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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Salt, Sand, and Soul Searching


There is sand in the bottom of my suitcase and stuck to the soles of my flip flops, the last load of clothes is in the dryer, wet bathing suit bottoms have all been hung up to dry, and a lukewarm shower washed the last remnants of salt water from my hair. My skin holds a slight tint of color, and my hair seems lighter. And even now as I'm snuggled into some clean pajamas and a hoodie, waiting for my little apartment to warm up, I still feel and smell the warm breeze blowing in from the ocean taking every last care I've ever had away with it.

This week was everything I wanted it to be. I laughed A LOT with the most amazing friends God could have ever placed in my life. I finished this book (a must read for ALL single mothers). I met some amazing people, saw some beautiful sites, and I wrote. I wrote A LOT. And I healed. Really, truly healed in only the way the ocean and a far away place can heal me. To say Mexico was good to me is a understatement. Mexico was everything I needed it to be. I came back with a whole new resolve, ready to fight, ready to move forward, and ready to make a difference.

So, on the flight home these words came. These are the resolutions I made from over 1,250 miles away while on an island with some of the most amazing, encouraging women I have ever met. This is where I go from here. This is the vacation post.

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My failures more often than not leave me wanting. Some days I feel like they are drowning me instead of forcing me to grow. Sometimes the most well-intentioned morning pep talk in the mirror will be squelched by feelings of loneliness, jealousy, heart ache or anger. I find myself constantly moving back to square one and starting over. I know I still have an incredibly long way to go before I finally make it to the other side of all of this, and some days I feel closer to that goal than others. 

While I was on vacation, the goal of letting go and moving forward seemed within my grasp. I boasted for months before that this vacation was my graduation present for surviving 2013. My brand new beginning.

My goal for vacation was to come back with a fresh perspective, and for the most part I did. I realized some things while I was there, and I also uncovered and stared right into the face of some of the things I want to change about myself. I know exactly what kind of woman and mother I want to be, and while I was there I met the truth of what it's going to take to become that woman. 

And the truth is that I need to let some things go. 

I need to really, truly loosen my grasp on the things I can't change and completely lay down the things that I can. I need to take these things that are holding me back, set them at the feet of Jesus, and never, ever pick them back up again. Sure, I'll be tempted. We all are. But, I think recognizing these issues and owning them is a big step towards not wanting these things in my life because they are hindering me from the amazing life He has planned for me. 

So, on the last night of vacation I decided to let go of these things. I'm a visual learner, so on slips of paper I wrote all of the things I want/need to eliminate from my life. After praying through each slip of paper, I took them to the edge of the ocean and one by one I threw them into the water. I watched as the waves smashed the tiny pieces of paper against the rocks and then carried them out to sea. 

For me, in that moment, those pieces of paper represented my past-who I once was and the chains that once held me. By letting them go, I am recognizing that I am no longer that girl and that I am beyond ready to move forward into my future. 

So, what was on those papers you might ask? 

Well, the first thing I needed to let go of was my insecurity. Let me tell you, if anything will do a number on your self-esteem getting dumped after a lengthy affair followed by a painful divorce will definitely do the trick. The negativity from being rejected not once...but twice, will cause you to struggle with how you look at yourself in the mirror. I found myself feeling anything BUT beautiful or desirable. 

Hello, girl with a tainted past and scarlet letter, anyone? No? No takers?! Ok. 

Without the constant reassurance of my value from what I have realized were the wrong sources, I found myself backsliding into a dark struggle with my body image and self worth. The last few months have been bad. And it wasn't until I found myself crying in my bedroom over a damn swimming suit and looking to my fifteen year old sister for reassurance that I realized that it was time to let those insecurities go. Not only is it not healthy for her to see me behaving that way, but it's really not healthy for my daughter to see me crying over a freaking swim suit. So, I've resolved to stop with the negative self-talk, to say only positive things about myself out loud, to re channel how I allow myself to look at eating healthy and light exercise, and that my younger sister and my daughter will NEVER again hear me say the word "fat" in reference to myself or any other woman for that matter. 

After all, it is my responsibility to show her the truth about her image through Christ in a world that is bombarding her with lies about what is beautiful, sexy, and desirable. How can I do that when the words that are coming out in reference to myself are saying the same things that every television commercial, Victoria's Secret model, magazine ad, and department store window are advertising? The answer is, I can't. At some point, the madness has to stop. I am so much better than these false idols of beauty, and so is she. I am a daughter of the King. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. When I look in the mirror and see flaws, He sees His creation. A child made in His own image.

Yes, I need to protect His creation and preserve it. No, eating healthier and working out isn't a bad thing. But when those things becomes your obsession, then that's when you need to question whether or not you are doing it because you are listening to what the world says about you, beauty, and self worth or what God says about those things. I have resolved to place my beauty and self-worth in the hands of God, instead of in the hands of men who will always fall short. I need to quit trying to find my self-worth through someone else, and focus on the fact that the One who created me has already called me worthy and redeemed. To Him, even in the midst of my mess, I am the most beautiful, and that should be all that matters. 

Two other slips of paper read, "my hurt" and "my anger". For the last six months, I have carried these around with me. I can feel these things hardening my heart and turning me into the bitter, selfish woman I do not want to become. I often times find myself dancing on the edge of the strong, independent woman I am working towards, and the sad, pitiful victim I once was. Don't get me wrong, I believe that I have A LOT of justifiable reasons to be hurt and angry. The past year of my life has been extremely hard and painful. But, I truly believe that my time for grieving is over, and it's time to fight the attitudes of bitterness and mistrust that have come from years of abuse and misuse. The load of all of that hurt, anger, and bitterness is so heavy, and eventually you get tired of carrying it around with you from day to day to day. You crave the freedom that comes with setting those things at the feet of Jesus and truly walking away from them. It's not easy, but I believe that with time and a lot of prayer I will be able to ignore the temptation to pick them back up again. I am not that girl, and I refuse to allow my past to make me bitter for the rest of my life. 

Another slip of paper read, "jealousy". My single mom life is anything, but glamorous. I truly believe that God intended for children to be raised in two parent homes that are not broken. Unfortunately, in our case, that just isn't what happened. I truly believe that God works ALL things together for good, and that He will use this time in Emma and I's life to become stronger, more loving and gracious people. However, that doesn't stop me from comparing my ordinary single mom life to the lives of those around me who seem to have it so much better: my friend's amazing marriage, my cousin's beautiful new house, my sister's awesome dating relationship, or the parenting abilities of the super cool, multi-tasking, crafty mom at Emma's preschool. There are days when my life seems to pale in comparison to their life and I struggle with that nasty little feeling of jealousy. I find myself pleading with God on the loneliest of nights, "When will it be MY turn?". I question His plans, His logic, His perfect will. I wonder out loud how this mess could ever turn out for the better. And in the middle of those darkest nights, He reaches down, dries my tears, and whispers into my heart,

 "Just wait, My Daughter. Wait." 

And so, I wait. 

I know my time is coming, and so far I haven't felt the divine call on my life to spend it alone. I also know that most likely it's going to fall into my lap when I finally decide to quit looking. But, until then I know that I need to quit comparing my life to the lives of those around me. I should be rejoicing for those people, because I love them, not allowing my jealousy to make me bitter towards them. And you know what? At the end of the day, even in the middle of this extremely ordinary single mom life, I am blessed. Extraordinarily blessed. And to Him my life is anything, BUT ordinary. He has a plan...BIG plans for my life, and I'm worried I'm going to miss out on them if I keep focusing on everyone else's life besides my own.

Other pieces of paper read: "my past" and "my failures". For me, these two things go hand in hand, because my past is full of my failures. I spend a lot of time dwelling on my past. My nights are lonely and full of the nightmares of what was, what could of been, and what happened. I struggle every single day with my fall from grace, and I realized this week that those struggles were controlling me. They have been holding me captive, and I have been forcing myself to pay for sins that have long been forgiven over and over and over again. I may write pretty words about how my past doesn't define me, but late at night those things are the monsters hiding under my bed. Those monsters from my past have been holding me back for far too long, and I realize that it's time that I start owning what I say. It's time that I start embracing the fact that this girl is worth so much more than the poor choices she once made. It's time I quit allowing people-including myself-to talk about me in the past tense. I am NOT that girl anymore. It's time I start acting like it. I deserve an extraordinary life. Emma deserves an extraordinary life. And I can't embrace the possibility of my new extraordinary life if I keep living in my past. It's time that I stop looking behind me and face the beautiful horizon which is front of me.

The last piece of paper was only one word...a name. The name of the person who holds the key to some of my darkest secrets. The great love of my life. It was only one name, but it was the hardest one to let go. I held it for a long time, pressing the folded piece of paper to my lips, and praying. Praying long and hard about the choice to really, truly let him go.

There in the quiet darkness I allowed myself to remember. I remembered when that name was the most beautiful thing to me, when promises were brand new and meant to be kept, and when hope seemed to color everything around us. I remembered the things about us that haunt my dreams. The things I will tuck deep down, safely within me never to awaken again. And with that, I closed my eyes, took a deep breathe, and remembered one last time the touch, taste, and smell of an incredible love before I let the slip of paper fall from my hand into the water. With each incoming wave, it pulled further and further away from shore.

Out to sea.

Out where he belonged.

And as I stood there with all my struggles floating in the water, I took one last look at the dark horizon with its tiny lights of nearby islands and I knew in that moment that this trip had been everything I wanted it to be. The only way to have a fresh new beginning is by leaving behind the baggage that is slowing you down.

My life is far from over. There is a plan for me in the midst of all of this, and I feel like I am finally ready to embrace it.

All it took was a little sun, salt water, sand, and whole lot of soul searching.

2014, I'm ready for you. 

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