make your child look "cute" for the trip to the doctor's office while you opt for a pony tail, jeans, your favorite hoodie, and not a ounce of make up.

It's nodding in the doctor's office to terms you don't understand and pretending to grasp how to administer meds you've never given.

It's multiple trips to the doctor for the same thing, and understanding that sometimes a trip to the hospital is necessary.

Motherhood is going hungry even when you don't realize it.

It's trying to drink the same glass of tea for the last 8 hours.

It's putting your needs on hold for the needs of the child in front of you.

Motherhood is knowing that the "hard days" don't just end after they get out of diapers.

It's understanding that God will stretch you and your strength beyond the first two years.

That sometimes 6 is hard; and so is 12; and probably 18.

It's the realization that your baby will always be your "baby".

And that's ok.

Even if other's disagree.

Motherhood is snuggles on the couch and knowing the dishes can wait.

It's the fact that sometimes days with too much TV are necessary for survival.

It's letting them have popcorn for dinner when they haven't been able to eat in 2 days, because you are just excited that they finally asked for something.

It's realizing that pajama days are vital, even when no one is sick.

Motherhood is Friday night bubble baths and more than one glass of wine after an extremely long day.

It's giving yourself permission to feel human after nurturing and caring for a little human all day.

It's remembering that the woman you are is just as important as the mother you are.

And that's ok too.

Yeah. Motherhood is so many things.

It is hard, and raw, and oh so merciless at times.

Motherhood is honesty and selflessness in its purest form.

It is never easy, and there will be days when it will require more from you than what you think you are capable of.

But, trust me, it's in those moments when you will truly surprise yourself.

Because at the end of the day when tired little eyes look at you and whisper, "I love you", it's in those moments that you are reminded of one thing...

That motherhood is always beautiful.

Always. 

Even on it's messiest days.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Co-parenting Diaries: The Hard Days


My daughter is 1,172 miles away at the most magical place on earth with her dad and stepmom. 

She has been gone 8 days, 1 hour, and 9 minutes.

And this momma still has to wait 4 more days before I get to see her. 

Vacations are rough for me. 

Like really rough. 

They aren't rough, because I worry. 

I know our daughter is in the best of hands. 

They aren't rough, because I'm lonely without her. 

Even though I really am. 

They are rough, because I wander around my little apartment and wonder what she's doing, what she's seeing, and what she had for lunch. 

They are rough, because I look at the pictures her stepmom is so wonderful to send to me, and my heart just aches because I'm not the one taking the pictures. 

They are rough, because this-like SO many things-is the price we pay for this journey. 

The journey of co-parenting. 

Don't get me wrong, I know how blessed we are.

For those of you who read my blogs on a regular basis you know that I say it all. of. the. time. 

I know that we are blessed with relationships that aren't perfect, but that are committed to making co-parenting work. 

I know that we are blessed to to be able to communicate, and share, and walk this path together, because we all know how important it is for her. 

I know that we are blessed that so much beauty has been able to grow from all the devastation and ash. 

But, I also know that I am human.

And as a real, living and breathing single mom, I know it is my job to always be real with you.

To show you the places where my journey is anything, but ideal and perfect. 

To verbalize that sometimes the choices I've made are hard and they hurt.

Like when she's on vacation and I'm here missing out. 

Because it's important that us, single mommas, stick together.

To let each other know that we are not alone as we walk through our fire.

Because as easy and wonderful as I try to make co-parenting, the truth of the matter is this: sometimes it just plain sucks.

#truth

And you know what? That's okay too.

Yes, the pictures ARE wonderful and such a kind jester from her stepmother.

I am blessed. 

And yes, we HAVE got to FaceTime just about every morning since she's been gone.

We are blessed. 

And yes, the joy on her face is so evident and I love, love, LOVE that she is getting to experience all of this.

She is blessed.

But, at the end of the day, it's just not the same.

Because I'm here and she's there.

And today, that hurts.

And today, that's okay.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year, New Purpose


If you haven't heard of Ann Voskamp, I'm sorry. 

Over the past three years, she has become one of my favorite authors and her blog is full of all kinds of goodness that I can't even begin to explain. 

You must simply go and read it for yourself.

Seriously.

Like RIGHT now. 

I especially LOVE her book, One Thousand Gifts

Talk about putting thankfulness into a whole new perspective. 

Wow. 

If you haven't read it, then you should.

Seriously.

But, anyway, ok, ok, OK! 

I digress. 

Now that I'm done gushing, I want to share with you, her challenge for the new year.

While I have never really been one to make New Year's resolutions, there is definitely something about how a brand new year feels all bright and shiny. 

How the simple chime of midnight can signal the freshness that comes with clean, brand new beginnings. 

I love it.

And I love how it makes me want to be stronger, better, and braver.

Even if I'm not really one for resolutions. 

So, this year, Ann Voskamp challenged us on her blog to be stronger, better, and braver. 

Not by making promises we can't keep, but by purposing personal and spiritual changes in our lives. 

Kind of cool, huh?

After reading her blog about it, I started to think about what areas of my life could use more purpose? More focus? Less talk and more action?

It's kind of a tough pill to swallow when I think about it, but I am determined to PURPOSE my heart toward a few personal/spiritual goals that will help me to grow into the woman God wants me to be, not the woman the world thinks I should be. 

No fad diets and fancy budget worksheets over here, because this girl has bigger-best gifts kind of stuff to look forward too.  
****
In 2016, I purpose to:

EMBRACE myself. Flaws and all. I may not meet the world's standards in a lot of areas, but according to God's standard of grace I am worthy and loved beyond measure and that is enough.

ENGAGE my family more. Set the phone down. Turn off the computer. And focus on what's truly important.

BE more intentional. Focus more on what's outside of me than what's inside of me.

BELIEVE that God is capable of the impossible. Like really believe it.

BREAK the cycle of "busy". My life has become consumed by "busy" lately and it's time to give myself permission to say "no".

DAILY make time to just be still. In God's presence. Refresh. Renew. At least 10 minutes every day.

DO at least one thing for someone else every single day. Whether it's a kind word, or a selfless deed. Make someone else a priority even if it seems small.

LET GO of the lie that I am not enough. Because in Christ, I am more than enough.

LEARN to bite my tongue. Not everything requires my opinion, and after all, a soft answer turns away wrath.

LIVE out my calling. It's time to quit hiding behind the excuses.

GIVE more. Want less.

GROW my dreams in reality. One forward step at a time.


What about you? 

What does your list of purpose look like? 

Feel free to share!

More Co-parenting Diaries coming your way soon! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Co-parenting Diaries: Surviving the Holidays


For the record, I'm a little bit of a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas.

Trust me, I love Jesus and presents just as much as the next girl, but the holidays have been a HUGE source of stress for me for almost ten years.

When I was 21, my parents separated for the final time, and my sisters and I were placed on the "pick which parent you love most" roller coaster which still hasn't stopped.

No matter how hard we try or how awesome our juggling skills have become-someone always loses.

It sucks.

As an adult child of divorce with two parents who are rarely ever able to find even an inch of common ground, I knew exactly how I did not want it to be for my daughter.

And for the most part, co-parenting with my daughter's dad is fairly easy compared to what I've seen/experienced on the other side of the tracks.

Are we perfect? Nope.

Do I want to kill him sometimes? More days than I don't.

But, for the most part, we are committed to setting aside our weapons differences for the sake of our daughter, especially when it comes to the holidays.

Are we always 100% amazing at doing this? Not at all.

Does someone still miss out? Most of the time. 

But, we have found a system that works well for us in our particular situation and I wanted to share a little bit about that.

So, first things first, I want to reiterate something I have said in other posts: Yes. I realize that everyone's co-parenting situation is unique.

I realize that sometimes there are circumstances that make co-parenting with your ex basically impossible. I also realize that some people who co-parent HAVE to go by what their parenting agreement says, because sometimes the best way for two people to survive co-parenting is to let a judge make the rules and to stick by those rules.

With that said, I am thankful that my ex-husband and I have chosen to do what's best for our daughter. We only use our parenting agreement as a basic guideline, and for the most part, we make our own schedule-esepcially during the holidays.

My ex-husband and I are both blessed with large families who live in the same town where we grew up and where we still live. Holidays have always been a big deal to both families.

Our daughter has been blessed with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents that all love her SO much, and we are committed to nurturing those relationships for our daughter, especially during the holidays.

There is no reason that she should ever miss out on Thanksgivings and Christmases with both families, and we don't want her too.

Now, my holidays are a lot little more complicated than his since my parents are divorced, but for the most part he understands and works through this with me.

He knows that if I could just have ONE big Christmas, I would. But, unfortunately that is not the case.

So, I know you're probably asking, "How is this possible?"

Well, here are some tips that have worked well for us over the last three years.

*****
1. Plan Early. 

It's the week of Thanksgiving and we're already planning Christmas parties around these parts. That's what happens when you have so many Christmases to go too, and only a few weeks to do it. I actually sat down yesterday and came up with a sample co-parenting calendar for how our December could possibly go.

In addition to the Christmas parties, I will be traveling the week before Christmas and we are in the process of implementing a slightly different permanent parenting plan, so these things have to be factored into how the month is most likely going to go.

After I got it all down on paper, I sent it to him. He will look over it, suggest changes or dates he would like to talk about and we will go from there.

For us, it's easier for us to visualize how our holidays are going to go if we can see it on paper and plan our Christmases with our families accordingly. I recommend this method of planning, because it does help to alleviate some of the stress.

2. Decide What You Can and Can't Live Without.

For instance, we both value Christmas morning with our daughter. This is something we both want her to experience at both of our homes, and so we alternate years so she can do that. This year, I get to wake up with her on Christmas morning, and then she will go with her dad and his family after 2:00 that day and she will spend Christmas night with him. Next year, we will switch. It works well for us, and it's really the only day we have set in stone. Everything else can be planned around our "normal" schedule.

Another example is that we also have very similar Thanksgiving traditions in our families. If it works out for her to do both, because one family is doing a luncheon and the other family is doing a dinner, she gets to do both. For us, it's important that she gets to have those memories and traditions with us whenever she can.

She isn't always going to be able to go to everything, and for us, that's okay.

Of course she is missed when she isn't there, but we have chosen to only do what we think is important for her and we realize that in doing so, we have to let some things go.

3. It's All About Compromise.

This goes hand in hand with number two. Remember when I said earlier that someone always loses? Well, guess what, sometimes that person is me.

For those of you who know me personally, you know that this is a tough pill for me to swallow.

As a chronic sufferer of "oldest child syndrome", I like to be right and I like to get my way. But, nothing puts you in your place quite like getting a divorce.

So, that's why you have to dedicate yourself to learning the art of compromise.

Do we always find our way to that middle ground? Hell, no. 

But, we try.

Every single day.

Yep. Even on the days when it feels like I'm the only one trying to find it, and I'm sure he has days where he feels exactly the same way.

I have had to learn to be okay with being the loser sometimes, so that my daughter can be the winner all the time.

Which brings me to my final point...

4. Focus On What's Important

I think for all of us as parents-divorced or still married-the most important thing is our children.

And as parents we know that we need to put our child's happiness and well-being above our own, and that is never more true than during the holidays.

That's why on our bad co-parenting days, I have to pour myself a glass of wine and give myself a stern talking too. I have to remind myself that it's not about me-it's about our daughter and I must always, always do what best for her.

Even when it requires me to bite my tongue or miss out sometimes.

My daughter did not chose this life.

We chose it for her.

And she should never feel like we are punishing her by putting her in the middle or dragging her through our bitterness-especially during the holidays.

If you are struggling with your ex this holiday season, please accept my gentle encouragement to step away from the situation, pray, and re-focus on what's really important: your kid(s).

*****

I know I say this all the time, and I will continue to say it every time I write for this series: I AM NOT AN EXPERT!

I have really super awful co-parenting days just like everyone else. 

But, I refuse to let those days define me or what we are trying to accomplish as parents. 

Most days, I feel like we have come so far compared to where we used to be and for the most part I continue to see us moving forward, even on the days we take a few steps back. 

I think overall, any progress is progress.

And those moments when you and your ex can come to some sort of mutual understanding-especially in the area of co-parenting-needs to be celebrated. 

You may not have it all figured out, but as long as your trying daily to be the best parents you can be and putting the needs of your child first, then I'd say your doing pretty dang awesome in my book. 

And for the days you fall flat on your face, I give you the...

Bonus Tip!!

5. Keep Lots, and Lots of Wine On Hand

I feel like this one is pretty self explanatory.

If you're wondering, my favorite is Riverboat Red...the BIG bottle.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Co-parenting Diaries: Dear Mamas



It's Saturday. The last day of the week.

The day we are supposed to breathe in and let out with a deep sigh of relief.

We survived. 

My Saturdays have been so full lately and the last six months have felt like a giant blur of the people I've seen and places I just had to be.

And if we are being honest, I have been starring at this empty Saturday on my calendar for a few months now.

I wanted to sleep in a little and make pancakes for my girl who unfortunately had to go to her dad's today.

I wanted to make it up to her.

The weeks upon weeks I've spent going and doing and being for others.

I wanted our few hours together this morning to be good hours together.

I wanted to remind her that she is-and always will be-my number one priority.

That even in the midst of the chaos that has been our life lately, she is still all that matters to this mama who has seemed far too busy these days.

But, that's not how this morning went at all.

Because, here's the truth, sweet mamas...

Sometimes the six year old decides to give you glimpses of her sixteen year old self way before you've even had your first cup of coffee.

Sometimes you lose your temper and say things you shouldn't.

Sometimes your threats feel empty and you struggle with how to follow through.

Sometimes there are still tears about leaving-about the transition from your house to his.

Sometimes there is begging and pleading to please, please, please stay with you, even though you've been doing this routine for almost four years.

Sometimes you have to stand your ground, even when it freaking sucks.

Sometimes you send them on their way knowing that the last conversation you had with them wasn't not a happy one.

Sometimes you cry, because all of this hurts-it still hurts.

Sometimes you find yourself still wondering if it ever gets any easier.

Sometimes beautifully empty Saturdays can leave you feeling incredibly alone and wishing for a do over.

Sometimes, sweet mamas, sometimes.

But, here's the other truth...

There is enough grace to cover bad Saturday mornings.

Grace that is as sweet as the cup of coffee you will finally get to have once your mouthy opinionated six year old makes her way out the door to her father. (Trust me, I have NO idea where she gets it.)

Grace that is big enough to fill the void of a quiet little apartment after all the noise of the hustle and bustle has left for the week.

Grace that takes your tear stained face and reminds you that you are enough and you will always be enough.

Grace that says there is no way that your child does not know how loved she truly is despite a life that did not go as planned.

Grace that will carry you straight through to next Wednesday when she finally comes back home.

Grace that gives us our second and third and fourth and seventy eighth chance to be better-not perfect-but better.

Just better.

So, this is for the hard days, single mamas.

The days when you feel alone and you would kill for a second pair of hands to hold you, to back you up, and to remind you that you are not completely ruining your child.

I am here to tell you, that you're not.

I promise. 

You want to know how I know?

Because His grace tells me so every single day.

So, chin up, sweet mamas.

Embrace your quiet Saturday.

And trust me, you are doing a great job-a really great job at the hardest, but most rewarding thing you will ever do.

Sure! It's a bad morning!

But a few bad mornings are so minor in the grand scheme of things.

I promise.

So, drink your coffee! And have that second cup!

Take a 30 minute shower, because you can!

Enjoy your day because it's still brand new!

And remember that His grace-His wonderful, merciful, amazing grace abounds even in the deepest of single parenting waters.

He's got this.

You've got this.

I promise. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

I Need You To Know



Many of you don't know me personally.

I write here in my quiet corner of the world telling my story and preaching my gospel of co-parenting, surviving divorce, and how I have successfully managed to not kill my ex-husband over the last three years.

These are my truths.

The pictures I know how to paint for you with my words and my advice.

But, this...this is entirely different.

Because this doesn't make any sense.

But, as I read through the notes of encouragement on her Go Fund Me page, I find myself completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from people who hardly know her, and I am gripped with this urgency to help you know her.

This woman who changed my life 28 years ago when my mother brought her home from the hospital one cold February day.

This woman who took me from only child to big sister in a matter of moments.

This woman who I have fought, cried, and laughed with for most of my life.

My sister.

I need you to know her.

I need you to understand the person who you are so graciously helping and praying over, because she is so much more than the sick heart with a rare genetic condition that rests inside her body.

I need you to see that the girl in the Facebook photos-the one everyone has been talking about for the last few weeks-is SO loved by SO many people.

But, especially by me.

The big sister who would move mountains for her to make her feel better and who would trade her places in a heartbeat.

A single, irregular heartbeat. 

So, if you'll humor me for a moment, I need to tell you about her...my sister.

*****
I need you to know that the day my mother brought her home from the hospital I ran around the house screaming.

Not out of excitement, but because I wanted my mother to take her back...out the door...to wherever she had come from.

In my almost two year old mind, she was not welcome there that day-or any day.

And that wouldn't change for many years.

I need you to know that my worst fights have been with her.

Every single hair pulling, face slapping, and whisper screaming fight.

Our friends used to come over just for the sheer entertainment of watching us fight.

We were like a more girly version of Fight Club and we were the only two members.

True story.

I need you to know that if someone would have told my fifteen year old self that she would grow up to be one of my best friends, I would of laughed in their faces and then later had to eat my words.

Because she is more than one of my best friends.

She is my best friend.

She is the only one who has stood beside me through all of the highs and lows for the last almost 29 years.

She isn't afraid to tell me what I need to hear even if it isn't what I want to hear. She will put me in my place, and take me down a couple of notches, but she always has my back-even when I'm wrong.

That's true friendship.

That's once in a lifetime friendship.

I know this now.

I need you to know that she is the funniest and the most sarcastic person that I know.

She literally makes me laugh out loud every single day, and most of the time it's at myself.

I'm convinced that the eyeroll emoji was specifically invented for her and trust me, most days it isn't dramatic enough.

She is my comic relief in the middle of a world that wants me to take all of this way too seriously-and I love her for it.

I need you to know that she is the most amazing wife and mother.

No one loves her boys the way my sister loves her boys.

No one.

She put my mothering to shame every single day.

From homework to play dates to bouncing a collicky baby for 18 straight hours every single day-she is a superhero.

My superhero.

Seriously.

I need you to know that she's prays like our mother.

Our mother who truly believes in the power of prayer, and the power of loving people through prayer. If you've ever had the privilege of hearing our mother pray, then you know this to be true.

My sister is the same way.

She genuinely loves people through her prayers. Like really loves them.

And there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not thankful to have her in my prayer corner.

I need you to know that she teaches me daily about humility.

I can't even tell you the number of times she has said to me, "But, I never asked for this."

Not her illness, but the genuine outpouring of love and support she has received over the last few weeks.

She never asked for a Go Fund Me page or benefit softball tournament or little white bracelets with her name on them.

We are Phillips girls with Dickerson blood running through our veins.

Our family does not ask for help.

But, God had bigger plans for this mess and He is using it to teach all of us what it means to truly need help and how to accept it with a humble heart.

However, I think it has been more of a lesson for me than for her.

She has wept and prayed over the money that has been donated more than anyone else.

Her gratitude humbles me.

 Every single day.

I need you to know that even though her heart is sick, her spirit is stronger.

You know, I had someone tell me just last week that my sister needs to quit posting such "happy posts" on Facebook, because no one really believes she's sick.

But you know, that's the problem with an illness that is invisible to everyone on the outside-there will always be those who doubt you.

But, I would rather have people doubt her illness than doubt her faith.

Because it is her faith that allows her to give the glory to Him in the face of overwhelming odds.

It is her faith that will carry this work on to completion.

And if that's all the world ever sees, then so be it.

*****

You know, I am aware that there is something so completely tragic about a beautiful, vibrant, 28 year old girl who has the heart of a 70 year old woman.

I have cried so many tears over this truth.

But, I am also aware that there are far worse things in this world, and that there are people with greater needs than ours.

However, in this life, we don't get to choose our valleys.

And while our valley may not seem as rocky or treacherous as the valleys others have been asked to walk through-it is still a valley.

A dark place that is full of uncertainty and void of light, but that is being used to shape us-to refine us into the people we have all been called to be.

He is teaching us lessons in this place.

He is softening our hearts rather than hardening them in this place.

And He is writing the most beautiful story in this place.

A story about faith and perseverance.

A story about trials by fire and peace that passes all understanding.

Yes, this story was ordained for my sister before she ever took her first breath-no matter how tragic it seems.

But, behind the story, there will always be a girl.

A girl who is a wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, friend, and sister.

A girl who is my sister.

And I will forever be grateful that I got to be apart of the story.

Her story.
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