Wednesday, July 4, 2018

First Comes Vulnerability, Then Comes Freedom

A year ago today, the 4th of July was very heavy for me. I was two days out from finalizing my divorce. I was ready for it, and at the same time, so unsure of what that meant for my future and for Liam's. Independence day held a lot of meanings for me in 2017. And this year, its equally as big.

Last year, on July 4th, I was watching kids do sparklers, eating burgers off the grill, and taking photos of Liam lighting smoke bombs. I was hoping for a fresh start and had been waiting for it for quite a while. I had spent the entire previous year growing, learning, figuring out who I was independently... and it felt incredible. So, two days later, on July 6th 2017, I walked into the courthouse and a judge declared me divorced. She handed me my divorce decree and a clean slate. It feels like so much more time than just a year has passed... but that's when it was - July 6th, 2017, a whole 363 days ago. And the very next day, I had my first date with Rusty.
This year, Independence day is really big... its my first one with Rusty, and we're about to celebrate our 1 year anniversary - July 7. Vulnerable moment... I had a lot of fears about broadcasting that timeline fact ... fears of judgement predominately. All the "whoa, that was quick" comments... but I won't be ruled by fear. I'm not going to let my old people-pleasing-self allow her joy to be stolen by the opinions of others.  I'll step out in vulnerability and TRUTH and own the fact that Rusty and I waited to have a first date until my divorce was final because vows matter to me even if I'm the only one upholding them, and choosing to date Rusty the very next day was not a "quick" or impulsive decision. Its also not one I have to defend. And that's hard for me.
Our First Date :) 

Nearly a year ago, I had no idea I was going to fall head over heals in love with Rusty when I agreed to this first date. But I knew I was allowed to exercise my independence. I knew I was honoring my heart in waiting until a judge who is a perfect stranger to me declared it official. And I had spent the year and a half before that date, living on my own and working on my heart and healing. Now, that man who took me on a first date on July 7, 2017 is marrying me in just 93 days. He's changing my name in 3 months and I'm continually blessed by his heart for the Lord, for me and for Liam.
When those little lies sneak in that its too fast, or I begin to worry about the thoughts and opinions of others, I remind myself of Truth. I remind myself of independence day. I remember how hard I fought for myself and for Liam for felt safety, and overflowing love. I remind myself that there is no socially acceptable timeline on the redemptive love story God is writing for me. I've learned along my journey, that in order to feel truly free from something, to get out from under the shame of my messy life, I first have to be vulnerable. So this is a step in vulnerability for me - this is an exercise in my freedom and independence. And I won't listen to those lies that creep into my head, because as the Lord pointed out to me a couple weeks ago - I'm putting in the hard work and there's been nothing quick about it. I moved out and started healing me and my heart 900 days ago today. I marry Rusty in 93 days, so by the time we exchange vows and start our married life together, it will be just shy of 1000 days. There is absolutely nothing fast about 1000 days. There is nothing impulsive or rebounding. There is just my redemptive love story. And God is the the author of all the best Love Stories.

Happy Independence day, friends. I hope you remember the bravery of those who have fought hard and those who continue to fight for us to be where we are today... and I hope you can find a fighting bravery within yourself to be proud of who you are, where you came from, and where you are going. Its hard and its vulnerable.  First comes vulnerability, then comes freedom.

Living loved,
T





Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dress Shopping While Loved

These last almost two months have been overwhelming in the very best way. Since Rusty proposed and we set a date, we realized we had 6 months to plan. Well, we are down to 4 months and 2 days to get prepared because we are DOING this!
Through out this process, I keep getting washed in waves of over-taking grace and blessing. I went on Saturday with my #bridetribe to dress shop. It was a first time experience for me and getting to share such a big moment with some of the people that mean the most to me was incredible. Its no secret I was married before... but I never had that dress shopping experience. Nearly 10 years ago, I went to look at attendant dresses with a couple people and just for fun, I tried on ONE dress that we just went with. My mom wasn't there. My best friends weren't there. It was impulsive and it was a box checked off a list. I was completely good with that.
I'm a different person now... Saturday, my mom, and my bridesmaids all went with me to support me and give me feedback as I tried on dress after dress. Ultimately, we ended up at Emily Hart Bridal and .... wow. Every dress was stunning, but that was not what was so amazing. I had the pleasure of actually working with Emily herself as she helped me find THE dress - and the amazing thing was that she asked me so many questions, but very little was about actual dresses - fabrics, beading, lace, necklines, hemlines, all that... that wasn't our focus. She was asking questions about my personality, my relationship, our hobbies and passions, my son, our vision for our wedding. She was formulating a picture of ME and my heart and it lead her to leave my fitting room with 5+ more dresses still to try in my room, to bring me the THE dress. I felt like Emily sought to know my heart for my wedding and my marriage as opposed to just making a sale of a beautiful gown. I felt seen and heard.
You now how you hear about that moment where you just KNOW? Well that happened to me. That dress Emily went to go get, I stepped into it and the INSTANT she zipped me up, I KNEW. I glanced in the mirror and I knew. So, I tried to dry the tears, and I stepped out of my fitting room and onto the platform in front of my #bridetribe. Honestly, I don't know what their initial reactions were because my own thankfulness was flooding over me. I didn't just see a dress or a wedding. I felt like a sought after treasure. I could picture Rusty waiting for me at the alter with a smile on his face ready for me. And I was immediately flooded with feelings of grace and mercy and love. God's design for my life, His timing and His plan.... His unfailing desire for me, for His daughter, to KNOW her worth and to daily feel valued and cherished and spoken for... it was overwhelming. God has used Rusty so often in the last year to show me how much He loves me. Looking at myself in that mirror and seeing in my mind Rusty just waiting patiently for me as he has for so long... there just aren't adequate words. Joy. Peace. Grace. Redemption.
Learning to trust again, trusting to love again, being willing to be vulnerable - those things are risky. And God whispers my worth to me again and again each time I take that step of faith and do the scary thing. Dating Rusty was so scary. Loving him was even scarier... and each day that we grow closer to the Lord and closer to each other, its less scary. I'm human and I still have moments that are lacking in faith and trust in God's design for me. But those moments are farther and further between.  Nearly 10 years later, a lot has changed. I don't want impulsive, un-relational, box checking moments. I want to step into a dress and the first thing I see in the mirror to be how much God has redeemed me and my story... I want to see my value in Him, I want to see the village God grew for me right there with me in these big moments.
I cried joyful tears in my wedding dress on Saturday. I cried because I'm marrying a man who loves the Lord and has let the Lord and other Godly mean teach him HOW to love me, honor me, protect me, lead me, and continue to grow with me. I cried because I could picture it. I cried because its happening in 4 months. I cried because I am deeply loved by the Lord and by a man that He hand picked for me. I cried because I found the dress and got another step closer to "I do."

Living loved,
T

Sunday, April 8, 2018

ENGAGED

The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind. This is going to be one of those stories that leads with the punchline and fills in the gaps as you read, because I can't help but scream WE'RE ENGAGED!!! So there you have it. Your suspicious confirmed; the rumor mill can quiet. Now pull up a seat if you want to know more. This is good.

This past week was CRAZY. Between an urgent care visit on Easter, an out of town wedding during the week, Liam's soccer game, snow in the forecast and my Friday night date night, I could have forgotten it was April. Except that Saturday was the 7th, and Rusty took off work for us to celebrate 9 months of dating! Two date nights in a row! And this date night was especially sweet. He wanted to take Liam to the very spot he took me for my birthday - the Love Lock Bridge, and put a new lock on for Liam, so that we are locked in together - the three of us. I LOVED that idea. I'm so sentimental and so is my boy. We are empaths to the extreme and Rusty was planning to make this grand gesture of love for not just me, but for my boy! I was so excited and even more in love with this guy who pursues my heart AND Liam's heart. 

Saturday, I had a totally laid back day, skipped my morning plans with Liam because he just wanted to play games at home and had a lunch date with one of my favorite people, Christina. After that, I got back home, got dressed for my date, and Rusty picked us up at 5:00pm. We got in his truck and just had fun conversation like always as we drove downtown to the bridge. There were people walking around the bridge just like last time we went, taking pictures and doing their thing. Slowly, Liam starts seeing the locks and immediately wants to find mine and Rusty's. So, we're explaining to Liam the purpose of these locks... how people lock them there to represent that they love them forever. They can come look at it ALWAYS and no one can move it. Then Rusty pulls one out of his pocket with Liam's name on it and the date and hands it to him. Liam is stunned. His love language is gift giving so he's just been handed a TREASURE and the idea of leaving it behind on this bridge is a HARD one. He wants it to be on his person for life. 
So, we talk about it and explain that we're going to lock it with mine and Rusty's so they are locked there together forever. He gets on board with the idea and Rusty says to him, "I need you to help me with something, Liam." Of course, Liam jumps at the opportunity to do nearly anything with Rusty. We get the lock secured with ours and then he picks Liam up and reiterates that we are locked in. He wants us to be a family forever. That he wants us all to do life together forever. Locked in. I'm watching my man hold my boy and tell him these words and I'm just soaking in this sweet moment and then, I hear Rusty's voice get just the tiniest bit shaky... 

Last summer, Rusty introduced me to this movie called The Choice. Its this movie we both LOVE. Super romantic, funny and just so sweet. This guy and girl become neighbors and they annoy each other and bother each other endlessly. As the movie progresses, as all good love stories do, the two fall in love. And as the guy is finally telling the girl that he is in love with her, he says "you bother me.[...] Come bother me, baby." ... I get goosebumps even thinking about that scene! 

So, back on the bridge... I hear his voice shake just slightly and he is looking me straight in the eye and he says, "I want you to bother me every day. I want you to bother me forever." It was at this moment I think I took in a deep breath and just held it. Tears filled my eyes because at that instant, I just knew. And he dropped down to one knee and asked me to marry him. 

I said yes. My hands were shaking. My knees were weak. I forgot that it was only 40 degrees. I just hugged Rusty so tight and tried wrapping my brain around how on Earth this just happened. I was so blindsided and so happy. And Liam said "oh, my gosh. Mom! Your dream came true!" 

Weeks ago, Liam had asked me if I had any dreams. We talk about dreams a lot - like dreams during the night or wishes for life. I had told him that the night before, I had a dream that Rusty gave me a beautiful ring and asked me to marry him, and I told him yes and gave him a big hug. Liam said to me that just like one of his dreams had come true, maybe mine would, too. Fast forward to April 7th and Liam watched exactly that literally play out... he was over joyed. My dream came true. 

So, as we are walking back to the truck and heading to dinner, I'm just thinking of how he pulled this off and I said to him, "does my mom know?" and he paused for a second and said, "you know that day I hung out with Joe and went for a drive? I drove to Arkansas to see your parents that day." Whoa! I had no idea. So then, all these questions start popping into my head! And I realize, Crissie just took me to get my nails done like two days before. She took me as a "thank you" for something else and we just had a fun night hanging out til like 10pm on a Thursday and it hit me... She took me to get my nails done for THIS! She knew! And she played it so cool all afternoon as we talked "date night clothes" and "happy 9 months!" and... dang, she's good. And we pull into the restaurant, and walk in and there are MY PEOPLE. Like a LOT of them.  Yelling surprise... Engagement PARTY! 
Y'all. I prayed to get through one day at a time. I prayed for one minute at a time. Just to get through it. And God said, "I can do so much better than that."
I am over joyed. I sit and think about all the people involved and all the planning and orchestrating and how a room that FULL of people could possibly have kept from letting ANYTHING slip. That my parents and cousin drove hours to be there, that friends took off work, that my closest friends tracked down people they didn't know to make this day special... I feel so incredibly loved and valued. And I was getting ready for church this morning saying to myself... "I have a fiance!" WHAT?! 
One of my close friends told me this morning that this is "another beautiful story of God's redeeming love for His daughters. You were brave. Stepped out in faith. Followed your heart. Did the work. Now you get to revel in His goodness to you!" I am thankful for a God who redeems, for a man who pursues the Lord first, so that he can pursue my heart, and for the people who have gathered around in support and love. 

We're engaged, y'all! And I can't wait to spend my life with Rusty. My life on this Earth just got a whole lot sweeter. 

Living loved, 
T