No Coincidences

Bedside table

This is my bedside table which describes part of my life in a nutshell.  Next to the books I have my scalp massager, because no one in my family is as good at that, as my mama. So-Thank you dollar section at Target! In the mirror you see my faithful feline companion, Hazelnut, who follows me everywhere. And in the chair next to her and all along the floor is the clean laundry, yet to be folded. I once had all the laundry washed, dried, folded and put away for 5 whole minutes. It was glorious and hasn’t happened since.

The bottom book is an encyclopedia for home remedies which have been a God-send to me and my family the last 5 years. It fascinates me how God created all we need in nature and how all things have a purpose. The next book called “Unbound” goes over spiritual deliverance. I have so much to share about that book and how it applies to my life in upcoming posts- I can hardly wait. The book on top of that is a freebie I received from church about forgiving. Who doesn’t need to forgive, right? And sometimes forgiveness is a process and has many stages.
The next book “You Inc” was a gift from my father in law to my husband about how to promote himself when he started his business years ago, which he never read. I decided to read it recently when I started up my little projects. I am not much of a sales person and it’s taken me quite awhile to read about “self promotion” which makes me feel awkward.
“Dissolving Illusions” is about the history of disease in the world and much more. In later writings of mine, you will come to know why reading that book is better than a mystery/horror/suspense/drama/tragedy/historical nonfiction, genre for me.
“The Discernment of Spirits” is a great book to have as a teaching tool to recognize the voice of God above all the others. “The Fulfillment of all Desire” is a compilation of some of the most prominent saints in the history of the church. It is riveting to know the similarities the saints went through in their lives and the knowledge they have to pass on about all the stages and depths of their faith and their spiritual gifts. You can compare it to your own life and where you are, since we are ALL called to be saints!
The next two books about HGTV’s hit show “Fixer Upper” was a vacation for me in the midst of my day to day “deep processing” mindset. Chip and Joanna Gain’s story is an inspiration to me on so many levels.  Those books were pure entertainment with a huge shot of motivation. Great books, especially if you own your own company or are trying to discern how God wants you to use your talents for His glory.
“Resisting the Devil” follows the book “Unbound”, and shares how to further recognize truth from lies and how to protect yourself from them.
My book marks are in various places throughout all of these books on my bedside. I jump around quite a bit when I read, and sometimes I will read an entire book at once depending on where I’m at in my journey and what I need to learn at the time.
Then there is the top book (which was buried in the middle) :
Book cover

It’s been about 6 months since I last read it.  But this book… I don’t remember where/when I got it, but I opened up to where I left off and started reading again.

Since I have been writing *this here little blog*, I have noticed that the Lord is helping me re-process through all of my memories. On occasion, what I write about from my past history, is paralleling current things going on within myself or my family, even after I write a post. It’s seems like such a coincidence but is it? I like to call it a “God-Incidence”.

I just wrote my testimony about my depression a couple of days ago and then I picked up this book “Be Healed” 2 days later (that I haven’t read for 6 months) and this is what Bob Schuchts writes:
When we do not believe that we are the Father’s beloved, we remain in “a spirit of slavery” borne out of fear.”  Me speaking; Isn’t that what depression is? We are in bondage to our sadness. He goes on to write, “Without a firm identity as beloved children, we end up living lives of moral perfection, trying to please God, or reckless abandon and self-indulgence.” He is comparing these two extremes of personalities to the brother of the prodigal son who tries to do all the right things, and then to the actual prodigal son himself, who we know runs off in his rebellion. I know for me I have lived the identity of both sons at one point in time and in neither way did I realize the Father’s love for me. “When I failed to measure up, the enemy then accused me of my failures.” For me, my depression was a doorway which let the evil one in to wreak havoc on my goodness. I was susceptible to all lies about who I really was. “Only when we are fully alive in Christ are we capable of beholding our dignity as beloved children of the Father.” and more, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures. Neither are we the sum of our achievements and successes or religious practices. No, we are much more that all of these things. We are beloved children of the Father.” (Jn 2:7, 3:1)
That all hit home for me. All of those books are another of God’s ways of talking to me just when I need it the most and especially when I need to be reminded. His timing is perfect. As I read on, the author goes into talking about intimacy with Christ. How the crosses in our life are to join us to, and bring us closer to Christ. But we have become enemies of the cross not fully understanding its potential. I will speak about crosses through my testimony over the months because I too, did not understand the value going through my hard times. “I shudder at how much I have been an enemy of the Cross in my life, being more concerned about earthly things and self-survival, all the while avoiding the Cross, which is God’s only path to true healing and salvation.” What Mr. Schuchts admits here about his own heart is also true for mine at times. For me, the cross was my depression. It was the things yet to come even in the midst of that- that I haven’t shared yet in this blog. I didn’t know back then what I know now. So I take this acquired knowledge and I apply it to my life NOW.  Yes I may still slip up from time to time in my human frailty, but I will grow stronger in my confidence in the Lord through it all.

It was quite a process coming into my own faith with God because I was tied to the “spirit of perfection”. That’s another post for another day. 😉

Mother Teresa, in her letter to the Missionaries of Charity Family states: “The devil may try to use the hurts of life and sometimes our own mistakes to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you.”  I can relate! All of the books I’m reading and have read, are my weapons for the healing of mind, body and soul which are all connected in God’s perfect plan. That, and those messenger friends he has sent to me along the way. We need instructions and prophets and helpers.

So how do we get to the place where we can rest in the Father’s heart for us and have full confidence that we are loved? It doesn’t happen overnight; it takes practice. Every day. You need to remember to rest in God’s presence. Study. Put into yourself what you want to come out as a reflection of Christ. Put on His armor. Stay away from things that can let the evil one in. He’s sneaky. Arm yourself with God’s word. Use the sacraments; confession and communion. The body of Christ is alive and large. Seek out others who can remind you and guide you when you are feeling weak. Buy the books that can speak to you about God’s truths that will help to instruct, guide and protect you in mind, body and spirit. And if you don’t get to them right away- that’s okay, God knows when you’re supposed to. He will give you the nudge.

My little boy had a rough day yesterday and I’d like to share our conversation…

For whatever reason my son thought that when trying something new, he should automatically be good at it. I reminded him that everything takes practice. You can’t just master something difficult the very first time.

The example that came to me in our conversation was: when you buy # 2 pencils they come unsharpened. I compared my son to the pencil and I asked him how realistic it was of himself to be able to write with a blunt pencil. Sharpening the pencil gives it the pointy tip which allows the lead to be written with. *Sharpening is the practice.* You cannot write your story when the pencil is flat. You can’t excel at something if you don’t practice.

Apply that to our faith life. How often do we want to give up when it’s difficult? What if we feel broken at times because we tried and failed? Or when we are not as perfect as we thought we should be?

It’s in the sharpening that we perfect who we are meant to be and only then do we see how FULL we are of potential. If we do not practice or “sharpen the pencil” then we do not know what we are capable of.

The Holy Spirit gave me these words that reached my boy’s heart… and then I applied what I told him, to myself.

God places potential for greatness in us. Practice is progress. Apply it to everything. Holiness is an exercise. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we come up short but when we keep trying, God will bless our efforts. And if we mess up along the way, He is the ultimate eraser.

Pride and Fear

This song sets the tone for this piece. Please listen and let it soak in before you read.

I will warn you. The prayer below hurts a little to recite. But once you say it more and more it does get easier. I find it breaks chains of Pride and I actually crave reading it.
Cardinal Merry del Val would say this after Mass. The Imprimatur is James A. McNulty, Bishop of Paterson, N.J.

It is one of my favorite prayers and I recite it almost daily, especially when things are rough.

Litany Of Humility

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me Jesus,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, Jesus
That others may be loved more than I,
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world others may increase, and I decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

I write my life story in chronological order, but there are aspects or categories which are more than a side note. Depression is one of those categories. (Deliver me Jesus from the need to be understood!) Although it will come in handy for you while reading these stories.  I am inclined to worry that speaking about struggles gives them power in some way causing a spiritual backlash if you will, but maybe it brings the subject to light, stripping it of its power. I don’t know. It’s one of those things that is hard for to people to admit, including myself. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to appear weak. Or vulnerable. Or incapable of snapping out of it. So, for anyone who has suffered from depression, this post is for you. You are not alone. For anyone who has never suffered, maybe this will help you understand someone you love going through it.

Pride is the opposite of humility. Usually Fear is related to Pride in some way. Depression is made up of a lot of fears which hang out with Pride- like besties.

Writing about my depression is a fear I have and that stems from pride. The lie I struggle with is that when people really know you they may judge you. Or they assume they know everything about you based on what you shared. That’s why some people don’t share anything below the surface. It’s safer. They don’t want anyone to truly see them for fear of what will happen next.

I have a tendency to share too much. I feel the need to be accepted. Acceptance means togetherness which is the opposite of loneliness, right? Ha! I used to feel alone in a crowded room. Like someone just please SEE me. My craving for something more or for meat and potatoes in a world full of Skittles makes me open my big mouth too much. I think in my heart if we all truly knew each other and our individual struggles the world would be less lonely. When I share my heart I sometimes feel ashamed that I let someone in too far.  I can usually tell after a conversation if I’ve made a mistake for opening up in search of depth. Pride of their opinion of me can be crippling. I struggled with this- as if I just gave someone my “kryptonite” and now I don’t know if they’re gonna use it against me!

For so long I tried to find my acceptance elsewhere when I truly needed it from Christ. Yes it is good to be there for others, but to seek your worth in them is an empty calorie.  I’ve had pep talks with myself before social situations to not share too much with anyone. And “too much” for a person with anxiety is sometimes just as much as a few extra words. Or spilling your whole life story. I’ve done both.  I’d second guess everything I said and how I came across. When I was in the thick of my depression this worry was almost constant. You would have thought being self-conscious was the opposite of prideful, but they are one in the same.

For me, the sadness started soon after age 14. My depression was first associated with hormones, then situational, and then became clinical as the years passed. It was debilitating at times.  The depression I suffered included a lot of involuntary thoughts or truths I believed about myself in my mind. They were just there churning around like a washing machine. Or a mixed tape. Feelings of supreme self-doubt. Unworthiness, guilt, paranoia and beliefs about the goodness of myself as a person or as a creation of God. I felt like a waste of space. The sadness was so thick at times I would go sleep just to make time pass. I could write “Ode’s to my bed” I was so good at sleeping; anywhere at any time. I was a “nap pro”. To this day when I get overwhelmed my “old faithful coping mechanism” tries to kick in and I become exhausted.

I used to feel debilitating fear about what others thought of me. (Pride) Sometimes my anxiety would get so bad that I would rethink every conversation I had with people to make sure I didn’t say something the wrong way. Being misunderstood was the worst! I hated to have anyone mad at me. I felt like everything was my fault somehow. I doubted my goodness. I doubted God’s goodness.

I didn’t want to dream anymore because the thought of what I loved turned to grey and was flavorless. When depressed, food loses it’s taste for me. It really does. I would eat so I didn’t get the shakes, but I had no appetite. Food may as well have been cardboard.  Everything around me would also lose its color. I know that sounds crazy but the vibrancy of nature would disappear. I became numb in my senses.

My mom commented that as a teenager I stopped wearing colors. My wardrobe turned to brown. When sad, all the things that I loved became “meh”.  My dad would warn me “Spring, don’t get too high on life because it hurts when you come down.” He knew from experience if you got too happy the other side of super happy was deflating. We are a lot alike.  Much of his testimony kept me afloat all my life.
As an adult, my paintings would be tabled during these grey phases and I couldn’t create. I would get a blockage of some sort, like writers block but for me it was “everything block”.  As a kid my dad told me he could tell when I was happy because I sang throughout the whole house. The song would leave when the colors did. But when the clouds parted, I painted with all the colors while singing.

When I was happy I would use up all my energy in one day because I knew my window would close in a matter of time.  I would have several bad weeks or so out of the month and one or two good days where I’d feel like I was functioning and the fog was gone. I would tell my husband, “Can you imagine what I could do if my mind was this clear and I felt normal like this all the time?” I was a rock star!! I so envied those people with seemingly endless enthusiasm who were “type A” and could just run circles around their day. Because there I was, usually running on fumes and barely had enough energy to get out of bed. Try as I might it was all I had. Other people made it look so easy and I started to believe I was a failure at just living.

Sometimes I merely existed. I floated through the motions of the day and prayed I wouldn’t crack because if I did, the flood gates would never stop.  How do you get help when you don’t know what is wrong? When you feel like you are the problem and you feel hopeless? When you cry going to bed at night because you know you will have to wake up and do it all again the next day? When you couldn’t weigh the severity of a situation because of how heavy you already felt.

Mental anguish used to be my constant. For 23 years that was my prison. I was held captive by the debilitating fear that I would never find joy. It was always fleeting. Like a butterfly, “joy” would land on my finger and before I could soak in its beauty it would flutter away leaving me so empty and alone. I got so good at seeing it leave that when it was there, I couldn’t appreciate it because I knew it wouldn’t last.

Before I knew he loved me, I thought my husband was that butterfly on my finger and I prepared my heart that he would eventually leave too. I was happy in those early moments but was plagued by the fear it would end. Oh what lies the evil one can plant in your heart.

I was surprised to learn a few years back, that Mother Teresa suffered from depression. Saint Mother Teresa spent her lifetime caring for the sickest and poorest forgotten people. When she passed away, her diary and letters were made into a book. She wrote about her struggles with depression quoting from 1958: “My smile is a great cloak that hides a multitude of pains.”  Here’s her book if you are curious. Mother Teresa  One day I’m going to have tea with Mother Teresa’s book because I think her pain can speak to a lot of hearts that are hurting. Her life is a testimony that in our weakness we can be strong with Christ.

Why do I share all of this? Every now and again I get glimpses of what used to be.  I am now healed from my depression, but I’m horrified if it comes for a visit because I used to be trapped in it constantly. Now when the fear tries to cripple me and tell me that depression is coming back to stay, I say, “thank you Lord for giving me a glimpse and healing me, now show me how to help others out of the pit..”  I know now, that depression is not all about me. Even if it feels like my own sadness. What I have learned in the last 3 years especially, is that all pain has a purpose. Even mental anguish. When combined with Christ’s suffering on the cross it can be a powerful prayer for someone else. Sometimes your sadness is not your own. I know! *Mind blowing*.  Sometimes that “sadness is a tool” to use for praying for someone else. Just like any pain it can be used to offer up for someone else and before you know it your pain is lessoned when it’s put into action for the love of another.  It turns to joy. That’s how it’s been working for me-when I remember to do it! Ugh, humanity 😉 Ha!  Don’t give ownership to the LIE that depression is you. Don’t believe those lies that say you aren’t good because TRUTH is, you are good because the Creator of the Universe does not make junk! You are precious and redeemed and adored by Him…

If you feel as though your life is void of purpose or meaningless, it’s a lie. Reach out to someone-anyone, if you feel alone. You are needed and wanted and loved. There is GREAT purpose for your life! If you worry about being too flawed, don’t. None of us are perfect despite how we may appear on the outside. God will bless your tries! He can turn sadness into joy… I promise.

A Cord of 3 Strands is Not Quickly Broken Ecclesiastics 4: 12

pexels-photo-265871.jpeg

Joseph decided that since we were engaged now, we needed to get real jobs to save up for our wedding in 6 months. We were going to be wed almost a year to the day of our first date on Valentine’s. Some may call that too fast, but we called it not wasting time and getting started ASAP on our life together. When you know, you just know.

We started writing each other love notes and leaving them for the other to find early on in our relationship. I would buy those sappy cards from the store that said everything I was feeling. Joe would mostly write notes on sticky pads and leave them where I could find them if he was at my apartment. I wrote him poems too. He was my muse. I saved every one of our notes. We would sit on the couch watching a movie and his head would be in my lap. My mama taught me by example how to give an amazing scalp massage and I would run my fingers through Joseph’s silky hair. One day he looked up at me and said, “I just fell in love with you all over again.” I know, I know. You’re all throwing up at how sappy we were. We didn’t care. We couldn’t go anywhere without holding hands, or hugging or PDA’s.

Joseph proved right away he wasn’t messing around with this whole getting married thing. He still waited tables at the Steak House and worked for a lawn company in the warmer months. He decided instead of going to school for building construction he was going to scrap that idea and just go straight for the “learning on the job” route (you’d be laughed off a job site claiming to know how to frame houses from a book.) He landed a position pretty quickly and shortly became the lead of his crew.

Now it was time for me to step up and get a real job in my field. As much as I hated waiting tables, getting a graphic design job was scary and intimidating! There was an opening for a graphic designer at my brother in law’s company and I was hired. I don’t even remember my title. I just remember that I hated that job. I spent two years in art school and my first real job was … drum roll… designing medical forms. That meant I moved an existing logo a couple of inches to the left and typed out medical jargon with boxes for doctors to check off.
Picture chewing dry chicken. It never goes down. You just keep chewing and chewing and the wad of chicken just gets bigger and bigger. It served its purpose as nourishment and was a means to an end. That was my first job. I was grateful for the income and insurance but there was nothing creative about it. It helped me put away money for our wedding.

I hated wedding planning with a passion! I did not care about those details you see women fawning and stressing over. Joe used to joke he was so lucky to have such a low maintenance girlfriend. I hated clothes shopping, I didn’t wear pounds of make-up, and I didn’t need fancy restaurants. I lived off hugs. Ha! Being the easy going girl I was, I just wanted to marry my man in a church and I wanted our marriage and vows to be blessed by God. I wanted that deep in my heart even if I didn’t know what that meant just yet. Joe felt the same way even though we couldn’t really explain it. We just knew it was the right thing.

I was training in my new job, trying to plan this wedding and learning Natural Family Planning all at the same time. I was so overwhelmed. Natural Family Planning (NFP) is reading the body’s fertility signs to know if one is ovulating or not to achieve or avoid pregnancy. Neither Joseph nor I wanted to accidentally harm a pregnancy at any stage, so we knew we’d never use birth control (since birth control has the capability to abort a fertilized egg or could cause cancer down the road.) Instead, we chose to learn about how to read my fertility. Yes, he came to the classes with me because my fertility was also his. We were in this together. It wasn’t all on me. This would prove to be the best decision we ever made. Challenging, but worth it.

The details of the wedding were an annoyance to us and in hindsight, we had the wedding for our families. Our mothers would have been crushed had we eloped. Joseph was the first in his family to be married. The wedding was just a day but our marriage would be for life. We wanted to fast forward through that day so we could start living our life together as husband and wife!  In fact, before Joe proposed to me, he told me his dad’s only advice was, “Remember, marriage is forever.”  Joe said, “I know, that’s why I’m so excited!”

We had a great priest with a sense of humor counseling us before our wedding. I loved every second of those sessions because we discussed all the things our marriage should entail and we couldn’t wait to just jump right in.  It was all so romantic in theory. He must have thought we were a little naïve but he signed away on marrying us anyways. In fact at the wedding ceremony, he stated that “marriage is a 3 ring circus. His ring, her ring and suffering.” Of course we all laughed. But he did remind us that when we marry we need to let God be the 3rd ring in that marriage, to bind us together. That sank deep into my heart and took root there over the years. I’m a slow cooker and it takes me while to come around to things, but that seed was planted nonetheless. Our job as a married couple was to include God and get each other to heaven.**

Joe and I were enamored with one other. “We completed each other.” We even completed each other’s sentences! We had folks tell us we wouldn’t always sit on the same side of the booth with one another in restaurants, and we laughed; they didn’t know us! We were madly in love and we’d always be like that. We were strong. We had our humor, our silliness and we were passionate about each other like no one’s business. Always together. We had it ALL and could face anything! Our Love was all we needed…Or so we thought.

Joseph and I both had our fair share of baggage. I shared my story on this blog to give you an idea of what things were like for myself before him, but Joe had his own story and struggles. We had equally broken paths to one another. There came storms in our marriage and we were not spared from damage. We numbed our pain differently based on our own histories. Sometimes we filed things away in our minds/hearts to not deal with it. Sometimes we wore our heart on our sleeve and were vulnerable to the world for false comforts. Sometimes we swallowed the pain or stored it elsewhere while building walls around our hearts.  We brought expectations into the marriage the other couldn’t possibly meet, because the other wasn’t God. How deeply we needed Him…

Marriage is Holy. It’s a sacrament and a vocation; a symbol of Christ and his Bride, the Church. The husband, Christ, lays down his life for His bride, the Church… Together they give life to the world and bring that life back to the Father. It’s more than a verbal commitment. No wonder the evil one tries to destroy marriage. Those outside forces will try to sabotage it if you don’t pay attention. You need to protect your marriage first and foremost because it is not immune to the world. It’s fragile and constantly under siege. Be prepared to be hit from all angles! You need God’s guardianship over your marriage but in order to do that you need to invite Him in, intentionally. Invite Him into EVERY aspect.

18 years of Hindsight***

We love with the limited capabilities we have. We can only give what we own and in whatever shape it’s in… We love with what we have been taught. That’s not to say we can’t learn to love better… We don’t have all the answers and that’s okay!  Grace gives you patience to learn along the way and to grow you in wisdom. There will be times in your marriage you feel you have nothing left to give. Times when you won’t like each other. Times when you want to run away. Times of temptation. Times when you need strength to choose each other minute by minute. Times you have to choose to die to yourself for the good of the other… What keeps you strong and fills in the gaps of your humanity, is Christ!  The grace of God gives you a mile when you don’t think you can go another foot. He is the perfect Lover of your soul. He doesn’t give His heart in pieces like we do. He is capable. He gives FULLY. God is True Love. I pray we desire His Perfect Love most of all. When we accept His love for us we can begin to love like Him.  Otherwise, without Him, we pour from an empty cup.

 

The Best Prime Rib

My parents called me shortly after I broke up with Shawn. He had called to inform them that I had broken up with him and that they should have a talk with me. Instead my parents, who had no clue I’d called things off, told Shawn that if I had broken up with him, they respected my decision and said he needed to let me go. Hearing this from my parents (who called me together on speaker phone) was such a relief to me!  My mom told me how she had been praying that I would break it off with him. She was trying to let me find my way and instead of opposing the relationship and risking me running closer to him, she prayed that what was meant to be would happen. My dad told me how proud he was of me. I nearly cried knowing that not only were they not disappointed in me but they weren’t mad about already buying me a wedding dress or a hutch. I would get married eventually right? I’d also need dining room furniture!

Joseph and I hung out almost every other evening. Days we didn’t see each other we talked on the phone. He followed me home most nights we worked together because of the time Shawn was waiting for me by my car when I came out. Joseph knew I was nervous about confrontation with him, so his presence kept Shawn away.

One night that Joseph followed me home, he asked if he could hug me before he left and I said okay. I have never had a better hug in my life.  I am 5 foot 4 (and three-quarters) and he is 6 foot 2. He completely enveloped me up in his arms. I felt so safe and it made a lasting impression.

My mom warned me not to get involved with anyone for a while since I was just in a serious relationship and yadda-yadda… I said, ” I know mom…” It wasn’t until 2 weeks after I ended my relationship, did Joseph and I have our first official date on Valentine’s day. That was the last time Shawn tried to get in touch with me. He had showed up at my sister’s house unannounced, 30 minutes before Joseph was to pick me up. He asked if I was going out with “him” and I said yes. I wore a long black skirt with red roses on it and a matching top. I did my hair… Shawn told me his parents and grandparents wanted to talk to me and tell me I was making a mistake and to give him another chance.. and I said, “I don’t want to talk to them. It’s over.” He finally left and told everyone at school I had cheated on him. Convincing him otherwise would only mean further engagement from me and I wasn’t willing to give him that. Joseph and I knew the truth. That’s all that mattered.

My Valentine’s date with Joseph was sweet. He even brought me flowers. We sat on the same side of the booth at the restaurant near a cozy fireplace. He was dressed in khakis and a long-sleeved white shirt with a button up vest over it. I sort of smiled to myself thinking how preppy he was compared to everyone else I’d ever dated. I liked it though. I liked him. He had the tough guy exterior but with a marshmallow center. He had the long hair and the earring. (My eyebrow ring had been long gone.) He was a genuine good guy and I was finally ready for that. One night when he followed me home he stopped to help a mom whose mini van was stuck in the snow on the side of the road. He always held doors open for me and while he was protective of me, he was confident in me. He didn’t get jealous or want to beat people up for looking at me.

By the time we were seeing each other for about 3 weeks I said, “Sooo… are we exclusive?” And before I could finish the sentence he said “Yes.” Not a day went by that we didn’t see or talk to one another. So I knew I was the only one he spent time with but still I wanted to know what “this” was.. I was absolutely on board with calling him my boyfriend. Elated.

By month one he told me he had some breaking news for me. We were hanging out at my sister’s house in the living room. Knowing his personality by now, I thought he was going to burp or crack a joke of some sort because he looked so serious all of a sudden. Whatever he said was going to be funny and I was ready to laugh!! But instead he cleared his throat and told me he was in love with me. I was caught totally off guard! How could this be, I asked? I was in complete denial. Astonished that he could be in love with me… already!? He was taken aback of course and he told me that it wasn’t easy for him to profess this and that he had never told anyone that he loved them first.. this was a leap of faith for him.. This wasn’t what he does, he said.  I didn’t know what to think of it. He told me again that truly he meant it and he would still feel this way in a week. I was to ask him in a month from now or years from now, and he would still love me. By this time I was thinking he fell off the crazy train. He also told me to please not respond if I didn’t feel the same way. I didn’t know what I felt. I knew I was crazy about him. But this was so soon. He left that night giving me much to ponder. I felt bad for not reciprocating but he said, “Don’t say it, if you don’t feel the same way.”

For the next week I reflected. I was used to following whims. “Sure why nots” were my thing. Joseph was amazing. I really needed to discern what this relationship meant to me. He was too important to decide on a whim if I loved him.  He’d call me in the mornings to wake me up for school. I had an alarm but he would call because he knew I was eternally running late. He’d say “Hey Spring, are you up?” Yes. “Put your feet on the floor. Are they on the floor?” They are. “Ok. I love you baby. Have a good day. Don’t go back to sleep.” And I would respond with, “Thank you.. have a good day too.”

Every time I saw and spoke to him for that week he’d tell me he loved me and each time I would respond by saying “thank you”.  Finally I decided, not on a whim, but after much consideration of what love really meant to me, that I was going to consciously love him. I already knew I had fallen for him but this was a decision I wanted to make purposefully. The day I told him I loved him too, he cried. He was so happy. I was so happy!

Joe knew that I suffered from depression and ADHD and was on meds for both even though neither really did their job. It was more of my “feather” like the one that made Dumbo the elephant fly. Being with him and the newness of the relationship; I didn’t feel sad often. He did not share my love of music that’s for sure. He called it “depressing man hater music” and said, “No wonder you get sad, this music makes me want to jump out the window!” He still graciously took my mixed tape I made him, and made me one a week later.

By month 3, I was ready to finally sing for him. I never sang for any boyfriend before. This was terrifying for me and I was beyond nervous. So I did what any wussy does in that situation. I opened a door and stood behind it while gathering up the courage for 10 minutes to belt out my best rendition of Jewel’s “You were meant for me.” When I was done he said, “Babe! That was beautiful! Come here!” I felt like a 4 year old running to their parent after doing a good job at something! I had a huge smile on my face, giggling like an excited kid as I ran over to be hugged and kissed by him. He couldn’t stop me from singing for the rest of our relationship.***

I graduated college that May after 2 short years.  Joseph was there to see me get my diploma. I was the first one in my family to have a college degree. Even if it was just art school. I was going to get paid for doing what I really loved!  It was mildly cool. I had a new job at a different restaurant waiting tables. I had been fired from the Steak House for complaining about the crappy sections the manager gave me, probably because I was not an awesome waitress. The only thing I liked about it was serving the families with all the little kids. I wanted to be on the other side of that table one day with my own family. They made it look glorious!

I moved out of my sister’s home to my own apartment becasue she was getting ready to be remarried. Joseph moved out of his parents house to his own apartment. I went furniture shopping with him once and told him to pick the blue couch because it matched my hutch. We both smiled and played it off like I hadn’t just said what I said. I couldn’t believe I said it out loud! We spoke a lot with our glances.  He ended up buying the blue couch.

Joe asked me while out to dinner one night, if I had ever thought about marriage and when I figured that time frame in my life would be. And I said, “Yeah I want to be married someday but I’m in no hurry. I’ve just come out of an engagement.” And he said he wasn’t in a hurry either.

The first time he met my mother wasn’t until 3 months after we were seeing each other. I played it off to her whenever we talked on the phone, like Joe and I were just really good friends. When I introduced them and she offered to take a picture of us, he kissed me by surprise and she said; “Looks like you’re more than friends, Spring!!” We all had a good laugh. She adored Joseph from the get-go and I know she liked that he was raised Catholic.

kiss

Joe was Catholic in name just like I was. We thought there was potential there for growth because of the way we were raised, but we were in no hurry to step into a church together. We were Catholic in name, but were pretty apathetic about all of it. I unconsciously chose Joseph over God. If commandments told me I was wrong, I didn’t want to listen. I had no clue how much more powerful things could be letting God be God. I did not trust Him…yet. Neither did Joe.

We went to the mall once and “happened” upon a diamond store. He wanted to look inside just for fun and see what types of rings I liked. We had chit chatted about marriage here and there. We knew we were pretty serious but neither of us felt any pressure to be anything other than what we were; two, annoyingly in love, young adults.

The first time Joseph met my dad was when we met them in Colorado for their 40th wedding anniversary. I was the only kid that could make it out there from my family and Joe was thrilled at the opportunity to visit Colorado again and offered to drive showing me where he lived in Keystone on the way to my parent’s campsite in Glenwood Springs. I had a clue that he wanted to talk to my dad about his intentions for me. Joe wanted my dad’s blessing regarding our relationship which I thought was cool.

I remember my dad being worried that I was driving to Colorado with some guy he had never met. What if he was a serial killer?? He was worried that Joe was a dirt bag and the fact that we arrived hours later than we should, made him suspicious of him. We all had a good laugh about it because my dad told Joe he didn’t look like a dirt bag and that maybe he’d give him a chance.. And when dad and Joe walked around the camper out of sight while my mom and I were inside, I cranked open the windows to try to hear what they were saying. “Spring! You’re a sneak! What are they talking about?” I had no idea. I was just super nervous for Joseph! I was hoping my dad would be easy on him. Mom and I giggled like little school girls at the prospect of what they could be discussing.

That trip was amazing. Joe got to know my parents, realizing that my dad’s humor was similar to his own and that he was rarely serious.  We went rafting with my dad and Joe and I hiked this amazing trail my family and I have been on numerous times. Hanging Lake in Glenwood Colorado.  A mere 1200 feet straight up the mountain on switch backs. We took a picture underneath the waterfall at the very top. I don’t even know how we took a selfie on a 35mm camera! But it worked!us
We were in our zone. We even drove up to Utah on the way back to visit my older brother and his family. Joseph never told me what he and my dad talked about. We’d only been dating 5 months… so surely it was nothing huge like I’d hoped.

We continued to talk about the possibilities of getting married now and then. I even bought a new cat to befriend my other one, because Joe said that if we ever got married I couldn’t get a new cat. Well, we weren’t married and I wasn’t engaged to him so I bought this little white and black kitten. Joe looked at me annoyed then proceeded to name the cat Scrappy and fall madly in love with it. I couldn’t help but think about what kind of dad he’d be. He was a good “cat dad”.

One day I came home from work to find that Joseph was in my apartment using my bathroom and yelled at me through the door to put on something cute because he made reservations at the restaurant we went to on Valentine’s. My heart sank because I had actually eaten dinner at work. But I didn’t want to disappoint him because he seemed abnormally excited to eat this restaurant’s prime rib. It was the best? Well, okay! I never liked passing up a fun date with him. So we went.

Joseph seemed to have to go to the bathroom quite a bit that night. He went once before we were seated and once again after we ordered salads. I was used to his bladder which is the size of a thimble, but this was ridiculous! There we were sitting close on the same side of booth like usual. This time we weren’t near a fireplace because it was August, but we were secluded with book shelves around us. Super romantic. I looked over at him and jokingly patted his empty pockets. I said, “So when are you ever going to propose to me?” Hahahah! I had a great laugh. I thought I was hilarious. But he suddenly had to go to the bathroom again! By now I’m totally annoyed but, “Hey look I’ll have a bite of his steak while he’s gone. That will teach him to keep leaving me here”. Sheesh.

I cut myself a big ol bite of prime rib, dipped it in au jus and took a bite. I had barely started chewing it when out of nowhere lights were flashing in front of me and over walks Joseph looking guilty or nervous or not himself… I’m chewing this enormous piece of meat unbeknownst to him and he kneels down in front of me! I look up in shock and see his brother Keaton snapping pictures and it dawns on me what’s happening! My face turns 10 shades redder, and I have a huge wad of steak in my cheek and I can’t just say: “Stop!!! Let me just spit this meat out elegantly in a napkin.. Now you can proceed” No. I’m housing prime rib in my mouth like a chipmunk when the love of my life kneels down and tells me he wants to spend forever with me, as he opens up this red box and asks me to be his wife!!

Eventually I spit my food out in a napkin before I choked on it and I told him, “Yes, I would love to marry you!!” We had been together a whole 6 months…

ring

Hug

Freedom

pexels-photo-214574.jpeg

Shawn and I had many problems. In fact we had broken up in the summer for a short while because we fought so much. But we got back together, thinking we were stronger than ever. Regardless of the lies. The arguing. The clashing personalities. I felt like I had invested so much time to make it work and sometimes things were great. In the fall we got engaged but the arguing became more personal. He didn’t want a big family. I did. He didn’t want to get married in a church. I did. Everything I thought I liked about him before was now gone. Sounds stable right? This is what I had chosen for myself because I’d given him my heart. I was not thinking critically.  There’s a reason you don’t give your heart out. It complicates everything dramatically and makes easy decisions foggy. This notion brought me to seriously pray for an answer. This couldn’t be all love had to offer… And why on earth did I think it was my job to stay? It wasn’t.

I was accustomed to calling Shawn when my shifts ended at work to check in and talk to him.  Well the night that I talked to Joseph, I did not call to check in. In fact, Shawn drove to my sister’s house where I was living at the time and had been waiting for me in her driveway most of the night. So when I showed up for school he already knew I hadn’t been home. I knew our talk would have to come right now and not later in the day like I had planned. Inhale…exhale.

We went to his car where I told him I had stayed with a friend from work the night before. (Pretty much true? ish.)  I expressed my unhappiness in our relationship and reminded him that we always fought and it was more work than happiness. He assured me it would be better after the wedding, even though we hadn’t set a date and he couldn’t seem to remember to put more than $75 in our wedding fund over the 3 months we had been engaged. He swore that he would change. I told him about Joseph and said that I wanted to be friends with him and he said, “Great! I’ll be friends with this Joseph guy too. We can both be his friend. No problem.” And I said “I don’t think you understand. This isn’t working and it’s not going to work. Ever. We can’t force it anymore. We’re not meant to be and we’re making each other miserable. I want different things…” At this point he was shaking his head and saying “Nope, no…” Then he started up his car. “Where are you going?” I said, completely freaked out by this point. He said, “We’re going to my apartment where we can talk about this.” I said, “I want to talk here!” But he was backing out.

He drove me to his apartment and insisted I get out of the car so we could “Discuss things.” Against my better judgement I went upstairs with him. He locked the apartment door and asked me once again to work things out. When I said, “We are really done this time.. For good…. I’m sorry.” He went and threw up. He came back to me and grabbed the cordless phone. He called his mother and sobbed to her that I was being irrational and I was breaking up with him. I was panicking by this point because I felt trapped. I looked at the door and then he came back into the room with the phone on his ear and said, “Give me back the ring!!” I slipped it off and handed it over to him and he went back in his room to lament to his mom. I busted for the door!

There was no way I was getting stuck here with him not letting me leave, which had happened other times I tried to end things. I unlocked the door, slipped out quietly then bolted down the hall! I ran so fast down the carpeted stairs and out to the parking lot. I ran to a neighborhood near by and tried to stay off the main streets constantly looking back to see if he was following me. I had no idea where I could go. I thought a gas station would be the first place he would look. So I jogged 2 miles to the steak house I worked at. I banged on the back door until a cook let me in. The store wasn’t even open yet. I told him my situation and asked for a ride back to school to get my car. He wasn’t able to leave and take me because he was prepping all the food. So I called my sister and left her a message on her machine where I was. I hadn’t been able to get ahold of her because I found out she was working at a different store and unable to leave to come get me.

So I decided to call Joseph. Please answer, please answer… I really needed him to come get me! There was a part of me too, that feared he would think I was a little nutso to be calling him to come rescue me because we had just spoken ya know, ALL NIGHT about our hopes and dreams and how we fit into each other’s picture… What if he didn’t really mean any of it? That was a huge possibility. I’d been schmoozed before. He did ask to kiss me. What if that was all he was after? I really did drill him quite a bit about everything. That could scare someone away! It would be unfortunate because we seemed to really connect. But, I had gotten OUT of that relationship and I was SO relieved!!  Either way my prayers were answered.

The other line picked up and it was his mother. “Hello, is Joseph there??” I asked politely. She said, “No. He’s sleeping.” Ugh. It was 10 am. We had been out all night. Of course he was sleeping. I was not about to ask his mother who I’d never met to please go wake up her son so I could talk to him. She didn’t know me. This was awkward for me. I also wasn’t going to explain to her that I’d been with her son all night and then dumped my fiancé and I needed her son to come get me. Nope. She’d hang up on me for sure. So I left a message with her, completely deflated. I was stuck here.

The phone rang at the steak house after I hung up with Joseph’s mom. I answered like a hostess but it wasn’t a reservation. It was Shawn. Oh God! I just wanted to cry. “How did you find me?” He said, “I’m at your sister’s house. I got in through the garage code and I checked the answering machine figuring you called her. Let me come and get you. I’m calm now and I promise I’ll take you back to your car.” If EVER there was a boulder in my stomach it was then. I was so emotionally and mentally drained. I reluctantly agreed to let him come get me, since it was my only option.

He drove me back to school. Staying there seemed safer to me with everyone around. My eyes were almost swollen shut from crying. I was a mess. Every fiber of my being wanted to go home and sleep.. to process what had just happened. But I couldn’t. I had to work at 4. It was the shift I told Joseph I would cover for him.

At some point during that endless shift that seemed to never end, Joseph called the restaurant to talk to me. I told him I broke up with Shawn. He said “Already?? I figured you wouldn’t pull the trigger for a while.” I said, “Well, I told you, you coming in to work was the sign that I was supposed to break up with Shawn. So I did.”

The very next night Joseph and I closed down another coffee-house.

Joseph

pexels-photo-861567.jpegJoseph was a big tall guy. 6’2″ with chin length wavy hair that he wore slicked back unsuccessfully because part of his hair would always fall out and hang over his eye. It was glorious.. Along with his earring, he wore a goatee and he had a mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes which is where his smile emanated from. He had just moved back home from Colorado after living there being a ski instructor. That’s all I knew. Yet I felt in my heart he had to be the one that I spoke with. He was a part of my plan somehow and I didn’t know what that entailed other than I had to speak with him.

After I took him aside that night at work and told him, “I was engaged and I didn’t want to be” and that I “wanted to talk to him”.  He surprisingly didn’t look at me like I was crazy. He said “Ok” and went to sit up at the bar and order dinner. I think he came back every so often to chat with me while I did my side work. Maybe even helped me? And when I was done we sat in the booth and started the conversation. I think I described the state of the relationship I was in and why it was troubling to me. I also told him that I prayed about talking to him. I hadn’t prayed in years. I didn’t know him from Adam. I didn’t know what his faith was like. I just knew that he needed to know, I prayed about talking to him and God had him walk in that night!!  And he said to me,  “Actually, I needed someone to work for me tomorrow, which you have so graciously agreed to do.” There again, was the twinkling in his eyes giving me a hard time! He was playful and funny. We both laughed. He admitted to me that he had wanted to ask me out on date but knew I was engaged and so he wrote me off in that department. Instead, he would run my food for me and get bread boxes down for me. And spray me in the back with table cleaner!  He was a stinker. He thought he was so funny!

Eventually the restaurant closed. I looked at him and said “Do you wanna get out of here?” And he said yes! We hopped in my car and headed to a coffee and pie restaurant until it closed as well. By this time it was 2 am and we weren’t done talking. We had SO much in common and so many neat differences too. We were both “Catholic”, and came from large families.  In high school he was great baseball player/pitcher, who would’ve had a scholarship of some sort if he hadn’t followed his high school sweetheart to her college only to be dumped a couple of months later. He changed schools after a year to a college near his home. Eventually he decided he hated being attached to a desk even though school was easy for him. He dropped out of college and moved to Colorado much to his parents astonishment. We both loved Colorado and nature. In addition to becoming a ski instructor, he had worked as a lumberjack and a snow maker. He used to sky dive before he moved there. His life seemed like an exciting adventure to me. He was so confident and brave, too. I really liked that because I was not.

Having no more open restaurants to go to, we sat in my car. All night. That initial conversation was 10 hours long.  I decided to just ask all the hard questions and get them out-of-the-way. If God was answering prayers then surely I was to go all willy-nilly to know if I was wasting my time or not with this guy.  I asked him if he was Pro-Life. Even through all my struggles with faith growing up, even my month trying on atheism, I never quit being pro-life. I believe so deeply that a person has a soul from the moment of conception that atheism didn’t make any sense for me since I believed in souls. (Dumbest month ever needless to say).  Well, he was pro-life! I asked him what he thought about living together before marriage. He said he’d never do it. Me either! Shawn had wanted to move in with me and I felt like he just wanted to put off our wedding by doing so. I didn’t want to be tested out. I didn’t want my time wasted. Joseph felt the same way.

I asked him what was going to happen when the sun came up that day. By now we were running out of words and drawing baby feet on the inside of my windows with our fists and making the toes with our finger prints, and giggling. And he said to me, “Do you mean, am I going to be here for the long haul?” And I said… “I don’t expect that, I just want to know if you’ll be here when I break up with Shawn.” He told me he was willing to see how things went… That was my answer. All I needed. He then asked me if he could kiss me. I looked at my engagement ring and then at him.  I told him that even though I didn’t want to be with Shawn anymore, I was still engaged. And as long as I had the ring on, I needed to do things the right way. I told Joseph if he and I ever dated, it would be in the back of his mind that I cheated on my fiancé with him and he would always question me. I needed him to know I was solid. He accepted my answer.

I drove Joseph to his parents house where he was living temporarily. We exchanged phone numbers before he got out of the car. And then he was gone…

I headed to my art school since it started in 30 minutes. I changed out of my work clothes into one of the old outfits I had floating around my backseat from laundry days past, and I rushed into the building right into an angry Shawn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voyage

pexels-photo-934718.jpeg

I discovered that certain choices stand out in memory as being defining moments of one’s entire life.

Those moments where your entire life changed direction. You were on this path and then you went off course. Or maybe you realized your true course was about to pass you by. Your gut instinct was to jump ship and instead of drowning, you found your footing and stood up as you walked onto shore into this territory that felt like home.

You didn’t quite know where you were going and you may or may not have questioned your sanity at times, but there were small signs along the way that drove you further and further into the pilgrimage. You learned to listen to the Navigator. He knew you’d be ready to pay attention. He was a soft-spoken Navigator; barely audible at times, unless you listened in the quiet of your heart. He was always there. Ever enduring.

When you were stubborn, He let you find your way, even if it was the wrong way and He’d gently redirect you if you asked Him to. He was patient as you fell over roots protruding from the ground as you ran so fast trying to find that reason you were there. Oh, but He has the timeline. He gave you all you needed throughout it, because He knows what you need and when you need it. You never went without. He taught you skills along the expedition to equip you for all sorts of adventures… And He grew you in wisdom to make better decisions based on the trials that came your way.

He placed guides in your path at just the right moments to help you decipher the terrain. Some were teachers. Some were messengers. Some were angels to protect you from evils lurking in the depths. Some were life long companions for when the earth quaked so hard, you thought your world would crumble.

When the Navigator of your soul is invited to direct your journey, you will see He is the great provider. No one wants the good plans for your life to succeed, more than the One Who planned them. But before action comes faith, even if it’s as small as a mustard seed. He can work with that.