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The Grey Matters


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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,

sunglasses

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.

on stage

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.

car-trip

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

coldsledding

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.

midnight

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

black-nails

(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 ;) …)


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The Sisters We Find

#7 What did I love to do when I was a child?

I’m on question seven of my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series.

It SORT of seems like the easiest question yet. But it has made me think, remember, and pause more than any of the others. Childhood is such a precious time. I have a new perspective on it these days and a new relationship with my childhood self. I sort of have her back, but I’m really missing something.

Because mostly, what I loved to do as a child, was anything with my twin sister. She was my rock, my playmate, my best friend and the only person I wasn’t ever afraid of.

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we even shared onesies :)

writing, memory, fishing, dad, vivid

Now, I love what these two photos represent. I think it’s something that most siblings (at least these days) can’t really relate to. When you’re a twin, you see things differently. Meaning: there is no record of right or wrong kept. There is no scoreboard and we pretty much only supported each other. We rarely, if ever, grew jealous or spiteful. In the first picture, we’re obviously having a hilarious time, and we obviously had to possess some skills in teamwork to even make that whole ordeal happen. In the second photograph, I have to laugh, because I’m just holding the bag of worms and Meredith is holding the big catch of the day. But I’m still holding her hand, still happy for her, and I doubt if I ever wondered, “When will I get to hold the fish?”

It’s not that we didn’t or don’t have our faults. We were regular little girls who made mistakes and had arguments, but when it comes down to it, the spirit of sisterhood was real and represented in the relationship she and I held as twins.

 

sisters

I have two older sisters as well. LUCKY ME!!!!! I love my sisters.

 

If only the whole world could be so supportive and able to let others “hold the fish.” If only all women who are ALL part of the sisterhood on this planet treated each other like they mattered, no matter what. What if we CHEERED for others when they were successful? What if we were willing to stand back in those moments, humble and content? I so long for such a world. Yet I know first hand that some women don’t live this way.

However, I’ve also learned that as an adult, I have more relationships that fall under the “twin-like” category than I could have possibly imagined. Of course, the sisters who are related to me by blood can never be replaced. Even from far away, we help each other, share our secrets, group text (hooray for technology!) and love one another. But the sisters who I’ve met recently in life and are related to me through interests, faith, kindness, and laughter have a new place in my heart. We also help each other, share our secrets, group text and love one another. We pray together and for one another. We weep together and for one another.

Now, this relates to the question asked in the beginning: What did I love to do when I was a child?

The big answer is… spend time with my sisters.

This topic hits close to home because a) I’m no longer living near my sisters and b) I have a whole new set of “sisters” who are so good to me, who mean so much to me, that I have literally been brought to tears because of the love I have in my heart for them.

I hope each woman on the planet has been able to experience this. I used to say, I don’t know HOW people got through life without a twin. Now I really think, How do people go through life without a wealth of friendship… especially one rooted in faith.

I just got the amazing experience of taking a road trip to Montana with four other women in order to visit our loved friend who moved away. I think anyone would be wary of spending 12+ hours in a van with a bunch of women… but it was fun, inspiring, filled with laughter and stories and I honestly didn’t notice how long we were in the car.

 

5am

5am!

I felt the true type of companionship that has the comfort of family, knowing I could say anything without the threat of being judged or laughed at. It was one of the safest “safe zones” I’ve been a part of.

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waterfall!

We explored Yellowstone (my first time ever there!)

yellowstonecarmen-melindaThe HIGH that goes along with an experience like this is quite amazing. It’s hard to get down from, to tell you the truth. The fact that these trips can’t last forever make it way too easy to wish that they would, in fact, last forever. I found myself wishing that the hours spent drinking coffee, looking at the mountains, chatting for hours with five girlfriends, and never feeling a moment that wasn’t cozy, would just keep lasting and lasting. When we danced in the old mountain bar, I didn’t want to leave the dancefloor. When we stood in church, all in one pew together, tears streamed down my face as I thanked God for the friends I have. I experienced a flood of memories, including EVERYONE who’s made me feel welcome in the Midwest and all of the crazy “God moments” that have led me to exactly where I stand today.

montana

It was difficult to get home and miss our dear friend we went to go see. Yet, I felt a new sense of calm and comfort in my life, knowing that the “safe zone” I felt would last forever. When you have that, you can actually step outside of it way more often.

My mom said this in regards to romantic relationships, but I think it’s true with friends too: You can leave the kitchen because you’re no longer starving. Meaning: you’re not desperate for love or attention, you have the comfort and stability you need… now go out there and face the world, knowing you’re full no matter what.

How thankful I am for the women in my life. And not just the ones pictured here (I’m just super excited, still, about the road trip we took!!). There are so many others, and I can only HOPE that I have helped them even half as much as they’ve helped me.

So there’s my answer to question 7 in my series. May all women feel loved. May we all treat each other with respect. May we forgive each other and ourselves, may we live lives rooted in TRUTH and encourage one another to do so. May God continue to bless us on our own rocky paths as we stumbled hand in hand, somehow reaching one another, even when we feel miles apart.

I LOVE YOU LADIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ellie

AND MISS YOU ELLIE!!!!!!!!!!!

Love, Lou

 

 


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A Brutal Truth (Life Lessons From My Mom)

When I was in middle school I remember crying because of mean girls. They were so mean… starting at a young age. I feel for any girl who’s been left out of a club, who isn’t included in a game, who finds herself bossed around because she feels, from the depths of her soul, that silence maybe is the answer to all of this aggression. I can still remember that pain, and this helps me relate to my step kids and their very real feelings (more on that in a bit here).

So, there I was, crying. My mom was comforting me as she always did.

And let me tell you something about my mom. She ALWAYS TELLS THE TRUTH. It’s something I love and something that, at least a few times, I wished she wasn’t so good at. Like the time I put the wrong liquid in my contact case and when I put my contacts in my eyes, it felt like my eyes were being chemically burned. They turned red, I took out my contacts, and showed up to church (she worked at the church and was there already) with my sisters, in tears, wearing my glasses and when I found her I asked desperately, “Mom!! Am I going to go blind??!”

What she said was this: “Well, I really don’t know sweetie.” 

I was devastated. I wanted her say this: “Of course not. No way. You’re totally fine!”

But she didn’t know what I’d used, she didn’t know what was going to happen, and she wasn’t about to lie to me just to comfort me. And luckily, the burning went away and my eyes were totally okay.

So anyway, back to the comforting moment. My heart was hurting and I was calming down after needing to get those tears out and I asked my mom, “When you grow up, do mean girls stop being mean?!” 

Here was another golden opportunity for her to reassure me that life would be rainbows and butterflies and that these trials were only for those three horrible years some people refer to as middle school.

What she said was this: “No, honey. Sometimes the mean girls just get worse. But there’s some good news here. The nice people usually get nicer. AND you won’t be stuck in the hallway with them. You’ll have a lot more freedom in that way, and so, those mean girls won’t be as present in your life.”

Oh man, I was just crushed. I thought adults were supposed to have their act together. I thought they cut the shit and started being good people… brains develop ALL the way… they’ve been through their own trials… and the women… surely by now, every woman is a feminist and just wants to support all women, all the time…. right?

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Welp, turns out my mom told me the very brutal truth again. (thanks mom!)

Which brings me to #6 in my 20 Things Every Woman Should Ask Herself series.

6. What can I let go of?

And I’ll start my answer to this question by telling another little story, and this time, I’m the grown up.

It’s kind of cool, because now that I have three step kids, I get to solve problems, give advice, learn from them all the time, and just have some unique issues in general that always lead to a good conversation. I love it.

So kids, their emotions are 100% real. I know this, but I think sometimes a reminder is good, too. For instance:

Somewhat recently one of the kids was very upset because another kid was reporting information about them that that the accused knew was false.  This happened right at the dinner table. The accused got very loud and very upset, saying something along the lines of, “That is NOT true! He/She is LYING! I did NOT do that!” (Obviously, I don’t want to give away who was doing what ;) )  I chose to take the moment to teach a lesson. I said very calmly, “Okay then. So, you know you didn’t do it, right?” And he/she nodded. “Well, that’s all that matters.” Then I pointed at my own heart. “As long as you know the truth in here, what he/she is saying about you doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t let it upset you. Does that make sense? You’re your own unique person and you know your truth.” The lesson was well taken, but I’ve given the same schpeal a few times now.

HO, HO, HO. The joke’s on me, though. And recently I had to sit down and remind myself of the very advice I had given my step kids.

My mom was right — those mean girls are way less present in my life. Almost 99% of the time, my life is just plain awesome in that regard. I have amazing friends who support me, listen to me, laugh with me and smile with me. Things have gotten much better since middle school. Thank God. However, she was also right when she said that the mean girls would only get worse. There are some people out there with cold hearts, who can’t really look inside and like what they see… who maybe don’t know their own truth.

And I had to let go of things that I let get under my skin. I had to sit down at the table and give myself the same pep talk. “Melinda, you know your own heart. You know that your silence is stronger than negative words. You know your actions have been pure, strong, and that God is always with you. You know this. Don’t let the one single voice saying the exact opposite of everyone else ring in your head. You know your truth.”

It was a good reminder of just how real those kids’ emotions are. When they feel they are being wrongly accused, they feel the injustice and they have the instinct to right it.

As an adult, not only are people possibly even more hurtful, but ALSO!!!!!!! the instinct to defend yourself, right the wrong and shout it out to the world is still there, but we can’t do it. We have to sit on our hands and bite our tongues and take calming breaths and remember that actions can only be done — they can never be undone.

I had to let go of negativity and resentment. And then I had to call one of my best girlfriends (after calling my mom, of course) and laugh about the whole entire ridiculous situation and remember that the “hallway” is a lot bigger, and though we can’t rid our lives of evil or hurt, we can continue knowing our hearts.

At the end of the day, I have dignity, and that’s much better than a loud word.

However, the next time this happens at dinner, I might be a little less quick to preach and a little more ready to hear the hurt.

Love,

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Lou (who is learning more about her heart with each and every trying moment)

 


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Love Yourself, Love Lou

Here I am, almost one month later, finally writing again. Folks, it’s been an amazing time.

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October rang in as one of my new favorite months. Fall seems to be lasting forever and not only did I get to go “home” with my family to New Mexico, I got to return home with them and continue to live my amazing, blessed life with my husband and community.

And I’m more ready than ever to answer #5 in my 20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself series.

5. Do I love myself exactly as I am right now?

The short answer is YES. The long answer is why, how, and the road to getting here. But it’s not toooo long, I promise.

First, I thought upon answering this question: Wow, I really have come along way when it comes to the idea of love. On my first date, when I entered back into “the dating world” after my divorce, I pretty much told the guy, “Don’t ever say you love me. That word means nothing. I’m not looking for love. So, let’s just agree to never go there. Okay great. Thanks for the awesome time tonight!”

When I met my husband, he and I had a somewhat similar and bleak outlook on the word and idea, too. Together, believing we didn’t have to worry about loving each other because it didn’t exist, we formed what I would call the greatest friendship of my life…. later to realize that our love had nothing to do with rose-colored-glasses or honeymoon-phases or falling-deeply-in-love-with-my-soulmate-at-first-sight.

That was the kind of superficial “love” we were both wary of. And we were nowhere near “dating” or thinking we’d end up together when Israel told me he realized he loved me. He loved me in a way that I could and already did reciprocate… a love of truly knowing the worst in someone, the scars inside of them, and not even knowing if there’s hope for the future. Broken, honest love, and a love that took time to grow.

Eventually my heart grew (kind of like the Grinch) and wrapped around not only my husband, but his three kids as well. And to this day, I don’t think the words “I love you” mean very much without some major actions to back it up.

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I once said, “I’d rather NEVER hear those words again, as long as someone showed me they loved me.” Now, I’m basking in the absolute unreal blessing of getting both, but my ideals remain.

Now, this DOES relate to feminism and the love I have for myself. Here’s how:

It took seeing myself in the worst way possible, opening up to myself and being honest with who I was, accepting that there was darkness in my heart, and realizing that I might never experience an illusion of a “honeymoon phase” ever again…… IN ORDER FOR ME TO LOVE MYSELF. 

In order to survive, I had to remember that God loves me, too. I had to remember that if I don’t love myself as I am right now, then I won’t ever love myself. Because I’ll never be any closer to perfect. How can I expect others to respect me or LOVE me if I don’t first have that for myself? The only “person” we can expect to love us otherwise is God.

Now, does this mean that I look in the mirror every morning and take a real good look and say, “I love you, self.” No way.

It means that I do my best to treat myself well. I expect myself to be better and better. I don’t let myself off the hook and blame downfalls on others. I treat others the way I want to be treated and I forgive myself when I fall short. I respect my body and try to see value in all human life.

I could say the exact same thing about the way I try to love my husband, or the way he loves me. We make each other better by being honest, urging one another further in life and love as we challenge, listen, respect and okay, occasionally get angry with one another. I know that when he takes time to wash my car, or makes my favorite breakfast before I get out of bed, or plays with the kids outside, or absentmindedly holds my hand, or drives off early in the  morning to get to work… that he might as well be SHOUTING: I LOVE YOU!!!!

And so, this love for myself grew when I was by myself, but it truly matured and grew in a much richer environment once I was committed to someone in life and learned from him. Because wow, does my husband know how to love.

I read once about those couples who, rather than trying to “get back at each other” all the time, “tried to outdo each other in kindness” all the time. I tell ya, that is hard, too. I feel I am constantly falling short. If I were to compare on a chart the list of things Israel has done for me and the things I have done for him… let’s just say, he’s winning. But luckily, another way I see love given to me is that the comparison list is out the window. And the things I do try to do are appreciated and I know I can always get better ;)

So there you have it. I hope that no matter where life has taken you up to this point, that you can truly say you love yourself. Remember, this isn’t the unrealistic love that the world has taught us. It’s a real love full of scraps and bruises and the kind that doesn’t give up. It’s the kind that perhaps makes your heart slow down rather than speed up.

Oh, AND SPEAKING OF LOVE. Have I mentioned I love the desert? I finally had the opportunity to travel there with my family… and I’m pretty sure they love it, too. It was fun to see my home state through the eyes of a child.

We all love: Traveling on an airplane (for the first time!) You can really see the joy in all our faces here. But hey, this was just the shuttle. albq3

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We all love being on top of a giant mountain. albq1

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We all love balloons.

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AND MOST OF ALL….. our family kind of digs sunsets. You could say we love them.

Love,

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Lou (who is really good at loving imperfectly)

(and traveling with three kids, turns out)

 

 

 

 


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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,

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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.)