Ten Years

While I was born in Ohio, I grew up in North Carolina. It will always be home to me, the place I spent my childhood and “grew up” and fell in love with Jesus.

I learned to drive there, I made lifelong friends, I experienced heartache and grief and joy and growth.

Ten years ago I celebrated my first birthday back in Ohio! A decade now of birthdays and life after coming back “home” to where I was born and growing up for real.

Celebrating my first birthday back in Ohio, learning “The Art of Being Happy.”

I’m turning 29! The last year of my twenties. I know that’s still really young to all the people who’ve lived a lot more of life than me, but the Lord has taught me a lot in these few years I have (and I know He has so much more to share).

In honor of my tenth Ohio birthday, I wanted to share ten lessons I’ve learned in my time here.

1. Crazy Faith Looks Like Crazy Obedience

I remember attending a youth conference when I first moved. During this season Crazy Love by Francis Chan was super popular, as well as the song Crazy Love by Hawk Nelson.

If you’ve ever attended a Christian conference you might know the “conference high” after you get refreshed and hyped for Jesus again.

We attend conferences and get amped up, on fire again after a stagnant season. We go home encouraged, ready to take on the world, spread the good news. Right?

But eventually that amped feeling fades. Because the conference high isn’t sustainable. What keeps the fire alive is intimate relationship with your Savior, not any certain speaker or worship singer.

Then, when God asks Crazy Love level stuff, we hesitate. We fear what people might think. We worry about the financial aspect. The “how.” Sometimes we don’t obey.

On the flip side, there are times we hear the call for crazy faith and we do step out. And “the world” doesn’t get it.

Nominal Christianity won’t get “it” either because it doesn’t make sense to human logic.

A friend once shared with our young adults group the time the Lord called her and her husband to tithe their entire paycheck.

If memory serves me correctly, they were paycheck to paycheck and in between jobs at the moment.

That sounds ludicrous and makes zero sense to the average human brain, right?

Yet they obeyed.

And God honored their faith and blessed their finances several times over that week; rent was paid for, her husband got a job, and they were blessed with an advanced check.

God asks some wild things of us sometimes… Give up an ivy league for the mission field. Donate your bonus to a homeless shelter.

My husband and I eloped at 20 + 19 years old and everyone thought we were nuts. Horrible things were said to us, I was almost pressured into signing an annulment by family, and it was a really rough beginning because of the opposition we faced.

Many people thought we made a really stupid decision, but we felt God led us to do so.

Was it always easy? No. But following God and obeying isn’t always easy. It’s often wild, crazy, and takes a lot of courage and hard work.

If we hadn’t stepped out in crazy faith we wouldn’t have the life we have now or be in the season we are now and I can’t even fathom it!

There’s been several crazy faith moments in my life but this one gave me everything I am so grateful for. Definitely worth it.

2. Romance Looks Different From What “They” Tell You

When Justin was pursuing me he took me to church, brought me medicine when I was sick, and made me laugh so much.

We had weekly date nights, went to the movies and geocaching, dinner out, all that good stuff.

But ten years in romance Looks different than the early puppy love. It looks like a husband that listens. It looks like learning what an anxiety attack and helping me through it with patience.

Romance is emergency take out dinners when he’s heard I’ve had a bad day, surprising me with my favorite pop, learning with me how to parent our kids well.

It’s brewing my coffee for me in the morning when the baby nursed all night. Setting firm boundaries to protect me. Hanging twinkle lights without complaint when I can’t reach.

Romance in the movies looks attractive (and sometimes unrealistic, honestly) and then marriages are so often portrayed as dry, loveless, and lacking.

With intentionality, purpose, and thorough communication romance doesn’t have to die off. It can shift and look different, but it gets better and better!

Love can age well.

Every year has been filled with more fun, more passion, more laughter, and more tenderness.

I still love surprise flowers and dinner dates. But I so love the quiet ways we get to love each other too.

Helping me through labor with our third 🧡

3. Boundaries Are Vital

I majorly struggle with people pleasing. I have had a hard time saying no to things, to people, because I don’t want people to dislike me.

In the past few years I’ve learned how unhealthy that is. My mental health is important because it directly impacts my life and family, and taking on too much affects it.

The health and well-being of my spouse and kids is top tier, and we can’t say yes to it all, or they suffer.

This can be anything from jobs, ministry, school opportunities, family, friends… You name it. Sometimes we have to say no. I can’t. We aren’t able to take that on.

Without excuses, without over explaining or justifying. If something isn’t serving you and your family, you don’t need permission or some grand circumstance to turn it down or say “this isn’t okay.”

You can’t speak to me like that. We can’t do that. No.

This isn’t always easy (what in life is). You will inevitably receive backlash, anger, and plenty of upset when you or every aspect of your family/time/finances etc aren’t readily accessible.

It’s always worth it to protect your family, your marriage, your mental health, your home, your budget, and your time.

4. I’m Worthy Of Good Things

I grew up thinking I was an inconvenience. It felt like I was a problem that ruined my mom’s life, that stole her freedom, and I wasn’t worth it (whatever “it” was in my little mind).

The burden sat heavily on my shoulders for far too long. It’s an inner voice I still have to ignore and fight off sometimes (aka way too often).

“The way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice” hits me hard. Because it’s so true.

But I’m not an inconvenience. I was designed by a Creator who fashioned me carefully, every detail for a reason. I was created with purpose for a purpose.

I’m not useless, I’m not an imbecile, I’m not worthless. These are not my identity.

My identity is beloved. Daughter. Redeemed. Worth dying for. Treasured, adored, fiery, lovely.

His voice is louder than all the rest, when I remember to listen.

I’m worthy of good things. I’m worthy of joy, love, laughter, and friendship.

I deserve people in my life who love me well, respect me, and don’t mistreat me. I don’t need to accept treatment that doesn’t align with that.

5. Feelings Aren’t Facts

I used to think if I felt something, it was true. This was before I learned that anxiety is a liar, that my inner dialogue can be abusive talk still ingrained in me, and that the heart can be deceptive.

We need to keep our thought life in check. We can hold space for hard feelings but we can’t keep holding on to them, lest they become bitterness taking root in our hearts.

I might feel ______ but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s truth. I might entertain ______ for so long and it’s fine, but then it spirals me into a bad place for my heart.

The what-if’s and the but if I‘s aren’t helpful. Intrusive thoughts aren’t reality. And assuming the worst doesn’t actually prepare me for anything.

I could feel like my husband is mad at me because his tone was off, assume the worst, and act out of that assumption and let it affect my mood and behavior towards him…

Or I can assume the best and turn those thoughts around, maybe he’s having a hard day, maybe he needed to burp and it came out funny (I speak from experience).

I can communicate with him and ask instead of assuming the worst.

Learning about feelings and the power of my thought life has been a game changer for me and my freedom and emotional regulation.

6. It’s Okay To Have Bad Days

I used to think if I had a bad day, and wasn’t cheerful all the time, or made a mistake/lost my temper/had an attitude that I was a bad Christian.

We have to be the salt of the earth! I have to be a witness. I need to be the light in the darkness and if I appear to be a human with emotions outside of joy ever than no one will want to know Jesus.

This is not healthy. God gave us emotions, and we can use them as tools to understand what’s going on in and around us.

Losing my temper with my kids after an exhausting day doesn’t make me a bad mom.

Sometimes I’m snarky because I haven’t eaten and my blood sugar is dropping! (Hello, fellow hangry people.)

It’s okay to have a day where things go wrong, or dinner gets burnt, or I yell or spill coffee.

A bad day doesn’t mean a bad life.

A bad day doesn’t mean I’m a failure. And it doesn’t mean I’m a bad Christian. I’m just a human with humanness, who happens to also live Jesus.

7. My Too-Muchness Isn’t For Everyone

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard “you’re too much.”

It’s been said in jest, in anger, in exasperation. It used to hurt a lot.

I don’t wear it as a wound anymore though. It’s a unique badge of honor that I wear proudly (sometimes… Haha).

See, I am a lot. I’m loud, all the time. I am loud in every color and emotion! I am passionate about many things.

There’s some weird stuff too, like sensory overload, stuttering, major fantasy adventure nerdom, ADHD behavior (I could write a whole novel on that topic alone)…

The whole package of *waves at all this* can be a lot for some people. And this really bothered me (recovering people pleaser that I am) for a very long time. I had to prove myself to them, and I was crushed when my Too-Muchness wasn’t their cup of tea.

Some people think I’m weird (I am, but they do in the “that’s a bad thing” way). Some people think I’m too loud. They don’t get it about how I am.

That’s okay. I don’t need to be everyone’s friend.

There are people that love all my Too-Muchness and adore it. My volume, my Lord of the Rings quotes, my passion about whatever soapbox I happen to be on. And I treasure them.

And I try not to hold it against the people who don’t like my Muchness haha.

8. I Am Resilient

My anxiety might like to lie and tell me otherwise, but dare I say – I am resilient. I’m going to toot my own horn here. (My husband inspired me to write this one so I have permission, I won’t be cocky I promise!)

I can do hard things. I have been through the RINGER and back, okay? It’s too much to even sum up in here.

As I mused what I should include here, my husband brought this up to me. That even in darkness and “the depths of despair” (if you’re my level of nerd you’ll get the quote) I don’t give up.

My faith has been through the ringer too, but it just goes deeper.

This lesson is 1000% God, not me. His grace alone has gotten me through suicidal seasons, miscarriages, backstabbing and so much more.

I am resilient because I cling hard to the hem of His garment. Sometimes I’m holding on by a thread, or the skin of my teeth! But guys, I’ve tasted and seen His goodness. It’s all that matters. It’s what’s kept me alive.

This one could take an entire series, a few paragraphs here won’t do it justice. It’s coffee date level. Jesus has brought me through it all, His strength is what makes me resilient.

9. Gratitude Is The Key

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:17‭-‬18

It’s easy to complain. It’s so easy to focus on the bad and not see the good. I got so stuck in that cycle, viewing life through the negativity lens.

It’s where my Finding Daily Delight project came from. I wanted to rewire myself to look for the little things to take delight in again and practice gratitude.

I could list countless scriptures about thankfulness and gratitude! It’s repeated so many times.

Think about it, if you are focusing on the negative only, it will affect your attitude. (Remember earlier when I mentioned thought life? Mindset matters!)

This isn’t about toxic positivity. This is about operating from a grateful heart space. Holding space for the both//and, where you can have both hard moments and joy, and not settling into despair.

Paul was able to worship and praise from a prison cell. David wrote Psalms crying out “where are you God?!” in one breath and worshipping Him in the next breath.

We can too. Both//and. Gratitude unlocks next-level joy and peace.

10. I Like Who I Am

It’s okay to be different and weird and like strange things. I used to despise that about myself.

Surely, I thought, if I just dress more normal or liked this type of music or hopped on that diet wagon or this fad I would come across as more normal and then people would like me.

This was before I discovered my Too-Muchness. Striving to be what people wanted me to be so I’d have their approval led to a lot of unhappiness on my end.

I’m loud, I am neurodiverse, my playlists on Spotify range from anthem worship to punk rock to folk and bluegrass.

I like who I am. I like the things I like because those things make my soul come alive.

Lake Erie might be a smelly mess to some people but it’s where I feel Jesus next to me in the car. I love that I love Lake Erie, I love that Jesus meets me there.

I like that I cry during Hallmark Christmas movies. I’m “sensitive” and feel all the things and Hallmark movies are a safe, cathartic release.

There is not box for me to fit into, my design is unique just as yours is. Quirks, dislikes, the things that make us laugh… Trying to change or fit into someone else’s peg is pointless.

I enjoy who I am growing into. I’m excited to see who I am in ten more years!

29th birthday selfie – 10 years after that Barnes and Noble date night

Here’s the thing about all of these lessons: I don’t have one of them mastered. God still works on these same lessons with me.

Even my birthday today. 90% of this post was already written. My morning was splendid, but by afternoon some stuff hit the fan. My birthday wasn’t sunshine and rainbows.

It could have ruined the rest of my night. I had to fight off those thoughts that I was a failure again. But as my oldest says, we had a restart! The rest of my birthday evening was redemptive and sweet.

Happy ten birthday, Ohio. I’m so glad to be home. When I celebrated my first birthday here I never imagined in a decade I’d be watching my daughters run around our front yard from my porch. This is what dreams are made of 🧡

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