Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters


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“Hi, I’m Melinda and I’m {insert current struggle here}.”

Hi, I’m Melinda and I’m currently struggling with the fact that I am not getting pregnant.

But let me explain…and take a few steps back…

One of the things that healed me the most after my divorce (5 years ago) was feeling pain in other new, fresh and difficult ways. Honestly – I know that might sound devastating. Like me saying, “Hey! No worries! It only keeps being terrible and shitty!” It’s a tough pill to swallow, but like my husband likes to say all the time (and much to my dismay): Reality is our friend.

The reality is that back then I thought I’d cried as hard as I’d ever cry. I thought my divorce was my big defining moment of life. Once I got through it, I thought my difficult chapter had closed. And though it felt for a long time like the rest of my chapters would consist of weirdly numb moments of passive, yet slightly enjoyable experiences of emotion, I realized eventually that any new sensation of pain I had was actually waking me up. THEN I thought that the new hope I felt in my soul during the wake up period would carry me forward indefinitely.

And the cycle of pain kept showing up.

I’d often use these cycles in my dialogue when meeting new people. If you know me, you know I am absolutely, 100% an open book. I love to connect with others. I love to share my joy. I love also to share my story of pain.

Now I will share with you my Chapters of Defining Pain. (starting with the first big one, as an adult)

Hi, I’m Melinda and I’m 25 and Divorced and Pretty Much a Total Failure and I’m Wondering What’s Wrong With My Body

Then: 

Hi, I’m Melinda and I’m Alone and Probably Will Be Forever and I Can Already See the Old Chicken Lady I Will Become but That’s Okay, Because I sort of FEEL Like a Badass

Once that became smaller and my focus changed, my next big Chapter of Defining Pain was called:

I’m in Love With a Man Who Might Be In A State of Sadness and Healing For the Rest of His Life and He Has Actually Denied Me Three Times When I Told Him We Should Be A Couple

(this was the waking up chapter, though) (and yes, when Israel and I met, we’d both tried dating other people after our divorces, we were both still healing, we became friends who understood one another deeply and THEN I knew we’d be together and waited patiently for him to realize it, too)

Once he saw the light and fell in love with me, too, my new Chapter of Defining Pain was called:

I’m a Stepmom and Living in My Husband’s Stupid House That I Didn’t Help Pick Out But Someone Else Did and I Never, Ever Would Have Picked Out (But At Least It Has a Giant Tub)

However, now we live in a new house, and I can truly see the beauty in the time we spent in our first home together. As usual, the timing was perfect (in hindsight) and worked out much better for our family. And the first year of figuring out how to navigate life as an official stepmom was painful in ways I can’t quite describe, but now, I can truly say it is JOYFUL and BRILLIANT and downright DELIGHTFUL. I love those kids. 

family

<3 <3 <3

So, the story is never over, right? Because I now live in what I would call my “soul mate home” with my awesome, fun, and exciting family and all that once was painful became a beautiful part of my life and even with all of that, the next big Chapter of Defining Pain was called:

Hi, I’m Melinda and I Desperately Want a Baby But My Husband Had a Vasectomy Long Before We Met 

And the next and most recent:

Hi, I’m Melinda and He Had A Vasectomy Reversal But I’m Not Getting Pregnant and It’s Been Nine Months

My point is, I have realized very VERY recently that I’ll probably keep crying. Life is hard. And I’m pretty sure the wailing sobs of my last “I’m not pregnant” moment were worse and deeper than when I cried over my divorce. In fact, my divorce itself feels like an old blip – like a different lifetime that yes, I remember, but no, I don’t feel emotion about anymore. I know I’ll keep having hard chapters. The next might be called: I Finally Got Pregnant But I Have Postpartum Depression OR Someone In My Immediate Family Has Died (God forbid) OR Something Even Worse That I Cannot Even Make Up.

Each of these chapters feels really awful when I’m in them. Yet now I see something I used to be blind to. I mean, I wish I had enjoyed the summer after my divorce a little bit more. I have great memories, but the entire experience – even the romance and fun and craziness I allowed myself to live out – is clouded by a heavy sadness. I remember my first “first date” as an adult, but I also remember going home after it and crying my eyes out alone in bed, wondering why that date was so wonderful and why that felt so strange to be treated like an actual queen. When I look back at my time alone and feeling like I just might end up an old chicken lady, I wish I had reveled in that reality and enjoyed it more. I wish I felt like a true badass in my singleness. When I felt out of place moving into a house that “wasn’t mine”, I wish I had been more able to see past that and enjoy aspects of it more. 

BASICALLY, I WISH I HAD LIVED LIFE JOYFULLY, WITH FAITH AND HOPE, IN EACH OF THESE CHAPTERS. 

Faith and Hope were both always in me, but they weren’t always “winning.”

I don’t want to meet a new person, go to coffee, and have my dialogue include: “I’m Melinda, and I’m divorced.” “I’m Melinda, and I’m alone.” or “I’m Melinda, and I’m currently not pregnant but it’s huge, and every month I’m disappointed.”

AND LUCKY ME, BECAUSE TURNS OUT, THESE CHAPTERS ALL HAVE SUBTITLES. YOU KNOW, THAT LITTLE SENTENCE UNDERNEATH THE TITLE THAT TELLS YOU WHAT THE STORY IS REALLY ABOUT. 

My divorce chapter: The summer I got out a lot of healthy tears and moved forward and took chances and trusted God to lead my path – Oh! And I had the gift of learning who my true friends were.

My alone chapter: I finally experienced some life that built my character and allowed me to be the person I needed to be to live my best life. And some of those nights were actually pretty darn peaceful.

My rejected-by-Israel chapter: The last time in my life when I’d be doing ONLY my OWN laundry and going to bed whenever I darn well please. ;) ;) 

The new stepmom/house chapter: When I finally learned to make a space my own – with others – and learn more about myself and life and strength and love due to these three children who are now my family.

The no-sperm-at-all phase: The time I wasn’t devastated each month, and still had hope in that future surgery. 

Which leads me to my current Defining Pain… the fact that it just feels like it won’t happen. I know that for many, 9 months is not that long. That’s what people keep telling me. However, I just thought that it would happen sooner. I was so hopeful – I’d told many people something along the lines of, “I just have a feeling. I bet it’ll happen right away. I am so excited!” And like many, embarrassment is an emotion that brings out my worst. I hate to admit it, but I’m a little bit embarrassed at this point to have nothing to show for that excitement I shared last year. I put a “Sperm Day!” notice on my calendar at work for the day I’d be out, driving my husband to and from his surgery. (Do you remember me telling you that I’m an open book? Words like sperm do not scare me.) The kids know as much as a kid can know about the whole thing… basically that “dad couldn’t have kids, and then he had surgery and he had to lie down for a week and now he can have kids…” and they’re excited, too. Which sort of makes me feel like I’m letting more than just myself down, too.

I’ve had some months when I was a few days late and the secret excitement I felt only caused me shame and devastation when the monthly reminder finally came. I’ve charted everything perfectly and even “still made it fun” despite sort of planning things out. It feels like each month I’ve done everything right. Yet, no baby.

So my own goal is to change this broken record I’ve created for myself. My goal is to trust, actually TRUST, that my future is taken care of. God knows my heart. Is He keeping children from me? I honestly don’t think that He would do that. He gave me three children to parent, so He obviously thinks I’m capable, right? But the youngest was 4 when I met them… Does God think I just am not good with BABIES? (I digress… but these are the thoughts!)

I’ll admit that so far, my life has been one giant, fantastic surprise after another. Things have turned out well for me THROUGH EVERY SINGLE STRUGGLE. Every. Single. One.

1 Samuel 7:12 can be paraphrased as this: Thus far the Lord has been good to us. 

When I remember that, the vasectomy reversal phase can easily become:

Just enjoy the process and trust that God’s timing is better than my own.

These are all easier to spot in hindsight. That’s the tricky part. I’m not writing this as someone who’s figured it out perfectly, either. I’m still crying every month I’m not pregnant. I am getting a little bit better with each round of pain, though. I’m bouncing back quicker. I’m truly enjoying the days, which are most of them, where I’m not actively feeling sadness. I’d challenge you to stop and think this through and to try to begin to see past your own pain, because I’m trying to do it, too, and I know it’s hard. I’m right there with you. 

Remember that more pain will come and that this current shittiness does not define you forever. Also remember that in the midst of this time, there is probably at least one good thing you (possibly) can’t open your eyes to – and that most likely, the very best moment of your life has not happened yet.

I want to meet people and simply say with a smile, “I’m Melinda.”

What about you?

melinda

Love,

Lou (who, baby or not, is lucky to have this man by my side for better or for worse)

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I’ll Stay

Get ready for some thoughts on marriage. I’m no expert, but given that this is my second marriage and I’m well into year two of the rest of my life, I do have a perspective all of my own. I’ve been devastated and seen miracles. I’ve felt hopeless and also filled with more joy than I ever thought imaginable. This time around has already felt like a decade or more of shared experiences all jammed into a somewhat short period of time. Which is why I write.

Anyone who’s stuck with me on HeyLou knows: there was a time when I only listened to sad songs.

Then I moved on to love songs that were still just a little bit sad.

Now, I still prefer songs that might sound sad to some, but to me are actually full of hope. They’re beautiful. They’re restless. They’re wild. They’re not what you’d expect. (And ironically, this is often how my husband describes yours truly.) They’re also usually gentle and patient… which I swear I am, but my husband has yet to see what I’m really capable of there. ;)

Today my sister shared a song with me that cut right to my core. I sat at my desk at work, took a small brain break, and listened. I held back tears. I promptly sent the song to my husband via text (gotta love technology).

His response after listening: I’ll stay.


Do me a favor and listen to this song immediately. Close your eyes while you do it. Think of the one you love. Try not to bawl your eyes out.

My cup was pretty much filled up and it will be for a good while.

Because “I’ll stay” means everything. 

Something you should know: when it comes to romance or what people find attractive, I’m a bit of a weirdo.

I love smell. The other day my husband asked me to smell his shirt from the laundry pile to see if he could wear it  — I took a sniff and said, “It smells wonderful.” He looked at me like I was crazy. His breath smells like heaven. I just want to nuzzle my nose into his armpit. (kidding/NOT kidding)

I love sitting in silence. Some of our most romantic moments have been while sitting on our roof, watching the sunset and saying absolutely nothing.

I love having no plan and being led along by the person who SORT of made a plan. It actually drives me crazy to have a schedule. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised all the time. My mantras are: “Whatever works!” and “We’ll get there eventually!” Which I’m pretty sure the kids have grown to love, because they laugh every time we get kinda lost.

I love laughing. It FILLS ME UP. Just make me laugh and all will be okay.

… Unless I just need to cry and for my spouse to understand that. Luckily, I can roll up into a ball on Israel’s chest and get mascara all over his best shirt and he will just hold me. He now knows that saying something like, “It’ll all be okay” might just make things worse, so silence wins again in most cases.

When we first got together, he tried to be romantic once and bought me some chocolate. I generously ate it and let him know he didn’t need to do that – ever again. However, if he could learn to keep my sauerkraut juice right where it is and never throw it down the drain again, that’d be so amazing and would definitely speak to whatever my love language is. We’ve worked on our relationship and grown quite a bit. It’s those small things, like him growing to love sauerkraut juice, or me trying to close all of the cabinet doors (which I do MOST of the time now…) or all of those moments where we both say sorry just by looking across the room at one another a certain way… that tells me every day what he said over text: I’ll stay.

Now that I’m with someone who resonates with me on these levels and pretty much makes all of my wildest dreams come true simply by being himself, I finally understand this song. With that being said, I also know that nothing will ever be perfect. It’s knowing that this man is ALSO the person who can irk me like no other human on earth, who I love with that knowledge. It’s the acceptance of such that helps us truly win. After all, the opposite of love is not hate: it’s indifference. 

israel in nature

We all know that the guy who wrote this song does not actually mean going blind. He most likely means “if I get so lost in this world that I cannot see the light or find my way through it… if I lose sight of what’s important…”

We can also assume that he does not actually mean his hands getting amputated. But I’m sure we’ve all felt that outside-of-our-bodies sadness or depression. Sometimes human touch can’t fix us. Sometimes we are incapable of loving physically or loving well. Sometimes we can’t do what we need to do.

If I lost my mind… again, we all have our days. Or our seasons. Sometimes it’s YOUR job to keep things together. To build up your partner. Sometimes you will need to sacrifice everything because the one you love and are committed to cannot see the light, cannot feel their own body and cannot get into the right frame of mind.

And we will lift each other up during that time, because we all know (and, I think, especially know in a second marriage) that these times WILL exist and that oh-so-quickly, the tide will turn. We support and work hard and fill in the spaces and pray and lift up because we KNOW: someday my partner will do this for me.

The key is exactly what my husband says to me all of the time. “I’ll stay.” 

And I’ll admit: sometimes I leave. But guys, it’s only for like five-ten minutes. It’s kind of like in a movie. Sometimes I just need those few minutes to drive around the block, possibly beat up my dashboard in the process, and come back with what might be a hoarse voice, but a self that is ready to take a deep breath, straighten my hair and continue the conversation. And at first, this habit of mine was not good. I think deep down my husband thought I might not be coming back. It was a no-brainer for me. Don’t you know I just need a second? He had to learn that I’d stay, no matter what. I would never abandon him and drive AWAY away. Never disappear without him knowing where I was. And he knows it now fully. (And I do that five minutes in my car thing much less often.) Sometimes leaving also means walking out of the room, but my husband never does that either. He will tell me, as I turn to leave, that he isn’t going anywhere, that he is not walking away, and with that, he challenges me to be better and to stay right there in the difficult moment we find ourselves in. In marriage, staying means I will not leave. Both parties. Forever.

I sent the song to him, but more in confirmation–  more of a “this is what you show me all the time” sort of way. I sent it as a thank you, not as a request.

However: with all of this being said, the person I truly know will not leave is God. Yup, I’m going there. Because Israel is not supposed to be the one thing I can count on in this life. We are so imperfect and cannot always lead when we need to. We cannot always be the gracious hands of our spouse. We cannot always remain calm when we need to. And for that, and forever, and through everything, we need God in our lives. We need to pray. We need to know that when we have the strength to be THERE for our loved ones, it isn’t our amazing selves doing it. It’s God’s grace working through us. HE is our shepherd, not our spouses.

Which also kind of gives me clarity as to why I would leave and drive for a few minutes. I’d need to scream, but it would almost always be a prayer. I just needed to remove myself from the situation for a minute, have my real argument, and then reconciliation (in my heart), with God, and then return with the Holy Spirit I prayed to surround me and help me breathe.

We can only stay because of God who gives us that strength and who gives us more assurance and love than any human being ever could.

I sure am thankful for my partner. I’m thankful for each day we promise even deeper that we will in fact stay, and stay forever – at least as long as we are on this earth. 

kissin

It isn’t just how good he smells keeping me there, either. ;)

Love, Lou


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Know Your Heart, Know Your Truth

Number 13 in my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series can be answered in a short and sweet manner.

Do I know the sound of my own true voice?

The answer is yes, but it took a while to get there.

Literally, this is a funny one, because I have always hated hearing myself on a recording. Well, just the other day we were watching some fun family videos before bedtime (one where I am talking quite a bit) and one of my stepdaughters said, “Melinda, that is NOT how you usually sound!! Your voice is so different!” And the other kids agreed. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. 

So, also literally, I guess I have no idea what my voice really sounds like.

In a less literal, more spiritual sense, I do. I know what my voice sounds like. I know how I want to be and I know how I really am. There is a small rift between the two at times, but as I learn, it’s growing smaller and smaller.

There have been a few moments that have caused the rift to decrease. These moments include brutal and beautiful honesty between my husband and me. When I hear myself, true to my own heart and speaking with love, that’s when I know I’m there. When my husband speaks to me with love and honesty and gentleness (I’ll be honest, he is way more gentle-spirited than I am), I can see and hear my own voice better as well. We are one through marriage, so having that anchor helps bring me home.

These moments of rift-decreasing also include hearing what I say in difficult situations.

Not too long ago, we experienced what I would call a tragic moment in our own household. I held my oldest stepdaughter tight and repeated, “You know your heart. You know your truth,” as she cried and as I heard myself speak, I knew I had the Holy Spirit surrounding me and speaking through me. That connection will never go away and it is TRUTH, all around. I ask for it to shield me, give me wisdom and give me patience.

When I fall from this, which is often, I don’t really like the sound of my voice (though, in my own defense, when I’m angry, I tend to give the silent treatment.) I don’t like sounding irritated or short with those I love.

But as love in my life increases and security, support and graciousness abound, the sound of my own true voice grows louder and stronger. I especially hear myself in quiet, peaceful moments. Sometimes all I do is look into the eyes of my husband, and I feel like I am shouting my true self across the mountain tops.

And I can only thank God for that.

hair

Love, Lou (who likes quiet moments like these)

 

 


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Said No Little Girl Ever

Hey Lou Writes will always be my first love, as far as blogging goes.

However, I’ve expanded my world a bit, and am now writing regularly for my new blog, Said No Little Girl Ever… all about being a stepmom.

Hey Lou Writes will continue, and I hope both can thrive and reach people. Thank you all for your support so far!! Now I need to support all the stepmoms out there, because Lord knows, it’s a challenging and amazing adventure!!!

 

step mom

 

Love, Lou


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Dirt, Laughter, Love, Music, and Chickens (aka how to make a house a home)

As I look at this next question in my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series…..

12. What is beautiful to me and do I have some of that in my life right now?

I am grinning ear to ear because FINALLY…. I am seeing all the beauty around me.

Not that much has changed, guys. But I have had a change in heart.

This change is largely due to a whole ton of heartache. My heart ached for the dog my parents lost. For one of my best friends battling brain cancer. For my brother in law and his battle with Cystic Fibrosis. For my dear husband and the challenges that go along with the life we have. For my step-kids who have had to grow up faster than others in certain ways.

I cried so many tears, it almost became ridiculous. I prayed and prayed and then asked, “What do I pray for NOW??” But sure as others are being quietly comforted by the Holy Spirit, I was, too.

My heart ached, broke, and then was filled with light. Because you see, God is creating love in the midst of every one of these sad things. My parents adopted two new puppies and joy abounds. My friend Carmen has been filled with God’s love and calm, and she is thriving in the midst of pain and uncertainty. My brother in law was just outside at his son’s baseball game (a miracle!!!) AND he is continuing to change lives and bring people to the Lord. My husband and I are closer than ever, with trust, love and companionship flourishing. And my step-kids? They are having fun, being creative, laughing, smiling and being kids… in the midst of a life that could have stripped that from them completely.

But these aren’t the only aspects of my heart that have shifted.

I had sort of a “woe is me” mentality when it came to where I currently am physically. I didn’t want to stay in this house. I never would have picked it. Not in a million years.

 “I should be thankful I have a roof over my head…” I told myself over and over. “Focus on the bathtub. There is an amazing bathtub…” I would whisper when I found another landmine. And so, when the decision to stay in this house was finally, officially, made, I decided I had better leave my pity party and start making a house a home.

And that’s exactly what I did. (With the help of my amazing, project oriented husband.)

To make a house a home, I needed:

Dirt, Laughter, Love, Music and Chickens.

Dirt literally makes me happy. The more I’m surrounded by it, the way it smells, and little specs of it all over the house… I don’t think messy or “dirty” when I see it. I think fresh, clean, energy, life, magic and growth.

I DO sweep it up when it gets all over the floor inside. But not always right away. ;)

DIRT

Laughter is the gift that keeps on giving. If a family can find moments to laugh together, well… I think everything will be okay. Laughter happens when people develop humor only they understand because they’ve known each other long enough (aka the “inside joke”) and it happens when people are comfortable and joyful in that moment. I thought laughter was something my life had lost, but now I see laughter everywhere. In brushing teeth via piggy back ride, in making homemade pizzas, “tricks’ before bedtime, wondering how a picture can look so wonky, laughing at the mistake you made or wrong turn you took in the car (my specialty) and so so so much more.

DIRT 4

LOVE is something my husband is teaching me about. I thought I knew love. I thought I understood it. But with him by my side, I see a gentle, calm, loving, patient and forgiving man. It’s as though 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 flows through his very being. I now see that I had no idea how big love here on Earth could become.

I am a feisty, messy and sometimes impatient person. I’m not a planner. I love how organized and structured Israel truly is. He will plan an entire week’s worth of activity and all I have to do is hop in the car when it’s time to go. I AM SO THANKFUL!!! He’s a spreadsheet and I’m a spin-the-globe-and-see-where-I-land. The difference is that now I know I’ll always land safely.

DIRT 5DIRT 6

My eyes are being opened to how good that is and how perfect we are for one another. And that word: love. Not every woman gets to see a man love her this way. I am all too aware of this, and believe me, I’ve (of course) cried over this. “How did I get so blessed?”

Together, we’re making our little world thrive. He painted our gorgeous new chicken coop (and is currently, as I type, outside building the run for it). He expanded our garden and brought more DIRT into my life. He built a patio and created a beautiful space for eating and talking around a campfire. He knows me well enough to know that it’s my outdoor life that makes me feel comfort… not so much the inside of a home.

I am forgiven when I need to be. I am shown patience when I don’t deserve it. I am reminded of who I am when I need to hear it most. I am learning to give back that sort of love and I can feel my heart softening each day. I’m less defensive. But believe me, I still have a heck of a long way to go.

Music is a safe place and there’s almost nothing I love more to experience in life than live music. The kids are now familiar with Gregory Alan Isakov, Tom Waits, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Shovels & Rope and many more artists I adore. I have now seen a bunch of my favorite artists live, and the last few times it was with Israel. Welp, this past week I saw my NUMBER ONE FAVORITE MUSICIAN OF ALL TIME!!!! We were both dead tired, it was a Tuesday night, but we made it happen and I had a night I’ll never forget.

Behold: Justin Townes Earle. (And the silly couple who watched him from the very front of the room.)

 

Chickens are my favorite animal. They are so cute, I love how they walk and how they feel when you hold them. I love the little puff balls they start out as, and I love the awkward “teenager/dinosaur” phase. I love when they grow big and strong and start laying delicious eggs. There’s just something about chickens that brings peace to my soul. Now that we have them out back, I feel that this truly is a home.

DIRT 10

So the question was: What is beautiful to me and do I have some of that in my life right now?

The answer is an astounding and loud and vibrant DIRT, LAUGHTER, LOVE, MUSIC, CHICKENS and YES!!!!!!

What do you love? Go out and get it. OR find a way to make it a reality, even if you have to start outside the walls of your own home.

so much love,

DIRT 15

Lou (who ALSO LOVES gluten free eclaires from the co-op in Albuquerque)


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The Reason I’m Here

We all hope to find those friends we can call in a crisis, vent to at our worst, and raise our glasses with at our best. This hope (back in middle school when I wondered where all the nice girls were) was fulfilled bit by bit and more and more as I progressed through my twenties.

And you guys, I now have at least twenty people in my contact list who I can call at any time. No situation is out of the question. I could call them for a ride, for advice, for venting purposes, to tell them a really bad joke, or to ask for prayers.

This number started out small – my sisters and parents were at the top of the list. Next came a small handful of trusted friends. Then life happened and that list changed, lost members, gained members, and looked completely different by the time I was 25. Then the most amazing thing happened.

I went somewhere where the number of good friends who lived within driving distance of me shrank down to zero. But it’s here that the number grew exponentially and a large handful of women (and a few men) reached out to me and “scooped me up,” as I like to put it.

Now that I’ve been living in small town Wisconsin for just over two years, this questions fills my heart up as I think of the answer to this next question in my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series.

#11 Who is my community?

The answer is simple, and they’ve welcomed me since the first few months I was living here.

Let me tell you a short story about how amazing life is.

I was ALONE, I knew no one, and wasn’t sure what I was doing in the tiniest town I’d ever been in for more than a few minutes, with about one other single person my age. I moved to a “bedroom community” filled with families, and I’d come from downtown Albuquerque, surrounded by my peers and living quite the life. There, I was in walking distance to my favorite bars, lived within blocks of my best friends, and making all of the mistakes and living all of the adventure that a newly single gal in her mid twenties could have.

Then I mysteriously felt called to leave that life and move North, across the country to a place that felt like a foreign country. And it’s here I met my community.

ellie

It all started with a church group’s visit to the farm where I worked. I didn’t even want to come down to participate. “Where are all the people I’m supposed to meet?!?!” I’d been wondering that very day. “I feel so alone!!” 

A friend I did have already (and my coworker) convinced me to walk down the stairs.  Low and behold, the very people who would solve the sad void in my extremely social soul were waiting for me just down the wooden staircase. The conversation(s) went something like this:

“We are from Torrent Church.” 

Oh, what’s that? I’ve never heard of Torrent. 

“We volunteer at this farm. We built those hugelkultur beds right there!” 

Oh my gosh. YOU GUYS are the ones I saw in the pictures online. I saw your photos before I left New Mexico. My mom and I thought it was cool that a church group had been here. 

The conversation continued and it was like my entire future started getting paved under my feet, right before my eyes. I even heard one of the group mention the name “Israel”… and I marched over to find out who that was. Because you see, my same coworker and friend had “forced” me to go to the local middle school adult volleyball night with her as well, and I’d met an Israel there. I never saw him again. I knew he had a unique name and thought, “Welp, lost him forever. Who WAS that???!”

Two months later, and this church group told me just exactly who he was. (A man who was single — just like me — and needed a friend — also just like me — and that’s what happened. We became friends who learned how to love through companionship and pain and conversation and truly knowing one another.)

And these people are the very people who A) became my best friends B) connected me to the man who became my husband C) encouraged me to attend their church and helped me so much along the way to finally finding faith again and finally D) are the reason I’m still here.

carmen and melinda

Thank you, God, for these people. I have found a solid foundation in my community. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I find comfort in knowing them. They go above and beyond for me, and for each other. I see love in ways I have never seen expressed through these people.

erin and melinda

There are more people than those pictured here, but it’s safe to say this is where it started. There’s also Mary, who walked up the gravel driveway on that fateful day with her beautiful baby girl … she later went on to have twins. And guess what? I love me some twin babies. Casey entered my life and we have stories so similar, it’s crazy. Step moms come out of the woodwork, supporting me and sharing their stories. Others became my friends through long, real conversations, through nights of drinking a nice glass of whiskey, and plans of “let’s go for a walk” turning into 8 hours spent talking.

When I think of my community I get chills and I thank God over and over. I get emotional.

Which leads me to me tell you another story :

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Well, my parent’s dog died this week. His name was Max and he was one of those magical dogs. He was perfect. He has been with our family for ten years. You could just talk to him like a friend and he’d listen and obey and do everything right. He loved running in the mountains, and because my dad loves the mountains and hiking, Max was out there on the Sandia Mountains almost daily. He was active and lovely until the end. It was only about a week and a half ago now that my dad noticed two big swollen lymph nodes. Turns out it was the worst kind of cancer a dog could have and it spread at a rapid pace. By Easter Sunday Max knew it was his last full day on this Earth. He nudged my parents awake at 4:00AM and they sat with him and watched the sunrise. He died peacefully the next day, surrounded by the humans who loved him most.

I tear up thinking about this. He was my dad’s best companion, the ONLY dog my mom ever truly liked (miracle) and his little foxy face was beautiful. Now, when my dad hikes, he’ll be alone. When my mom sits and reads her books late at night, there will be no clink down the hallway, no warm dog sitting at her feet. I never thought I’d weep over a dog, but I cannot stop the tears from flowing.

Death, even the death of a dog, can bring out a lot of buried emotion. I had to stop crying over Max, so I decided to go for a run. On this run, the song “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks came on. The last time I listened to that song, I was driving in the car with my mom, on the road, moving my entire life to the Midwest.  Also, I think anyone my age can admit, that song is just plain nostalgic. So of course, more tears came.

The pain of missing my family became too much to handle. Remembering my amazing childhood and the home my parents unselfishly provided for me was beyond what I could handle in that moment. They put us before everything. There were never selfish impulses or desires that got in the way of their family. They are strong and trustworthy. My mom is exactly the kind of woman I want to be. When I think of my family my heart practically bursts out of my chest.

I broke down, ended my run, and called my mom. I just had to sob on the phone with her and thank her for the love she always showed me. My “adult” heart asked like a child, “Why can’t things just be the way they used to be?” And like the amazing mom she is, she reminded me just exactly WHY. The community I mentioned above, for starters. The husband I now have. The three kids who are in my life. The amazing job I find myself in. The people who have crossed my path and who are dear friends now, unexpectedly. The way even my family has grown since I moved.

I saw this quote recently:

You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free. -Thich Nhat Hanh

This is my goal in every way. I want my friends to feel free around me to share what they want to, be who they are, and to know I care. I want my husband to be free to be himself and never change for me. I want my three step kids to know and feel that my love is free and without stipulations, and that it doesn’t take away from any other relationships they have in life. Love does not take away. It only keeps growing. It only keeps giving. I want my family to feel free to live their lives without me, and in that way, I think we all have succeeded. Those I love are free.

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Because doesn’t it take two wholes to make a good pair? AKA, two halves do not equal a whole. Not in romance, not in friendship, not in parents and children.

All that is to say: It had been a pretty rough week. It’s been a rough week for a lot of people I know, and for a variety of reasons. But guess what? I had a community surrounding me. I was also part of a community surrounding others. That has been the light of my life so far. I love people, I love to make my cherished friends smile. I love to listen to what my step-kids have to say after a long day of school. I love to do the dishes so my husband (currently making a BUNCH of my dreams come true) can have a moment’s rest. I love to plant seeds to see them pop up out of the ground and grow. I love to raise chicks and hold them every day. I love to laugh.

I’m a feeler and I can’t change. Thank God he blessed me with a wise girlfriend to guide me through this journey that many ENFPs face…. (Ellie <3)

I am who I am and I tell you this: You are free when it comes to me. And hopefully you will answer when I call you crying ;)

Thank you to everyone who is my community. And a special shout out to those who were there for the cheese spread AKA the funniest moment of my life thus far.

I love you all!!!!

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Love, Lou

 


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Don’t Borrow Trouble (& what the ice taught me)

I’m half way through my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series!

(I promise, if you stick with me until the end of this blog, it will be worth it.)

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And #10 has made me think a lot.

When was the last time you felt truly joyful?

I feel many emotions each day. We all do. Most of us have learned that sometimes, just after our best moments in life, we come crashing down fast and hard into a hurtful catastrophe. But just the opposite can happen, too. When we think we’ve hit rock bottom, and then sink just a little lower, suddenly things turn around and we smile wider than we have in years.

My emotions feel BIG. This is both a blessing and a curse. I love hard, feel everything and can’t fake a smile to save my life. Luckily, most days are good days. I have a fairly joyful life and many reasons to give thanks. God blesses me every single day.

There was a day just before Christmas when I cried so hard, I wound up taking a bewildered walk at midnight with my husband and calming my heart down with silence and prayer. And you know what? The worst and most troubling fears I’d built up in my head didn’t happen. I need to remember my mom’s words:

Don’t borrow trouble.

She said it to me often as I grew up. She said it to me a few days ago on the phone. As I began to tell her everything I was afraid would happen, she said simply, “Melinda, don’t borrow trouble. Don’t do it.”

What she means: Don’t be afraid of what hasn’t even happened. Don’t let yourself get worked up over a projection of a maybe. Have faith. Walk in it.

Which leads me to what I learned about ICE yesterday, and what I was reminded of this past weekend.

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the selfie we TRIED to get…. and believe it or not, we all had basically the exact same coat on

 

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worship team <3

 

I was blessed by my good friend Carmen when she asked me to go with her to Hayward, WI for the IF:Gathering. IF is a Christian women’s conference/retreat/motivational speaking extravaganza (mostly done through remote broadcasting) that I’d never heard of before. I went with a few friends and wound up having a life changing time. We sang, cried, laughed, had FUN girl time and I feel forever changed by the experience. This wasn’t a “mountaintop” experience, where you return home and forget. No, this was one that was so down to Earth that I’ll be forever grounded through what I learned.

What I learned is that Yes, as my heart already felt so strongly, God is everywhere. And Yes, my relationships matter. And Yes, one on one conversation IS the KEY to changing lives, stable friendships and growth in ourselves. Because of who I grew to be as an adult, conversation has never been hard. Intentional conversation comes pretty easily, too. I hardly walk around and reconsider each move I make. I laugh and look on the bright side and overshare… most of the time.

It’s only when it comes to just a few small aspects in life, and suddenly I can hardly SHAKE the feeling of uneasiness and wondering if I should have done things differently. Having faith in what I say and do each day in this regard has been a struggle. A new struggle and an unfamiliar one.

And here’s the ironic part: I have been saying and doing NOTHING. In this current struggle, I’ve been silent, possibly for the first time in my entire life, and each day I wonder if it is the right choice. Because when I pray about it and ask for help and wisdom, silence is usually the answer I hear. “Say nothing.”

And for anyone who knows me, you know that this is the biggest struggle of my entire life. You know I’m proactive. You know I wear my  heart on my sleeve. You know I solve all of my issues through open communication and saying the truth and hoping so badly for the truth back in return, no matter how hard it might be to speak or hear.

So I’m biting my tongue. Though I want to speak kindness and openness. I am holding back a letter. Though writing is my second form of open and true communication. I am remaining still. Though I want to act.

I am also learning not to borrow trouble, but remain in the peace and presence of God, who I have literally felt wrap around me and calm me down in the most tragic of moments.

We’ve all heard this since we were little: we can’t control what others do or say… we can only choose how we react. Perhaps my greatest lesson in life is learning patience and silence, even when it’s just so damn confusing and hard to not right the wrong.

I’ll wrap this up by talking about What The Ice Taught Me.

 

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listening to the cracks in the ice… my husband caught me in the act ;)

So right after I returned back from my awesome weekend experience, I went on a walk on the river with my husband. This always, always, always makes me nervous. Which is probably why he was so giddy (like a kid) to get me out there and show me what he discovered earlier that day. We walked and found large patches of snowless ice, and you could see down, as far as the ice lasted. There were easily 18 inches of ice underneath us. “You could drive a tank on here,” Israel assured me.

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That should have made me secure enough. But I still yelped a few times and my heart raced more than once, mostly due to the eerie (yet lovely) sounds of ice cracking beneath us, all over the river.

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“Are you SURE that there won’t be enough cracks, just surrounding us, that will cause the ice we’re standing on to go plunging into the river??”

I imagined a scene from some crazy action movie… ice shooting up through the cracks and the giant icy cascade that would surely include us.

He then explained something that made me SMILE and feel like a kid.

“It’s physics,” he said. Then he pointed at each shore. “This ice is trapped between that shore and that shore. It can’t go anywhere. It’ll keep shifting, but it’s so compacted that it won’t fall in. Physics won’t let it.”

That’s a paraphrase, but let me tell you, those were some of the best words I’d ever heard. Ohhhhhh, pressure!!! That’s what’s keeping us safe!!!!!

And then I got that feeling in my soul, that tingling in my body, when I feel God talking to me. I looked from shore to shore. I felt the cold air touching my face. I listened to the ice springing apart right beneath my feet.

Because you see, that’s exactly how life is.

Right there on the ice, I had one of the strongest visions of my life. God was one side. Jesus was the other. The Holy Spirit was the air. And even though my life is breaking apart in some ways, I’m being asked to die to some of my dreams, and there is a frightening noise constantly surrounding me and surprising me, I can be assured that they WILL NOT let me fall. The ice, my life, is secure in this perfect trio. Two hands and the air above me. The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

I tell you, I will never be the same. Oh, and to answer the question that this whole blog series revolved around: this was the first time I’ve experienced true, down to my core joy, in far too long.

I want to leave you with this. The reminder that silence is okay. That though fears creep up on us, we don’t need to defend ourselves.

Exodus 14:14

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Love,

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Lou (who was much happier after learning about physics)

 

 


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My Superpower = Nothing To Actually Do With ME

#9 in my 20 Things Every Woman Should Ask Herself series…. and here is the roughest question yet.

#9 What is my superpower?

It’s like an evaluation at work or at school. You rate yourself from 1-5 and you wonder… what is it I’m actually good at? Some people have done tests to know their strengths. Some know where they land on the Meyer’s Briggs test. I know that I’m an ENFP, but do I know my superpower? (I once joked: Can I add to my resume that I never quit a job without first having a new one?)

Now, given that I’m a person who loves change, thrives on new beginnings, and often longs for differences in my day to day life, it’s hard to pinpoint my strengths.

Sometimes I think my strength is that I can cry when I need to.

Sometimes I think my strength is that I’m wired to be social and thrive on communication and community.

Every once in a while I think I’m really good at remaining calm and laid back no matter what. Ha! Then reality hits and I realize that my armpits get sweaty real fast.

Other times, I think my “superpower” is that I can be totally independent. Then I look around and remember how much I really do love having the support of a partner. Does that make me less of a strong woman? No. It doesn’t.

So when I truly stop to think, and ponder what it is I do daily, I suppose my power lies in God. And perhaps my superpower at the moment is prayer. I’ve had some prayers lately that really mattered. They mattered to others more than they mattered to me. And they came true.

God answered my prayers fully, and seemed to say, “You asked for things to be okay. I’ll show you okay. I’ll make things great.”

Therefore, my superpower really has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with God and his amazing power and glory. I’m learning to rely on Him more and more. I feel as though I’m becoming what I always heard referred to as a “prayer warrior.”

When I first started going back to church and building my faith back up, I almost totally relied on OTHERS to pray for me. I’d call my mom and say, “Please get that prayer group at church on this!” I’d text friends and say, “Please pray for ____.” Now, I still do this. But along with that, I pray more on my own.

I pray all day long sometimes, it seems. I have learned that God is listening. He’s been right by my side all along and takes everything bad — turning it into good. I also joke often that “everything always turns out okay for me.”

I’ve been through some rough patches in life and it’s true: no matter how bad things get, I always land on my feet. This is because of my support network of friends and family, but sometimes I also feel like I have extra support, and for a while I didn’t know what to call it. I now KNOW that it’s the Holy Spirit wrapping around me like a bubble. I’ve prayed for that same “bubble” to wrap around my step kids, around my husband, and around our home. I hope and pray (and try to believe) that everything will continue to turn out okay. Not because I’m me, but because God is God.

So, thanks for the superpower, God. It’s really all about You. I can’t really do anything great on my own.

Love,

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Lou (who sometimes has to wear sunglasses in order to feel powerful ;) )

 


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It’s {Almost} Never Too Late

On with our 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series….

# 8 What Would I Love To Learn?

My step daughters are musicians. This is amazing to me. One plays violin and the other plays piano. I could listen to them play for hours. I imagine what’s going on inside their brains as they read their music and I WISH I could read it, too. The other day one needed help, and as she showed me her music book and the song she was learning, she looked at me and said, “This doesn’t mean anything to you, does it?” Maybe my face said it all. But I DID say, “I SO wish I could help you. But you’re right. I don’t know what any of this means. Let me grab your dad!”

This happens all too often, and not just when it comes to music.

However, music is something that has always fascinated me and mostly seemed to escape me. I took piano as a child, and then quit. My twin sister kept on taking lessons. Then, in high school, she took a guitar class, and it changed her whole life. She’s an incredible musician, both with her instruments and her voice.

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I was the sister that my entire family giggled with in church when I belted out the wrong note during a hymn. I am the only member of my family (extended, too!) who has never been in any sort of choir. I went to one youth choir practice in middle school and said, “No WAY am I ever going back. That was so boring. The same song over and over again…?”

I tried playing guitar (for about a day) and the chords were too hard to learn. I didn’t have a basis on where to begin. I didn’t even know that when you sing a song, there’s such thing as SINGING ON KEY.

I’m proud and happy to say that I do know this now. I never made it with the guitar,  but I was fortunate enough to land a free banjo in this life and so I decided I better learn how to play it. I had help from some of the most talented and patient musicians I know. I started singing, and it only took singing off key at an open mic ONCE to never make that mistake again. I learned how to recognize where my voice should be based on the chord I strummed at the start of a song. I sang on stage with my twin, too!

Here’s another thing I learned: I didn’t have to be very good, or even close to the best, in order to have fun making music. In fact, it took the pressure off, knowing that I was just in it for a good time. I made mistakes on stage. I smiled, because I was just excited!!! I don’t have the best voice in the world, but I love the songs I choose to sing (and the ones I’ve written with my sister.) I challenge myself to sing at open mics even now, in this far away land that was once anything but a comfort zone.

Now, given all of that, music might seem like the thing I’d love to learn.

But no. What I’d love to keep learning in life is that it’s never too late for great, amazing, and difficult things to happen. By difficult, I mean those things that take a lot of work to get done.

2016 becoming 2017 showed me this in an incredible way.

If I could sum up 2016 in one simple phrase, it would be this: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE.

After a few years of worst moments, this past year was filled with the best. Here is a snapshot:

1. I learned that although I once had a broken heart, it wasn’t too late for it to be mended and stronger than ever. I learned that True Love exists. I met my match.

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2. I learned to be a step-mom. I gained three step children and my life is forever altered. I mention it on Hey Lou often, but when I really do stop to think about it, this is HUGE!!! I can’t stress it enough — I never thought this would be my life’s story. I was taught that God knows exactly what he’s doing with me. He led me, step by unpredictable step, right up to where I sit now, writing this blog in 2017. Because of them, I found myself on a road trip on New Year’s Eve Day, only to then fall asleep well before midnight. They also showed me how funny it is to put such weight on things like “new years” or “anniversaries.” NONE of them were excited the next morning. I said, “Hey!! It’s a new year!!!” And they just sort of shrugged their shoulders and told me it wasn’t that big of a deal. My six year old step son said, “Melinda, that’s just adding ONE to 2016.” He knows his math.

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3. I learned that I like the cold!! MIRACLE! It helps to have a cold-lover as a partner. And kids who say things like, “Don’t worry, Melinda. You’ll get used to walking on the ice. You don’t need to be scared.” cold 2.png

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4. I learned that girlfriends will see you through just about anything. I found my people. I still have the gems from back in the southwest, but I added on to my loving list of friends ten fold. I feel so supported here. I AM so supported here.

5. I learned that CRISIS will make miracles happen. It is WHEN miracles happen. There were more than a few moments of crisis in 2016, and here’s what happened: 1) I became closer and more united with my husband. 2) I reached out to people I trusted and asked them to pray. Turns out calling your new sister-in-law in tears will not embarrass you, but solidify the feeling that you are now family. 3) I learned that God is in control. You’d think I wouldn’t have to keep learning this. But I re-learn it all the time. 4) Boring days became gold.

6. I learned that my heart could grow larger than I thought possible. I thought laughter was something in my life that I’d lost. I laugh more now than ever before. A happy heart is one that can laugh. girls

7. I learned that my husband looks really good in women’s skinny jeans. And that I look pretty darn bad in his clothes from the past. Uffda. (And I also have to admit that after years of hating Halloween — it really isn’t all that bad.)

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8.. I learned that although I may not have many more “exciting” New Years Eves in my life, I do have random moments at midnight. Just not on the nights we think. It was pointed out at church this week that new years aren’t much…. but new days are, new hours, new minutes, and new seconds. We are constantly being made new. This is very hopeful news.

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So CHEERS to this new year. And I am so thankful for this last one. It’s just a number, let the kindergartener remind us. But years do have significance and meaning…. so let’s just have this in our hearts: many strange celebrities may have died this year. A weirdo became the president. But hey, most of us survived. We’ll keep surviving and we better learn to laugh.

And like music…. I may not be perfect at any of this. I make mistakes all the time. But I’m here, I can never leave the stage that is my own life, and all I can hope for is that I sing on key most of the time.

 

So much love,

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Lou (who will never stop laughing too much)


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I Love Sad Songs (Even When I’m Not Sad)

(Hey Lou is taking a break from its 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series)

Once when I worked in a small production space with only two other people, it was my day to choose the music. We mostly listened to “neutral” music we could all enjoy, but every once in a while we gave each other the chance to pour our hearts out via the songs on our playlists.

By the end of the first hour, one of my coworkers looked up at me and said, “Um… are you okay?” It was a sincere question and I remember laughing it off at the time.

“Of course I’m okay! Why?”

“It’s just this music!! I’m depressed already,” they said. Both coworkers agreed. What was with the melancholy music?

I hadn’t fully realized my shift into the style of music I truly enjoy: SAD.

Now, it’s finally snowing outside and the time of year is upon us which requires – in order to survive – a positive outlook on life, a possible vitamin D supplement, and not allowing the dark and shivering cold winter to bring about random moments of existential crisis.

THEREFORE: I am going to first share why I love sad music, and then share with you my top eleven favorite sad songs. (Because God forbid your loved ones to be stuck listening to Taylor Swift’s Back to December and Cher Lloyd’s I Want U Back when you’re feeling low. No, they deserve much better.)

We’ve ALL felt it. That pain, the kind that feels like it will never cease to exist. The kind that you let yourself wallow in… possibly forever (you think)… and the lower you sink, the less you sleep, the more fretful your daydreams become and the less you tell yourself that maybe you do have a good future in store. And then maybe one day you see a glimmer of hope. And then the next day you realize that you only have yourself to blame for your current pain. And then, weeks later, you realize that you only have yourself to blame for STILL being in your current situation. That will either help you rise up, or slump you down lower.

You might hear a “life is great” themed song on the radio and come way too close to destroying your entire dashboard. The melancholy music will have the opposite effect — you might cry, but you will come to find a sort of peace there, a safe place to be, and you will hear the raw beauty behind all of the lyrics.

But eventually, with time, once all of the extreme highs and low are settled, you can start to simply BE. You can exist again, in a world that now looks different to you. You’ve now experienced PAIN, you are in the club, a member for life. You experience joy differently and you experience a sort of “unbreakable” power that stems from the fact that you’ve survived! You survived all that pain and suffering!

Then you find yourself still listening to all that same music — the music that saw you through the dark days. You’ll remember that it’s beautiful. You’ll start to hear more hopeful songs and you’ll think, “That’s nice, but does that speak to my soul?” Sometimes it will. Occasionally, I mean rarely, do I hear a cheery song and smile along with it. It feels good when that happens, but usually those songs sound so cheesy and fake to me. It’s probably a cliché perspective, but I have experienced in my own life true art and beauty coming out of nooks  and corners inside of people that they didn’t know they had until the thing that hurt them. Whether it be a divorce, a death, a loss of some other kind, a medical scare, or any other circumstance… it will change you. And I can bet that you’ll appreciate the songs I’m about to share with you. They’re lovely. They’re a little badass. They range from the most depressing in the world to just a little bit sad. Each one was my anthem at a certain time in life. Now they make up just one small chapter of my life’s story.

Enjoy!

The 11 Best Sad Songs

1.  Lay Low – Shovels & Rope

“Well I probably should be/drug out to sea/where I can’t hurt no one/and no one can hurt me”

2. Wasted Time/Everything is Okay – The Everybodyfields

The Everybodyfields wrote this entire album, “Nothing is Okay,” while they were filing for divorce. It’s a divorce album — which makes it that much more real.

“I’m all alone and need a friend/I’m so grateful/and you’re so tired of me”

3. Cory Branan – Survivor Blues

“Say it makes you stronger/first you gotta survive”

4.  Jeffrey Foucault – Twice I Left Her

“Somewhere my plan unraveled/I was winding my way back home”

5. Gregory Alan Isakov – If I Go, I’m Goin’

“And the photographs/know I’m a liar/they just laugh/as I burn down”

6. Tift Merritt – Drifted Apart

“I watched you go/don’t pretend you don’t know”

7. Conor Oberst – Night At Lake Unknown

“When I lost myself/I lost you by extension…… most anything can be forgiven/with what is left we’ll have to live”

8. Justin Townes Earle – Yuma

“Lookin’ back I’d say/it wasn’t so much the girl”

9. Damien Rice & Melanie Laurent – Everything You’re Not Supposed To Be

“You walk away from me/for the first time sure”

10. Jason Isbell – Songs That She Sang in the Shower

“And in the car/headed home/she asked if I had considered the prospect of living alone”

11. Jill Andrews & Josh Oliver – Ain’t No Ash Will Burn

“And you say this life is not your lot/but I can’t be something that I’m not”

Nowadays, when I listen to these songs, they have shown up randomly off my playlist. They are the background music to utter joy… to the life I have now. I spend fun nights at home with my family. I spend quiet nights at home with my husband. I enjoy this time, I love this time. But without these songs, he wouldn’t know me as well as he does. Without what they once meant to me, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today — and I’m glad to say I’m thankful for ALL of it. God led me where I was supposed to belong, with all of the sad songs to get me here. Can’t wait to see where I’m headed now!

Love, Lou

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(who got another round of wedding photos this week! fuuuun! and who wore black nail polish at her wedding…because I will always have a dark side ;) …)