Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters


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You Don’t Have A Soul (Part 2)

Alright. So, more than a year ago I wrote this blog on body image. It was largely about a discovery I had to make largely on my own, along with the support of other women. I couldn’t face my body image issues 100% alone, and I think that’s an unfair pressure to put on ourselves. We need other people. It isn’t an unhealthy dependency issue: it’s human. We need to love ourselves, trust that others care for us, and also to remember that God made us the way we are for a reason. Even though I think bodies are just plain absurd, we live in them the whole time we’re walking the earth.

Which leads me to answer Question 4 in my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself Series

4. Am I In My Body?

When I lost all confidence in my body, my sexuality and my ability to look in the mirror without disgust and despair, I often had the terrifying sensation that I was floating above my body. I felt completely disconnected. I looked down at my legs and thought, “How can these huge things be mine?” I looked in the mirror and thought, “Who wants to see this weird face?” And I absolutely thought, “Am I desirable at all?

And as much as I tried to advertise this choice as a brave and strong thing to do (which in a small way, it was), I also buzzed all of my hair off. I didn’t want it. I wanted to hide, yet I wanted to scream right in the middle of every single room I stood in. “Am I beautiful NOW?!!” Having no hair was like a strange mixture of both of those desires.

I remember driving often in the middle of the night, feeling as though I was hovering over my existence. Surely, this couldn’t be my body. I almost didn’t feel anymore. I often alluded to and wrote about feeling like a skeleton — no nerve endings, no sensations, just a hollow mess. This was my worst moment and I’m sharing it because I own it… I learned from it… and I’m no longer there.

If this sounds anything like you, I want you to know that this too shall pass. It might take:

-a girlfriend listening to you cry

-visiting your parents and asking them to remind you where you came from

-getting a divorce or breaking up

-reconciling with your significant other

-praying every day…..

but I can assure you that what won’t help this to pass is to battle it all alone and retreat to  your closet.

I had so many helping me, and one of the biggest challenges I faced was to LET THEM. I had to put aside my pride (even when we feel we have no pride…) and face the reality that I wasn’t going to get better unless I had love and compassion. I’m so blessed to have had it. God didn’t give up on me, and neither did my family. This showed me that I didn’t have to give up on myself, either.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Everyone is capable of feeling this low. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with what we physically look like — but it has everything to do with the state of our souls. Which is good, because that means everyone is capable of rising up again.

C.S. Lewis said, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul, and you have a body.”

I love love love this. We have bodies to get us where we need to go. We have nerve endings connected to every inch of our skin so that we know when we’re in danger. We also have the amazing ability to feel the loving touch of another. I think for a good two years, I relied on hugs to get me through the day.

Not everyone’s #1 love language is touch. Mine is, but touch might be lower on your own personal list. However, it’s this love language that directly relates to being in our bodies, so I’m going to focus on that.

It’s ironic, because now that I’m in the most loving relationship of my entire life, with more fulfilling touch that I ever thought possible, I know that it took some serious alone time to get here.

I could’t skip that step. I was alone in the sense of not having a significant other, not alone in the sense of community and support. In fact, when I first met my husband, I had a whole schpeal about how strong I was alone and how much I liked doing my own thing and not needing desperately for someone to hold me.

I could finally fall asleep easily, eat with total and full enjoyment, and look in the mirror and think, “Thank you God for this body.”

When it came time to trust another human being with my body, I was ready. I was ready to leave the kitchen because I was no longer starving. (something my mom once said to me:) )   I wasn’t desperately wondering who would love me or if I’d ever be desirable to another human being.

I can proudly say that yes, I am in my body. I feel like I belong here. I look down and I think, “These legs have taken me far.” Sometimes, jokingly, I also say, “Gosh, thanks for the big strong calves, dad.” When I’m PMSing and feel bloated, I touch my stomach and my hips and my thighs and I realize that I love being a woman, and that curves are more than okay. This process is happening because my body is meant to build another human being. I mean, woah. When I’m alone with myself, I take a good look and I get to know myself. But I don’t obsess in front of the mirror. That never did me a second of good.

Romance to me is my husband seeing me fully and knowing I don’t need to hide a single thing. It helps that I have someone who tells me I’m beautiful and does everything from holding my hand to rubbing my back when I’m on my period. (But I survived before I had this!!)

And feminism to me is spreading the word that all bodies are different and okay. The false expectations that little girls have today breaks my heart. There are fake bodies everywhere and it needs to be discussed. The way I choose to combat this in a female-positive way is to explain to my step daughters that the next few years hold a lot of changes for them, but that they’re completely unique and won’t look like anyone else. I use my own family as an example… four daughters, all with completely different shapes and sizes. All beautiful.

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and sometimes it’s heading to a yoga class you’ll giggle your way through!!! ;) <3

So my answer is YES, I am in my body. I am in here for good, with all of the flaws and all of the weirdness. And now I’m united through marriage with someone else, too, so I feel that my soul and body have expanded. Two become one is real, and it’s even possible while maintaining your own identity.

Because: two halves don’t equal a whole. Two wholes come together to create an equal partnership that can stand the test of time.

I would never have been able to trust and deal with the difficulties of my own current situation if I hadn’t first healed up and become whole… soul and body united for good.

And there you have it: my journey to being in my body, the one that God gave me and the one that I need to live with and love for the rest of my days.

Are you in your body? If not, please don’t ever give up. If you are, share your story and love others as much as you possibly can.

And for the love of God, let’s stop comparing ourselves to others. Another great quote I’ll end with is this: Comparison is the killer to all happiness. 

Cheers to bodies and to the healing, love and kindness we can give ourselves every day. Cheers to the next generation and all the little girls who need role models who toss out the fashion magazines and roll out of bed radiating beauty, because they know that beauty has nothing to do with hair or makeup or boob size or the perfect outfit.

Love,

wild-feminist

Lou (who wants to wear this shirt every single day)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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No Excuses, No Pity: Just Forgiveness

As we can tell from any Facebook or Instagram feed, the world is really into empowering women these days. A fact I love, and I fact I want to keep moving forward with as I answer the 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself.

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I read through the questions and realized that I’d be even stronger, even more aware of my own self and my heart, after answering the questions honestly and slowly. I encourage any one stumbling upon this blog post (male or female!) to ask yourself these questions, too. Your answers will of course be completely different, but my hope is that by sharing my own thoughts you will explore yours, too.

Question 4: Who Do You Need to Forgive?

This is a day I’ve been avoiding. I’ve spoken with a few friends about this topic. In these conversations I mused:

“How am I going to write this without giving in to the all-too-Midwestern style of passive aggressiveness?”

“I’m really, really having a hard time forgiving. Just currently.”

“But the person I need to forgive was really, extremely awful. So…”

I KNOW I’m not alone with these excuses or thoughts behind my lack of forgiveness. I just have a hunch.

Then I started going the other direction.

“Maybe instead of feeling anger and hatred toward anyone I need to forgive I can feel sorry for them instead. That makes me feel a little bit better.”

“Maybe a good conversation would help. I need to do that first. I need [x person] to know just exactly how they made me feel. Maybe I can start compiling a list of all the specific words that hurt the most. Show my vulnerability, eh?”

“You know, I need more time, is all.”

NO!!! Wrong. I was so wrong. And changing anger into pity isn’t exactly the right thing to do, either. Because you know what? That still makes it about them. It’s wasted energy. In the same vein, needing to express myself in order to forgive is a form of selfishness. And forgiveness, I’m pretty sure, is a matter concerning God and ourselves.

I realized I could, eventually, forgive. This is nothing — not compared to what I’ve already accomplished. I remember a day when I finally forgave someone, and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. You want to know who I forgave?

MYSELF. 

I was angry at myself and ashamed. I punished myself for a few years. I thought I was damaged goods and I picked up a few bad habits that I thought would serve as justifiable punishment. I then went through a period where I blamed everyone else. It made me feel just a bit better to at least have someone to point a finger at to explain why I had done what I’d done. It feels better to not feel so guilty. But then it feels even worse and the guilt doubles… knowing you’ve placed blame far from where it belongs. It’s sad to look back on those times, but it also gives me a sense of wonderment I wouldn’t otherwise have concerning where I’ve landed. I remember the day I forgave myself. I remember crying and thanking God and feeling free from some pretty awful things I’d done. I stopped punishing myself.

During that time and after, I had awakenings… moments of beauty that wouldn’t exist otherwise. I learned who I was– down to a core I didn’t know went so deep.

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All of that is to say:

Forgiving ourselves is always hardest, right? I think so at least. Even if there are some unsettled feelings in my soul right now, I know for a fact that I will overcome those feelings and eventually forgive. It won’t take nearly as much time as it took when it came to looking at my own mistakes. I have forgiven so many people and I’ve been forgiven by many as well.

I cannot forget that I’ve been forgiven not only by tons of people… many of whom I probably am not even aware of … but also by God.

“Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The Lord’s Prayer is a powerful one for me. It takes me back to my Lutheran Church upbringing. It makes me feel safe — right inside those words.

How can I forget all the forgiveness and love I’ve been shown? How?

Because I’m human, I guess. But I can also rise above this, humble myself, and learn yet again how to forgive… even without all of the stipulations. I can give myself time, sure. I can remember the seasons.

Mostly, I can pray for God to help me with this.

Who do you need to forgive? Have you already conquered it? Is that person still yourself, like it used to be for so many of us?

Know that whatever stage you’re in, you’re not alone in it.

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Love, Lou (who maybe needs forgiveness for ending this post with yet another selfie)

 


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Comfortable, Vulnerable and {Never} Embarrassed

About a year ago I went to the Minnestota state fair with my {then} friend {now husband.} It was fun enough, and I got to experience some of the charm… including tons of beer, tons of garlic fries, and even eating the inside of a fried Snickers bar. We ended our night watching the Avett Brothers perform from outside the stadium. We could hear the music and just barely see a screen from the side of the stage. Israel ran up the staircase outside the place in order to find the best spot for the free-from-the-outside show. I could have stood there forever, listening to music and feeling a little rush when our elbows touched.

But this story is really about what happened the next day.

I was all the way in St. Paul house sitting, and around 3 AM I woke up, in horror, realizing that something hadn’t gone well. I was puking my guts out, and to this day, I blame the garlic fries and the remnants of gluten I probably ate when I sloppily ingested the inside of that fried Snickers.

What’s a gal to do? Having lived a long life of stomach problems, I could have just toughed it out alone. But I have also learned that it’s better to have someone there. So I texted my friend, told him I was sick as a dog, and he almost immediately told me he was coming.

Folks, that’s when you know you have a true friend.

He drove all the way back to the Twin Cities that morning, with gluten free crackers and bottles of ginger ale. We both laugh when we remember that moment. I opened the door: hair a mess, obviously been throwing up, teeth unbrushed, disheveled pajamas and a smile, because I wasn’t alone anymore.

It’s a powerful thing to realize that you can be with someone without having to put on a single front. We didn’t talk much. I think he apologized profusely, feeling a little guilty that I ate crap food and wound up sick.

Here’s what we did: I laid on the bed with my butt sticking up in the air, arms folded over my stomach, and Israel laid on the other side of the bed, occasionally rubbing my back. We faced each other (me, completely gross, eyes crusty, face greenish pale) and talked, we took turns playing songs, listening to them in silence, and I knew he was someone special.

I knew that we were both experiencing a certain kind of love, but I wasn’t sure how to name it.

My dad’s always preaching about the four different Greek loves. My favorite is Agape: the all encompassing, unconditional love that God gives us. Eros is your romantic love, between you and another person. There’s Philia, the brotherly love we feel for friends and for our hometowns. Storge is mostly the family love we can’t help but feel for our blood relatives (or step kids!). There’s a lot more to each one, and probably a good amount of debate considering what they mean, but this is what I’ve always taken away from the information given.

I love (not sure which kind) that the Greeks figured out that we really do need to define these different types. When I say “I just love you” to one of my best girlfriends, it is different from when I say “I love you” to my husband. When I thank God for the love He gives me and try to convey that I am trying to love Him with all I have, that’s a whole different deal as well. I’ve been pondering this as I thought of what I’d write today.

The second question in my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series is this:

2. How do you want to be loved?

I’m very happy to report that lately, I’ve learned a lot more about this answer. I used to think that love between two people meant that you didn’t argue much and laughter was the #1 thing happening between you.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Years later, and I’m a total work in progress, taking in all that love really is and I have a partner who shows me love in ways I didn’t actually know existed.

Fast forward another year, and we are no longer just friends, and he doesn’t have to drive forty minutes to see me in my time of need. Very recently, I was sick again, and I had to laugh because it was the same old scenario… no glamour, no trying, to pretense.

It was again with the messy everything on my person, and this time I laid down on the bed with a box of tissues, a cup of tea from my husband, and we talked about life while he stretched on the floor and worked out a tweak in his back.

To any spectator, it does not look like a scene filled with romance. But to me, I realized, it is exactly how I want to be loved. I want to be loved at my very worst… whether it’s the bad week I’m having and so I am the most cranky to the one who deserves it least, or I smell really bad because I’m sick and just haven’t gotten in the shower yet, or I’m crying because of those ridiculous reasons that make us cry…. and it’s a miracle, because I actually feel the most love from my husband when I’m in these exact moments. It’s not when I’ve dressed up and put on mascara for the date night we finally had a chance to have together. It’s not when I put on a fake smile and tell him that my day was awesome, even when it wasn’t. (though there is still love present in those moments, too)

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I want to be loved in the most real way possible, which is imperfect, messy, and full of vulnerability. It’s the moments that we were taught are the most embarrassing, but are actually the most gracious. It’s the times we are comfortable being uncomfortably real with one another.

The best part is: I feel my heart open up and love better the more I see that imperfection in him, too.

I am forever grateful for the love I receive daily from family, friends, and my husband. I’m so thankful to be living a life where I don’t feel the need to make sure all signs of the drool that’s dried on my face is gone before he sees me in the morning. Nope, it’s usually there. And it doesn’t even stop him from giving me a kiss! Miracles, folks. Miracles.

Cheers to the moments we are vulnerable.

And the moments when we clean up and go out into the world are definitely worth a cheers, too.

Oh, and here’s to comfortable LOVE, the kind that is no longer embarrassing. Because that is 100% up to us.

Love,

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Lou (who wants oregano oil to be the answer to all sickness, and has learned through humbling moments that sometimes nyquil does in fact help. Israel, you were right.)

 

 

 


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What I Want (Spiritual Gifts Included)

I came across a list on my Pinterest page of 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself.

Therefore, my next twenty blog posts will be the answers to these questions. This isn’t because I think my answers are so important, but I do love the questions. I think my answers just might resonate with someone else, or make you answer them in your own, unique way.

Question One: What Do I Really Want In This Moment?

Well, in this very moment, I want to feel peace that isn’t necessarily there. It’s been one of those days, and I actually feel like writing is the only thing that will bring me to a place where I can sleep in a few hours.

But in the larger moment, that is this point in my life, I want to be able to use what I’ve experienced to help others. That’s why I write. When I look back on my very first blog, I see that I wasn’t sure where I was going with Hey Lou Writes. It was my 23rd birthday and I thought I was going to be a fictional writer primarily, yet years later, here I am, none of my fictional stories have been published, and I’m mostly writing about my life. My personal life. 

No life has been easy. I cannot think of a single person who hasn’t had a trial or good cry. Some people help others by sharing their stories with the youth group they help out with. Some people have babies and use their own story in order to propel their child’s life forward in a positive way. Some people are pastors and shout their stories out in the pulpit, sometimes even embarrassing their kids in the process (I loved it, dad.) My twin uses her life to write songs. I feel lucky enough to know the personal, detailed story behind almost every single one of her lyrics.

These are all spiritual gifts. God didn’t bless me with the amazing ability to teach, even though I have a degree for it. God didn’t (yet?) bless me with my own children, but he gave me three to help raise. And God didn’t bless me with the the perfect words… but for some reason I feel the urge from my heart all the way to my fingertips to write, write, write, and never stop writing. In fact, the only time I feel truly depressed or stuck is when the thought of no longer sharing my story crosses my mind.

When I faced cruelty in school (someday I’ll share all about why I shaved my armpits for the first time), mean girls (who still exist in the adult world) and relationships that made me question my own love for myself (body image, anyone?), there was a time when I had no idea how to rise above it and see the good. I couldn’t even be the one to speak up in a group of more than three people… unless it was at my family dinner table.

I’ve found that my story can be shared only through my spiritual gift, one that I am just recently realizing. Writing. And the way I have seen this pay off isn’t through money or fame or anything tangible, but through the few people (mostly women) who have contacted me to let me know that my story resonated with them. That something I once wrote helped them through a rough day. That something I’ve been through… they’ve been through it, too.

All I really want is for people to know that their life story is unique, but also connected to others. You are unique, but you aren’t alone. I searched and searched for the right blog post about divorce when I was going through one. I practically begged my google search box to show me how to be a good step parent. But you know what? These things didn’t exist — at least not for me. I had to create them by sharing my own journey and by sometimes embarrassingly telling the world (aka the few people who read this!) that everything was messed up. And then joyfully telling them that hey, things are looking up.

So that’s my answer. I want to help people, not because I think they need my help, but because I hope beyond hope that my trials can be for a reason. One thing I considered, was maybe that was a selfish hope. I don’t want all of the tears and pain I’ve felt to be in vain. I also know that if my story can make at least one person feel less alone, than perhaps my mission is complete. I’ve had this happen a few times, and it filled me with such peace and joy and calm, that I realized I could probably never stop. So… maybe the new goal is one person every so often. ;) 

That’s what I REALLY WANT! Your goals are your own. Your wants and wishes are your own, too. And we are all motivated by hope (even if you don’t think you have any).

May your spiritual gifts lead to somewhere… especially if you don’t yet know where that is.

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Love, Lou (who can only help others because others have shown her the way)

27 seconds well used is a lifetime.


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The Awkward Prayer (and proof that it works)

On Prayer…and a Few More Wedding Pics :) 

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I’ve talked about prayer in a few blogs lately. I can’t quite say it enough: Prayer has changed everything for me. It has worked. Plain as day, no “maybes” or “coincidences.”

Even when the answer to my prayers was NO.

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Here I am, hands clenched to my husband-of-about-twenty-seconds, smiling my way through our first prayer together. I have to admit, that although 90% of my prayers before this moment in time were NOT given to God with a smile, they all lead here.

In fact, most prayers that brought me up to this point in time weren’t even my own. Here, I’d like to point out, that if a person feels completely unequipped to pray for herself, she is ALLOWED to call upon the Prayer Warriors in her life and ask for help.

Now, I’m Lutheran. A PK, raised by PKs… I have been surrounded by prayers my entire life. Lots of really long, “Oh my gosh, Grandpa is praying… wish I wasn’t so hungry” style prayers, and then also lots of silly prayers from church camp. I knew at a young age that my conversations with God could look like almost anything. I could:

Stay silent

Get on my knees and fold my hands

Speak out loud

Give up an idea, rather than full words

Cry

Whisper one thing, like “Thanks”

Drive my car

Lay in bed

Eat a burrito

Bottom line: you can pray any time, any place, and under any circumstances! 

So why, knowing this, was I totally terrified and afraid? Well, I had a little grudge. Ever had one of those? My grudge went like this:

I tried reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (Love is patient, love is kind….) with my ex-husband every single night for months. I also tried praying. In the end, those efforts didn’t work and we still wound up divorced. 

(insert W.T.F. prayer here)

So obviously prayer does nothing, my life is ruined, and I shouldn’t waste my time believing in love or patience or anything, really.

I showed up to my new home in the Midwest, a little prayer-shy and very uncomfortable with voicing anything out loud that had to do with God. I still prayed one-worded prayers occasionally, though. And I always asked my parents to pray for me, even knowing they already were.

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parents and in-laws…. we’re surrounded by love

My weapons were being tough, not needing anything or anyone, and writing. When I look back at these blogs, specifically, I remember what real pain feels like.

Parenthetical (Contradictions)

December is Darkest, In June There’s The Light

The Old Chicken Lady

The Matchstick Burning

It wasn’t until I met some true Prayer Warriors that things really began to change. One friend in particular pushed me past my limits. Ellie, I love you for this. She not only said she would pray for me, but she grabbed my hands, closed her eyes, and said a prayer out loud, right in front of me. with just the two of us there to hear it…..

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We also go to concerts together ;)

The first time this happened, I felt awkward. I looked around the room a little… I felt moved, but way too embarrassed to let myself cry or really feel what was happening. I was amazed by the eloquence of her words. I thought, “Welp, this is exactly why I don’t do this. Now I see that my prayers are pretty lame. Hers are like poetry.”

But you know what happened? She kept offering to pray. I could never say no. And eventually, one day, I asked her to pray out loud for me. Instead of feeling inadequate and ashamed of my own fumbly words, I realized I could ask her to help me. I am so blessed to have people in my life who will pray whenever I ask. It’s like having a 911 emergency rescue squad available at all times. I’ve asked for prayers over text, in emails, in person.

I ASK FOR THEM ALL THE TIME. I even sent out an S.O.S. style message to my mom and dad one time, saying “I need allllll the people who do that group prayer thing every week at church to be prayer warriors right now. We really need help over here….”

And they did. And the miracles overflowed.

Lately, I’ve been asking God to instill forgiveness in my heart and patience in my soul. I have love (after not believing in it), which I’m so thankful for. It’s a downright miracle that I not only believe in marriage, but that I found someone who I know I will love forever, and who loves me too. Now, I don’t think God loves divorce… but I do believe that “What Satan uses for evil, God’s power can use for good” [what my sister-in-law Kendra sent me!]. I can see now why my requests so long ago “didn’t work.” It had to do with so much more than just me. Actually, four other human beings were involved. I had a future I was completely unaware of, and a man going through his own hardships at exactly the same time, waiting for me. I felt a stirring in my soul to go to the Midwest… and that was God. Three amazing step kids in my life, one strong and caring husband = yeah, Okay God, I get it. You were RIGHT.

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THANKFUL!!!

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my absolute favorite photos…. the type you cannot control & laughter abounds

I have so many blessings, it’s hard to look around each day and not feel overwhelmingly grateful. Those things way deep down, however, are the subjects of my prayer life. Even today, I talked to my mom on the phone and said, “I still really need prayers for some lingering anger I have inside. I want to forgive completely. I know I need to.”

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my dad. a warrior in so many ways.

I’ll end this here: I might not be the best at this, but  I want to let anyone who reads this know…. I will pray for you. I might already be, but if we haven’t met or I’ve only known you in your best stage of life, it’s quite possible that I don’t know what you need. You can ask me right here. Email me, call me, leave a comment. I’ll pray for you <3

I’ll try to be your Ellie ;) but don’t expect the beautiful poetic words to come as easily!

Love,

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Lou (who realizes how completely blessed she is and THANKS GOD in prayer every day for this life)

 

 

 


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When My Heart Slowed Down

Last Friday, July 29th, I was blessed enough to be surrounded by (most of) my loved ones, (most of) my best friends, and I felt the Holy Spirit practically carry me through the entire beautiful experience with a grace I can’t explain.

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I had more than a few reasons to be on edge that day, yet I wasn’t. The officiator was (seemingly) indisposed, Israel’s ring was a pinch too small, the day was flying by… I even left my phone — the source of our first dance song — in my car. At some point during the day, after laying on my bed for five minutes, breathing deeply and praying, I got right back up and decided none of that mattered. What mattered was who I was marrying, what it meant, and that our loved ones were with us. Israel smiled, hugged me, and told me that he couldn’t care less about the extra stuff (though we are both very grateful for ALL of the extra stuff!), but that all he cared about was the fact that he was going to spend the rest of his life with me. On her wedding day, that’s just about all a gal needs to hear.

Miracles were happening all around. The friend officiating our wedding got there in time, Israel’s ring slipped on during the ceremony, and my car was even unlocked, so that my phone could be retrieved for our first dance… which actually worked out perfectly: it gave Israel a moment to say a few words to our guests. We had our guests standing around us, a symbolic gesture stating that these are the people we’d have had in our wedding party… these are the people who stood by us all along and we know will continue to do so. Plus, as Israel pointed out, it’s hard to choose anyone else when there are three amazing and beautiful kids there to be our wedding party ;)

I remember taking snapshots in my head all day long. And from the moment I walked down the aisle with my dad, up until falling asleep that night, the caption for those snapshots was this:

This is literally, absolutely, exactly what I wanted. This is perfect. This is my dream wedding, complete with a man I love and trust with every fiber of my being. 

The adrenaline rushes that so often accompany me during a stressful day were non existent. And rather than my heart beating faster when I saw Israel that day, my heart slowed down. There was that calm… that undefinable joy, that feeling in my very soul that all was exactly as it should be. I hugged my new family with love bursting out of my easy-going heart. I smiled at my parents and sister and said with my eyes, “Thank you for supporting me in everything.” I had already lucked out in life with a great family — but I truly won the jackpot with the family I just gained. The “in-loves.”

wedding inlaws

I’ve learned that love can survive anything and that God shows up every day. Even in these first few days of marriage, I’ve felt that same sense of calm, that same depth in my heart that everything will be okay. I’m sure the ultimate bliss I’m feeling now will temper down with real life and all that, but the marriage did something (you know, the whole point of marriage, ha) to solidify those feelings.

However, when you start with the messy wilderness Israel and I experienced since the day we first met, there never is and never will be a “honeymoon phase.” Life hit us pretty hard and quick, so there are no rose colored glasses to be found. We are raw, we are real, we are pure, we are dark in all the right places and illuminated by grace and love.

wedding dance

Plus, when you don’t go on an actual honeymoon, there are perks. Like hanging with all your girlfriends two nights later and feeling like a kid with them, laughing in the moonlight. It is such a blessing to have the life I do, with all the ups and downs. I try to take people as they are… flaws and all. And I remember every day that God loves me… which means he loves everyone else, too. I’m thankful He’s been with me, slowing down my heart, and allowing me to feel peace.

I’m excited for the new chapter. I’m thankful for the life I have been given.

I’m also thankful for any reader here… especially those of you who have been reading my blog for four years (yeah!!!! Yesterday was Hey Lou’s 4th birthday!). You’ve been with me through a lot. Some of my posts were all darkness. Some of them contained a hint of light. Some of them were sheepish grins, trying to fool even myself. Today the blog is still messy, still imperfect, but altogether honest, filled with hope and telling a new story.

Thanks for taking the ride with me.

Love,

wedding fav

Lou (who has decided that this is her very favorite picture — ever.)

 

 

 


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On Having a Grown Up Meltdown

Long ago, in another lifetime, I used to have meltdowns. My life was ending, I pictured being an old chicken lady, I felt that I’d wasted my prime on the wrong things and that I was just too late to begin again. Meltdowns usually included freaking out in my car (have YOU ever bruised your hand on your steering wheel or ruined your voice yelling at God? Ahem) or sobbing in my mom’s arms.

I kept saying: I just want my life to begin. 

I prayed, HARD.

Everything was ending: but I had NO clue that my life was, in fact, beginning.

To coin a phrase from the book I’m currently reading, Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton:

“You’ve been offered the Gift of Crisis.”

I have a wonderful friend who just experienced her own personal miracle with God’s plan for her life (she published a book about being perpetually single, into her 30s, and all the horror she experienced dating….. only to find her soul mate and wind up married to a handsome fire fighter who wins awards for pulling the most people- ever- out of a fire…. ya know, stuff like that….) and we went through our CRISIS at roughly the same time. I tell this story often, but she is the one who I had this conversation with:

Me (after one of those drives in my car described above): Cindy, I think I’m having an identity crisis.

Cindy: Well… What’s so bad about that? Isn’t life just one big identity crisis?

Me: silence …….. Oh no. I think it is.

She assured me in that conversation that it’s absolutely okay to stay in bed all day and cry, and that even therapists suggest watching TV. I may or may not have watched every single episode of Family Guy shortly after that.

ALL OF THIS IS TO SAY:

I’m pretty sure that my life has begun. I tried to realize before that my life is my life, no matter what phase, but it did feel empty and full of holes and lacking any sort of security.

I’m pretty sure that’s what I meant by a life: Full and secure.

I’m getting married in less than a month. Now, I’ve done my fair share of yelling with God over this one. (I say “with” because He’s being so obvious with me sometimes that He may as well be yelling right back in my face) It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also the most worth it. Read those words: The Most Worth It. “It” being a fulfilling life exploding with love, mystery, joy, faith, hope, fear, trust, tears, anger, patience, and laughter.

holding hands

Lost but holding hands ;)

 

Oh, and all those prayers I prayed? They’ve been answered. Ten fold. They just showed up in ways I didn’t expect.

“God, please help me be the right person for a good man. A man who is tall, handsome, kind, patient, can handle a Wilder woman, is capable of love,and who knows, maybe he’s up there in the Midwest.” (wink wink, nudge nudge, God….)

God showed up, probably chuckling a little bit, as He introduced me to my future husband not two weeks after moving here. He was chuckling because He knew it was going to be one interesting ride. And I was going to have to have a lot of faith and hope and trust in order for things to work out.

“God, as I am this new, budding feminist, please help me to help all women. But especially young girls. I don’t think I’m meant to be a teacher, I am not at all talented in being a youth leader, but just pleeeease, help me to help young girls!”

God showed up, presenting me with two young girls who are to be my step-daughters. I remember the day this answered prayer hit me. I cried because it was so overwhelming. I get to impact two young ladies right at home, every single day, with my actions and how I choose to communicate with them. I can’t go out in public, do some good works, and come home to be a completely different person. God’s laughing again, because He gave me exactly what I asked for: in the form of family, and in a way that makes me obligated to be a better kind of woman.

daughters

tree huggers

Don’t worry, I want to help this little dude, too. Here I am, turning him into a big ol tree hugger.

“God, I’m not really sure you exist. I’m not really sure if it’s the universe I should be paying attention to…. or my horoscope and the fact that I’m a Leo…. or if it’s that random dude who came up with The Secret and its all about the present moment and I should find comfort in the fact that it’s all up to me and my own reality in my own head….. or…….” 

The thing is, I never stopped praying. And this book, Carry On, Warrior, made me laugh and sigh with relief when she said this:

“As Anne Lamott suggests, only three prayers are necessary. Mine are ‘Please!’ ‘Thank you!’ and ‘WTF???’ That’s all the spirituality you’ll need for a while.”

The sigh of relief was because hey, for about three years, those were my prayers, too. I couldn’t get past that amount. I was either screaming desperately for help, please. Finding a tiny miracle, thank you. Or finding every bit of reality to be totally screwed up and not at all in my plan or realm of comfort, wtf.

When I moved, my twin sister gave me advice that surprised me. She said, “Whatever you do, find yourself a church. Those people will save you.”

I looked and looked, and then low and behold, God sent them right to me. I found an amazing church body. A body that scooped me up, held me close, prayed with me, considered me to be of value, and challenged me to admit to the truth and change my ways.

God, the One who doesn’t have to yell, but might as well be waking us all up with pots and pans and that annoying guy at church camp who sings realllly loud outside your cabin. That’s who He is. I told Him I wasn’t sure… and He showed up.

The funny thing about blogs is this: it winds up writing you. I wasn’t even planning on writing about God and prayers and how sometimes my potty mouth gets in the way of my communication. All I was going to write about was ADULT MELTDOWNS!

‘Cause I now live with three kids, and you know, they have meltdowns. Their brains aren’t fully developed and their upstairs brains explode and there’s no consoling them and then you need to practically force them into a cold shower in order for everyone to settle down.

We’re adults. And let me tell you, I’m now over the age of 25, so this brain up here is FULLY DEVELOPED. So… what gives?

Because although my life is beginning and God’s answering my prayers and I have healthy food to eat and a roof over my head and a partner in crime and lots of joy… sometimes life is still overwhelming and sometimes I still need to just cry. Revert back to toddler mode, let my upstairs brain explode right up to the heavens, and cry for {almost} no reason.

Last night I cried. I practically cried myself to sleep. That wonderful man God sent my way held me and didn’t laugh when I made crazy statements like, “I’ve wasted my whole twenties! I haven’t accomplished ANYTHING I planned to!” pause between sobs and drool…. “And I hate my hair right now!!”

He coaxed one smile out of me, reminding me that there’s no way I wasted my whole twenties, because I’m still in my twenties. Then he told me I was beautiful, even if I felt I was in an awkward stage of growing my hair out. He assured me I was wanted, needed, and even worth something.

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I helped this gal make a Harry Potter robe. Maybe I am useful?  ;)

His text to me this morning: “It’s gonna be a great day. Drink some Kombucha, play a little banjo, read a chapter, and write a blog. Then eat some tacos when you get off work tonight.” (this man knows me well)

No matter how much of a life I have and no matter how old I am, I’m pretty sure I’ll keep having meltdowns and I’m 100% sure I’ll always have to pray to a God who, thank God, forgives the “WTF!” style prayers. Sometimes I’m a tad more eloquent, but that is entirely dependent on whether or not I’m having a meltdown.

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Love, Lou (who has been prone to crying since the day she was born)

 

 

 


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Never EVER Say Never (The 7 Things I Said)

All The Things Swore I’d Never Do (aka My Current Life)

I haven’t sat down to write a blog post in far too long. And just look at the last one… all about how something sad and depressing brought me back to life. All I can say is this: Each season has its own spark. I had a sad spark. Next I had an undefinable spark. And now, due to all the things I swore I’d never do, my life now has a rare, dignified and exciting spark that causes me to pinch myself every once in a while.

To say that life didn’t turn out how I thought it would is an understatement. In fact, almost every single aspect of my life includes or is due to something happening that at one point I completely swore off for good. I love the element of surprise. I also love being proved wrong… especially if it’s proving myself wrong. I’ve learned that making ultimatums simply doesn’t work and that life just IS. It’s incredible, challenging and fun.

Though I’ll admit, the rough parts had to happen exactly as they did in order for things to work out. I couldn’t see it at the time. And it’s during the low points that I made a few of my “I’ll Never” statements. I’m so glad I was wrong. These statements include but are not limited to:

  1. I’ll never get a divorce.” Welp. Since you’re reading this, you can probably guess that I was once married. I’m one of the thousands upon thousands of people who at one time said those fateful words: I’ll never get a divorce. Just like being in a car accident, no one thinks they will. The statistics show us that more than 50% of us were wrong. Alas, life goes on.

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    Friends at work gave me these on my one year anniversary of divorce.

  2. I’ll never move away from the place I love so much. And I’ll never, ever live in the Midwest.” I lived in Albuquerque, NM for more than seventeen years of my life. It was home and I loved it there. The mountains, the people, the restaurants, the streets, the air… it all amounted to what I called home. I never felt stuck or trapped there. I simply felt a restless urge to move to a new place and “start over.” It became a matter of moving forward in adventure rather than getting away. Now I live in small town Wisconsin. I OFFICIALLY survived my “first winter” and it’s largely due to my giant parka. I not only moved away from home, but I somehow chose the midwestiest place possible.BLOG 2
  3. I’ll never do online dating.” I did this. I can’t say it went terribly well. But I did it and learned and now have at least three funny stories to tell. I didn’t end up with someone I met online, but I did learn a lot about myself and make a few new friends. BLOG 3.jpg
  4. I’ll never cut my hair short.” I said it for many years. Until one day I woke up and decided to buzz it all off. Rip that bandaid off! Without hair on my head I had to learn a new form of confidence. I felt stronger almost instantly. I had less to worry about, began to care less about what others thought and learned that hats really do come in handy.

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    I promise I’ll stop blogging about my hair someday. Maybe. 

  5. I’ll never play an instrument and I’ll definitely never sing in front of anyone.” This was a fate I gave myself for my first 23 years of life. Then one day I decided I could try to be musical, even if it didn’t come easily. I started playing banjo and I still play to this day. I also formed a band with my twin sister. We called ourselves Plain Jane Glory and we had more than one show. Before that, singing was reserved for car rides alone and special twin sister time growing up. The first time I sang on stage I didn’t even open my eyes. I was terrified, but it helped me learn yet another fact about myself: I can do things that terrify me. I also don’t have to be perfect.

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  6. I’ll never be able to do life on my own.” I started life with my twin sister and then got married young. I had very little alone time. Suddenly, I lived in a place where I knew almost no one and had more alone time than I imagined possible. I did almost everything alone for seven months. In fact, I still do. Everything from making dinner to running to the store to folding laundry. Being alone has its advantages and I now enjoy the silence. I enjoy getting to know myself in these precious moments of solitude.

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    And buying myself flowers!!!! <3

  7. I’ll never be with someone who has kids.” This is the best one. I met someone with not one, not two, but three kids. Now, I can’t believe I once said this out loud. I just had an idea in my head of what that would mean, but I honestly didn’t know a thing. I now know that choosing someone with kids means getting to see a side of them that wouldn’t exist otherwise. I get to see this man care for other people and love unconditionally. This is rare and beautiful. It also means I get to learn about four people and let them teach me about life in unique ways. It’s not what I thought… it has it’s own challenges, but all relationships do. It’s turned out to be an excellent part of my life. It’s all I never knew I ever wanted. :)

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    There are even perks! 

So there you go. My current life and how it is basically comprised of a list of things I said out loud that I’d never do. I thought I knew best… I thought I had it alllllll mapped out in a way that fit. Preconceived notions are hilarious. Turns out, I didn’t know a thing. Life threw me some curve balls and they’ve all been surprising, real, and life-changing. Like I said before, I love surprises. I love waking up and not knowing what will happen that day. I’m thankful for this ongoing theme in my life. I hope others realize that even if their plans fall through, there’s probably a joyful life in store for them.

And it’s most likely full of things they are swearing off at this very moment.

Cheers to that!

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Love, Lou (who recently held a chicken and her heart is still bursting)


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Why Being Sad Made Me Strong (And Brought Me Back to Life)

Although I made the most of each day and usually found at least ten different moments to laugh, I had a long stretch of sadness.

I wouldn’t call it depression (though parts of it could be classified as such) and I wouldn’t call it mopey behavior. No- I got through the days and weeks and eventually got comfortable with the identity I’d discovered… A Melinda who was fun, outgoing, adventurous, and optimistic in all things except love.

If I got to talking about relationships and love with coworkers or new friends, I’d say something along the lines of:  I just don’t believe in love… does anyone know what the hell love is? I am not interested in dating, it’ll just become something I have to deal with. I’m super happy for you, but what you’re talking about doesn’t resonate with me. Hooray for others! But yeah, I’m okay with the prospect of just doing me… alone… possibly forever. 

I’d then drive home, listen to my sad music, drink some whiskey and enjoy whatever it was I was going to do. I didn’t drink too much- just a nice glass or two. I didn’t cry very often.

Sadness gave me the power to internalize my life, feel strong in my conviction, and know that nothing could really touch me. Bad days didn’t happen often, because if you are living each day as it comes and you’ve already been through hell, nothing seems that bad.

Then came a moment that absolutely stunned me, shook me to my core, and made me cry myself to sleep. This was an incredible experience because it brought me back to the land of the fully living… the quiet sadness was replaced with a pure pumping heart that remembered what love was. A heartbreak in the present time of my life replaced past heartbreaks. It made me realize that THIS is my life. THIS is making me feel, even if it’s bad.

THE PAST NO LONGER DEFINED ME.

After more than two years of letting it define me, that is. It was a moment like in a movie… I almost smiled as I wept, because damn! it just felt so good to feel! And even in those new days of pain, I could say that I didn’t have a bad day. I still smiled, still laughed, still grew as a person. I was LESS sad, overall. This is a difficult concept to explain, and to tell you the truth, I’m just starting to process the whole thing. I might not be able to explain it.

All I know is that verbalizing my disbelief in love and unfailing joy made  me feel strong in a way that is even more difficult to explain. It helped me form an identity that was all my own and brand new. It said, “I’m tough, I don’t need all that. I’m okay.” Feeling that sadness fully and purely did even more. 

It’s hard to believe that I’ve changed. Very recently, all of that quiet sadness deep inside has dissolved and morphed into a conviction to be truly happy and proud of the love I am capable of.

Sad music will always be my favorite kind. Whiskey will always be my ideal way to end a long day. It’s my verbal explanation of what I believe and why I believe it that has changed, and will most likely continue to change and grow as time goes on.

merry christmas

In honor of Christmas…. here I am, in all my joyful glory. Back then, Barbies and nightgowns really did the trick.

I’ve been obsessed with “getting my 7-year-old-self back.” I’m so glad to say that she’s not only back, but she’s wiser, braver, and even more willing to take risks than ever before. No heartbreak can break me- but happiness in the background of my everyday life can put a skip in my step that wasn’t there before.

This is the coldest winter I’ve experienced, but it’s the first winter in a good long while where things are building up instead of breaking down. I like the change and I’m thankful for the sadness that was there.

Mostly, I’m thankful to be back.

happy

Love, Lou


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Dare Me to Jump and I Will (What I Didn’t Know About the Risk)

My last post asked the question: Who risks again?

What I didn’t know about risks is this:

When something is right, it won’t feel much like a risk at all. 

Less than two weeks ago I was seriously wondering if I’d ever jump into anything. I doubted the possibility; was terrified of the inevitable end result. I do brave things all the time, in the most common way. I’m pretty open to meeting new people, I go places alone, I tell people when I have a problem with them, I tell them when I genuinely care.

Though through all of this, I had a big problem with the word love. Wouldn’t really risk it, wouldn’t really give it much credit. It’s just a word and one that hadn’t served me all too well (outside of my family.)

It’s funny what a person can learn about the word Love in just a few moments of life.

A friend of mine recently painted this for me:

meggiepainting

I met Meggie back in March. She was oh, the third person I met when I moved to Wisconsin. I’m pretty sure I showed Meggie the photograph of my twin and me around that time. We had some “getting to know you” nights and shared pictures and memories. Many months later, she does this… recreates my most cherished image. She and I affectionately (and with a bit of a laugh) say, “I love you, man,” to each other. This stems from what my dad and I say to one another. “I love you, man.” This to me shows a sense of respect, a sense of humor, and a sense of friendship that runs deep. I would say my relationship with my dad is filled with respect, humor and friendship. He and I understand each other in ways that no one else would really get.

You could say the same for this gal Meggie, who I’ve known for only a matter of months. She has seen me at my worst, at my best, and I will most likely know her forever. She still wanted to keep me around after all that, so lucky me :) The point is, I would call that Love. She took time and created a masterpiece of something I probably only mentioned once. It’s one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me.

Yeah, love for sure.

And that’s just the tip of the ice burg. I’m telling you, incredible things have been a’happenin. Unreal things.

Moments of standing out in the cold, never even wanting shelter from the wind. Seeing eagles soar together against the darkening sky. Geese flying out of formation. The big dipper rising right in front of me. Being with someone I know so well, the words are hardly necessary. Knowing that there’s a shift in the wind, in the life I was living, and accepting those changes with a full heart. Allowing myself to cry, to be loved, to learn. 

A friend I met by chance, who gives advice, who wanted me to stay (when all I wanted to do was run), and who never gave up on me. She is one of the strongest people I know. She gave me “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss and tears ran down my cheeks as I read it. She knows my darkest places and still tells me I’m a light. 

Not having seen them in months, but still getting a “how are you?!” and an “I miss you” and an update on life. Friends from back home truly shine from far away. 

And most recently, feeling appreciated and accepted and seen. Being wanted, with absolutely no condition, no hesitation and no restrictions. Fully free, fully willing, filled up with the words of so many small moments that can’t be weighed or measured, for their size can’t be held. Every smile and gesture, all the wondering and waiting in the past (a past that is precious and in its own right just as important) and feeling for the very first time, 26 years into life, that maybe…. no, not maybe, but definitely… things do happen for a reason. At least some things. Everything that’s brought me here. And the risk has diminished. There is no risk. There is only hope and that big word…. 

Don’t all of these moments sound like love? I was blind to that, I suppose. I don’t think I’ll lose it again.

There’s a song I love by Tom Waits called Never Let Go. It’s the end of each verse that gets me:

“I’ll lose everything, but I won’t let go of your hand….

You can send me to hell, but I’ll never let go of your hand…

Dare me to jump and I will, I’ll fall from your grace, but I’ll never let go of your hand.”

That’s part of the True Love. I know it. It’s why I prefer these songs over just plain old flowery love songs. Every old couple who has spent eighty years together will tell you that they hated that other person at one point. They were hated, too. They fell from grace, surely. They lost it all… whether it be trust, hope, money, a life…..

But they jumped. Dove in, if you will.

At the end of the day, they made it, they didn’t give up. I think I’ve figured out what that kind of Love looks like. It doesn’t let go of a hand. Which is beautiful, because it means a hand was held in the first place.

So cheers to Love, whatever that looks like to you,

a hike in Colorado, beautiful

a hike in Colorado, beautiful

Love, Lou