I Wonder if Dreams are a Gift from God

I don’t remember all my dreams. I could count on one hand the number of dreams I remember having. Sometimes I’ll remember a dream right when I wake up, but it slowly fades as I start my day. 

Then there are the other dreams – the dreams that never leave my mind. One dream I’ve held onto for years, the other occurred just the other night and I have a feeling I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. I know there have been other dreams throughout my life – we dream every night – but most don’t make sense or we simply can’t remember. 

Sometimes I wonder if the dreams we do remember are sent from God as a way of comforting us. Perhaps they’re just figments of our imagaination, but yet, I can’t help but wonder. The dreams I remember are the ones that leave me with a new sense of hope and promise for the future. 

The first dream I recall vividly occurred a couple weeks after my dad died. I dreamed my dad, mom, brothers, and I were all driving to a nearby town. My brothers and I were crammed into the backseat of the car – we hadn’t all ridden together in years and I didn’t understand why we were now. I sat directly behind my dad. I was very confused. I remembered him dying, but his body was before me. Dream me asked him about it. “Dad, you died. I know you died. How are you here?” I questioned him. He glanced in the rearview mirror back at me. The words dream dad said still comfort me to this day. “God knew you needed me so He sent me back for the day, but I can’t stay, I have to go back.” Dream me accepted this answer. I awake with a new sense of peace. Like everything was going to be okay. And it was. Overtime, everything was okay. 

The other dream I vividly remember occurred the other night. I’ve currently been knee deep in this book all The Single Woman by Mandy Hale. It’s a great book – very empowering and uplifting. While I love being a single woman at the moment, and that book helps me remember why, deep down in my soul I still long to be a mother – one day, when the time is right and if God chooses to bless with marriage and children. As I fell asleep that night, I dreamed a wonderful dream. I was in the hospital. I was standing and looking over the bed where this beautiful baby boy was laying. I knew immediately that this precious bundle was my son. I stood there – completely amazed. Dream me took in every detail about him and was amazed – everything that had happened in life had led dream me to that moment – and dream me was sure she would do it all over again. I didn’t see my husband. I couldn’t tell what hospital we were in. I wasn’t sure when it was. However, I awake completely content with a new sense of hope that maybe, just maybe, my dreams would come true one day. 

Now, I’m not saying God sent either of those dreams to me. They very well could be figments of my imagination that my subconscious created to bring me a sense of peace. I just awake feeling better than I had in a long time. 

And so sometimes I wonder if dreams are a gift from God – reassuring us that everything will be okay, our dreams and hopes for the future will come true – we just have to hang on a little longer and perhaps a little tighter. 

Advertisements

Learning to Love My Body – Even on the Days I Don’t

It’s not always easy to love your body. Sometimes I find myself staring at the mirror – completely unhappy with the image I see staring back at me. There are days when the quotes posted around my bathroom mirror do nothing to lift my mood. When I can’t even find something on Pinterest to make me smile. Days when I go to the gym and leave feeling like my body has failed me – or worse, I’ve failed my body. 

No one said loving my body was going to be easy. It’s a struggle. I feel like I should be able to run faster and harder and further. I can’t believe I didn’t go three miles. That piece of candy was too good to say no to. I want to be at my goal now. I’ve inbarked on the biggest patience test I’ve ever taken – being patient with myself and my progress, and sometimes, my lack of progress. 

On the days when I find it difficult to love myself, I focus on liking myself instead. Liking myself enough to eat healthy. Liking myself enough to understand when my body needs a break. Liking myself enough to listen to what my body is trying to tell me. My body and I are on the same side – it’s a team effort and we’re learning how to work together instead of fighting with each other like we’ve been doing for years. My body wants to be healthy and I want to get it there. On the days when I don’t love my body, I like it instead. 

Love is difficult. It easier to be harder on yourself than anyone else. It’s easier to deny yourself love and feel like you don’t deserve it. Even when I know I have a great support system that wants to see me succeed, there are days when I still beat myself up over the little things. Things that will seem so unimportant in ten years, but for now, I think that piece of chocolate is keeping me from my goal.

Learning to love my body is realizing that some days, it’s okay to settle for liking my body instead.

However, I will never hate it. Never. No matter how badly I feel I’ve failed myself, I will never look at my body with disgust.

My body is my home. It’s where my soul dwells. One day it will hopefully house my growing children. It’s a map of all the places I’ve been. My scars and bruises and imperfections are battles that I’ve won. The small mole on my arm is unique to me – there is no one else like me. My feet are big and my front tooth came in at an angle. The scratch marks on my stomach are proof I’ve worked hard to get some weight off and a reminder that I have more to lose. My thick fingers remind me that I’m changing – they’ve already gone down a ring size and there’s more to come. My mind is filled with a million stories waiting to come out. 

There are days when it’s not about loving my body. There are days when loving my body is difficult. There are days when I want to throw in the towel. 

But I don’t – because there are days when learning to love my body is about liking it first. 

Learning to Love My Body – the Doctor Visit

I had my first doctor visit in two decades (give or take) on Tuesday. I actually expected myself to be a lot more nervous than I was. I dragged one of my friends along with me so that definitely helped. I trusted her and I didn’t feel so alone. Plus, while waiting for the doctor, I had someone to laugh and share jokes with (and play with iOS10 with), so that helped to keep me from thinking so much about it. She stepped out for the exam, but just knowing I wasn’t in it alone and had someone along for moral support did me a world of good. 

The doctor was very sweet and no one made me feel bad about not being to see a doctor in so long. Nor did they make me feel guilty for not knowing much about family health history, other than the bits and pieces my mom told me, but even that wasn’t very specific information. From the moment I walked in, I knew they were there to help me. They weren’t there to judge me, but help to make sure I was healthy. They talked me through everything and made sure I understood what they were asking. I couldn’t believe I had been so nervous. 

I told them I was eating healthier and exercising more than I ever had before. No one felt the need to bring it up to me – it was clear I understood this about myself. I did later find it in the paperwork they gave me when I left. But it was put in there as a note. No need to talk to me about it at the moment – I’m making the healthy choices but if I need someone to ask, I have someone to ask. Blogging about weight comes easier to me than talking to “live people” about it – but blogging about it and learning to love my body has also helped to keep me on track. 

Learning to love my body is about doing what I need to do to be a healthier person. Tuesday it was about taking that step to see the doctor, a place that I hadn’t been to since before I could remember. It was about going to a place I knew would help me get to where I want to be – a healthier me. It was about knowing that if something changes with me, I have a place to go and ask the questions I need to ask. I’ve learned how to take care of my skin. I’ve been learning about what I need to put in my body. It was time to learn about what’s going on inside.

Listening to my body is loving it. Understanding my body is loving it. Learning about my body is loving it. 

Learning to Love My Body – Genes Don’t Dictate My Body; I Do

Genes don’t dictate my body; I do. 

I’ve seen this quote on Pinterest for years. It’s always struck a cord with me, but never as much as when I started to learn about my family health history. My doctor’s appointment is today – actually by the time this is posted, it will be over. I have never thanked myself more for the positive change I’m making in my life as when I was filling out that paperwork and asking my mom all these questions about health history. I literally sat there on the phone wondering how it was possible that so many people in my family had so many problems.

Now to be fair, there are so many ‘half’ relatives throughout my family tree that it’s probably going to be impossible to figure out what I’m genetically predispositioned to through family history allow, but still, it was frightening. 

As I said before, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me, I view going to the doctor for a checkup as a step to a healthier me. I haven’t been to the doctor in 20 years, give or take a couple years, and as a 26 year old that’s pretty scary. I want to get set up with a doctor just in case I need one. If I’m sick, I have somewhere to go. If something feels off with my body, I have someone to ask. At the same time, I have someone keeping an eye on me and helping me to be a healthier person. 

At the same time – nothing that I might be genetically predispositioned to is going to stop me from living a healthier life. I know that heart issues run in my family and I can take a stand and fight against those now by eating better and exercising. The same can be said for weight issues. Some things I can’t control – vision loss is common in my family as well, and while I can’t control what my eyes decide to do in the future, I can visit the eye doctor yearly so that he can see what’s going on inside them. 

I dictate my body. I control it. If I want to be healthier, I can do it. I can help stop the cycle of health related issues. I can set a good example for my younger brothers and for my children one day. I can set a good example for myself. At the end of the day, it’s me against myself. Even when I feel that I’m fighting a losing battle because of what other people in my family have faced, I know that I control my body. I control what I put in it. I control the exercise I do. And I love my body because it proves to me that when I put in the time and effort, that it loves me too. 

I dictate my body – not my genes. 

I’m a Christian and I had Sex before Marriage

Author’s Note: I’ve wanted to write this for a while but it’s deeply personal to me. I haven’t spoken of it for years and only a handful of people know what happened. However, remembering how alone I felt at the time, I want to share my experience in case someone else – Christian or not – finds themselves with the same feelings. I felt so alone at the time. I want others to know they are not alone. I understand that everyone has different views on religion and sex – these are my views. Please respect them as it has taken a lot of courage for me to share these thoughts and feelings in a public place.

Also – understand that I was a completely different person back then than I am today. I have grown a lot in the last five years and my actions then are in no way a reflection of what my actions would be today. 

I’m a Christian.

I had sex before marriage. 

Once. 

A little over five years ago. 

The guilt from my actions tore at my soul for the months to come. 

I didn’t really grow up in a Christian household. I knew who God and Jesus were from a young age and I knew that sex was for marriage. The summer before my fourteenth birthday my family started to attend church. I would come to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior in that church. I would learn about being a Christian woman in that church. I would also make a promise to myself in that church – to wait until I was married to have sex. I promised myself and I promised God. I held onto that promise for years – no matter where life took me, I knew I would save myself for marriage. 

Around the time I was nineteen I stopped attending church regularly. I was busy going to school and working, and church was put on the backburner. When I stopped going to church, I stopped working on my relationship with God. I knew who He was and still believed in Him, but life was busy and I stopped putting effort into my relationship with Him. 

Then everything went downhill. My dad died the spring before my twenty-first birthday. I was mad. I was angry. I even dared to tell God that I hated Him on more than one occasion – feelings I knew weren’t true, but I was so upset that I needed someone to blame.

I remember having a conversation a few weeks after my dad’s death about sex and how I didn’t understand anymore why I should wait until marriage to have sex. Everywhere I looked in the media, there was talk about sex before marriage. It couldn’t be bad, right? Add that to my distancing relationship with a God and I was headed down a bad road.

However, I didn’t realize it at the time. I didn’t have the strong support system I now have. People saw me slowly sinking deeper but no one throw me a life vest. I was lost. I was confused. I was tired of being in pain. 

Through all this, there was this boy. He seemed to listen when I talked about what I was feeling. I had known him for years and found myself leaning on him for support. I liked him. I didn’t think I was attracted to him, but at the time, that didn’t matter. I was sinking and needed attention. He was giving me attention. What could possibly go wrong?

I was working late one night and he had invited me over to his house. Pizza and a movie I thought! It seemed like such a normal thing to do and I happily accepted. I got to his house around 12:30/1:00 and we had pizza while watching the movie (what it was I don’t remember) and before I knew it, we were kissing. 

Kissing led to quickly rounding the bases. All of a sudden my hormones were racing. I was no longer upset, I was feeling things I had never experienced and in that moment, they were good things. 

Then he asked that question. That question that haunted me for years.

“Do you want to go upstairs?”

I don’t remember if I said yes or if I just nodded. Probably a combination of the two. I remember holding onto the staircase waiting for him. I remember racing up the stairs and quickly removing clothes. 

I remember laying there and feeling guilty the second we are done. 

This wasn’t my wedding night. 

I had no intention of ever marrying this boy.  

I had just broken the most important promise in my life. 

I quickly got up, grabbed my clothes, and left. 

I haven’t seen the boy since. 

We have texted a handful of times over the years, but I was too angry to ever see him. 

I wasn’t sure if I was angry at him or myself or a combination of the two. I just knew I was angry. I was angry and had no desire to see him again. 

I, by all accounts, lost my virginity to a one night stand. 

It would take me months to come to terms with my actions. 

It was my responsibility to keep my promise to God and I broke my promise. 

I immediately took responsibility for my actions, never once blaming the boy.

I would go through a range of emotions – sometimes feeling as though I was taken advantage of by the boy. Although I didn’t blame him, I had told him everything – I trusted him. I felt like he had taken that trust and used it for his advantage – despite the fact that I said yes to going upstairs. 

A few other things happened that night – details that I do not feel need to be discussed in an open forum. 

I raced home. I cried in my car. I called people at 2:30am crying. 

I would cry for the next several months. 

The next thought to jump in my head – did we use a condom? I thought we did, but in the heat of the moment, maybe we hadn’t used one. I wasn’t on birth control. There wasn’t a reason for me to be on birth control. Panic set it. Now it was a waiting game.

I talked to my Pastor and his wife the next day. I was assured my dad was too happy in Heaven to care that I made a mistake on earth. I was assured that God would forgive me if I asked for forgiveness and truly meant it. 

I must have asked God to forgive me a hundred times a day all summer. Nothing helped. I still felt guilty. I re-committed myself to not having sex again before I was married. But I had already broken that promise once and I no longer trusted myself. 

A month or so later I went to babysit for a friend’s kids. She asked me how my summer was going and I broke down into tears. This amazing Christian woman sat before me. 

How do I tell her that I was literally having the worst summer of my entire life?

I told her my dad had died. 

I told her I had had sex. 

I told her I was scared I was pregnant. 

She looked at me with the most loving eyes ever. 

“Are you okay? Physically are you okay? He didn’t hurt you, right?”

“No. No one hurt me. I said yes. I always said I wouldn’t do that. I said yes and it’s all my fault.”

It was my responbility. It was my fault. No one made me do anything I didn’t want to do. I agreed. I said yes. I was going to take responsibility my for actions. 

She held me while I cried. I don’t remember exactly what she said to me, but I remember feeling completely safe. I held on and refused to let go until I could stop crying. 

She asked if I was okay to still watch her kids and I nodded that I was fine. We watched movies the entire hour or so she was gone. When she came back, we talked more. 

“If you ever need anything, I’m here for you.” 

She told me that before I left. 

I would show up on her doorstep with a pregnancy test a few days later. 

Thankfully the test was negative – my period was just off – probably because of all the stress. 

I still hadn’t forgiven myself. 

I would end up in therapy a few months later. 

Now – I’m not saying the losing my virginity drove me to therapy. For years I had joked that I would end up in therapy eventually. The combination of losing my dad, having sex, and family issues I had never talked about with anyone finally pushed me, with a little help from my friend, to ask for the help I so desperately needed. 

I remember walking into that office that fall for my first therapy session. We went over the general guidelines and then it was up to me to talk about whatever it was I wanted to talk about. But where should I start?

I cried. I cried and rambled out a bunch of things that had happened. I cried and cried and cried. 

I replayed that night over and over in my mind. 

Where had I gone so wrong?

Obviously I was wrong when I said yes. 

But had I gone wrong somewhere else?

Should I have said told him to stop as we started rounding the bases?

How about when we were making out?

Was the first kiss too far?

The arm over my shoulders?

Should I have sat by him on the couch?

Maybe we should have picked a halfway interesting movie?

Were we just bored?

I shouldn’t have brought pizza, right?

Why didn’t I leave?

Why didn’t I leave and run to a friend’s house?

How could he even ask me that?

I told him everything, he had to know I was too emotional to make a decision – why did he ask me?

How could I agree to go to a boy’s house late at night when I didn’t know if any adults were home?

Heck, I am an adult, but maybe there should have been more of an adult there; an adult that had been an adult longer than me. 

Was it a mistake to even talk to this boy in the first place?

I knew I wasn’t attracted to him. 

I brought it all on myself. 

I can’t believe I broke my promise to God!

What is becoming of my life?

I don’t recognize that girl in the mirror anymore!

That girl is so scared. 

That girl is so uncertain. 

That girl is watching her world crash down around her and there is nothing she can do about it. 

Where did I go so wrong?

Where?

Someone tell me where?

I spent a solid few weeks in therapy talking about what happened. 

To a lot of poeple I knew, having sex before marriage wasn’t a big deal. 

It was a fact of life. 

Even normal. 

To me – it was crushing my soul. 

I couldn’t figure out where everything had changed. 

Until I figured out how I had let it happen, I couldn’t move past it. 

My therapist was a Christian as well. 

I started to feel like God was surrounding me with all these amazing Christians. 

Christians who weren’t batting an eye or judging me for what happened. 

I talked to my therapist about the pain. 

The pain of my dad’s death. 

The pain of losing my virginity. 

The pain of my childhood that I had never discussed with anyone else. 

In addition to listening and offering a view on a few things, he continued to ask me one question. 

Why?

He usually asked me this when I told him I didn’t know why I did something. 

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty in tune with myself – even back then. 

I know why I do that I do. 

I may not always admit it right away, but I understand my actions. 

I understand my actions effect other people. 

Those actions also effect my life. 

I remember telling him one day that I had no idea how I had let that happen to me. 

I didn’t understand. 

Why did I say yes?

I remember him sitting in the chair, notepad and pen in hand. 

I was across the room on the couch. 

“Why did you say yes?”

“I don’t know!”

“Yes, you do.”

“I don’t.”

“Think about it. Why did you say yes? You know why you did.”

The easy way out would have been to just say something. Make up an answer. Anything to make my therapist ask me something else. 

But this wasn’t about him. 

It was about me. 

I had come to therapy to for help. I was getting what I asked for. I needed to look deep inside myself to figure out why I had said yes and broken my promise. 

I sat there thinking. I wasn’t on a time limit and knew I could take all the time I needed. I took myself back to that night. That night that I had relived a thousand times in my head. I looked at it from my view a few months out. What was so wrong with that girl that she stopped caring?

It was as if a lightbulb went off in my head. 

I had stopped caring. 

At least I had lied to myself and told myself that I didn’t care. 

I was hurt. I was angry at the world. I had claimed I hated God. I missed my dad and couldn’t imagine living without him. I was so tired of being in pain and I wanted to feel something, anything else. 

In that split second, when that boy asked me if I wanted to go upstairs and I said yes, I did so because in the split second, I didn’t care anymore. 

I didn’t care what God wanted for me. 

He took my dad from me. Obviously He didn’t care about me. If He doesn’t care about me, why should I care for what He wants for me?

The second we were done, I knew I was wrong. The guilt of knowing that I made a huge mistake was soul crushing. The revelation of understanding how I had let it happen started to bring me peace. 

I cried as we sat there. 

“Forgive yourself. You can’t change what happened. It’s okay to forgive yourself.”

I did come to forgive myself. It took a little while, but eventually, overtime, I forgave myself for the mistake I made. 

That’s what it was – a mistake. 

I don’t blame anyone for what happened. 

I don’t blame the boy for asking me. 

I don’t blame the boy because I thought he should have known better. 

I don’t blame the boy for inviting me over. 

However, I learned to not blame myself either. 

I don’t blame myself for saying yes. 

I don’t blame myself for feeling betrayed by the boy. 

I don’t blame myself for going over to the boy’s house. 

I made a mistake. 

I made a stupid mistake. 

I made a life-changing mistake. 

But I grew from it. I learned from it. I turned my mistake around and used it to make me a better person. 

I tried to talk to the boy about what happened a few times but I always got the impression that he wasn’t nearly as bothered by what we did as I was. In the years that followed, we have exchanged a few friendly text messages, but always when he texted first. I never got to talk to him about my feelings from that night. As time passed, I decided I didn’t need to talk to him about it anymore. So much time had passed and it no longer effected me. 

There are moments that I still feel guilt for what happened. Sometimes I think about how my wedding night will be different than what I used to imagine. How I will one day have to explain to my future spouse about the mistake I made when I was younger. 

However, I also know that God has the perfect person out there for me. When I meet that guy who will one day become my husband, he will understand that it was just that – a mistake – and it is in no way a reflection of who I am as a person. Because God has designed the two of us to be perfect together. 

I am a Christian and I had sex before marriage. 

I remade that promise I made to myself as a teenager, only this time I remade it with understanding that I gained through my experience. 

I promise myself, and I promise God, that I will never ever have sex again before marriage. I understand the pain and hurt I, as a Christian woman, felt when I broke that promise. I will never let that happen again. 

I know that not all Christians, or people, feel that way I felt when they have sex before marriage. Everyone has different experiences that shape their view on sex. It’s okay that my experience is different that someone else’s experience. 

I remember feeling like no one understood me. No one was judging me, but they also didn’t understand. Christians having sex before marriage wasn’t talked about back then, and it’s not talked about much now, at least not in the communities I’m surrounded with. 

God forgives us for our mistakes when we ask for forgiveness and truly mean it. I feel that was part of the reason I wanted to recommit myself to my promise. To prove to God that I was very sorry and needed His forgiveness.

Forgiving myself was harder. It took longer. As time passed, I was able to come to terms with everything and forgive myself. 

I needed to forgive myself just as much as I needed God to forgive me. Maybe even more. I knew God would give me His forgiveness when I asked for it. I could deny myself forgiveness forever. I had to learn it was okay to forgive myself. And it is. It is okay to forgive yourself. 

Makeup Free Week

A few weeks back, I wrote about how someone kept commenting that “your makeup looks good today.” I wear makeup because I like it but I never feel that I need to have it. Honestly, I’m more attached to those 10 minutes of sleep I could be getting every morning. However, as I still wasn’t able to shake those words my mind, I decided I needed to do something – I needed to prove to myself that I was comfortable going makeup free for an entire week. While I know I don’t need it to beautiful, I also couldn’t remember the last time I had gone more than a couple days without anything on my face. 

I tend to not wear much, if any makeup on Sunday, so that was an easy day to get through. The first couple days of the work week were slightly more difficult. I found myself staring at everyone else’s makeup, particularly eye shadow and all of a sudden I had a desire to make a good smokey eye. I didn’t cave though – I had set a one week goal for myself and intended to finish. Smokey eyes would have to wait until the week was over. 

Honestly – my favorite part of the week was getting that extra ten minutes of sleep in the morning. I liked knowing I could lay in bed and cuddle with my dogs for a little longer. I also liked the confidence that always comes to me when I go makeup free – it’s a different confidence than when I have makeup on. Although I never care what people think of me, it felt great to be completely fresh faced for the week. 

By the time Saturday came, I knew I had made it. Most of the people around me couldn’t have cared less if I had makeup on my face or not. The ones that always seemed to care didn’t mention that I had suddenly opted out of everything. Maybe people just need something to talk about most days. However, when those days start to get me down, I always feel the need to go back to my basics and who I am at the core of my soul – someone I’m still learning about.

I went makeup free for the week. I got back in touch with who I was years ago. It wasn’t like I had a big revelation or anything. I proved to myself that I really don’t care what people think about my makeup. Then I put on an amazing smokey eye the day the experiment was over. The next day was just a normal amount of makeup for me. And today – there’s BB cream, concealer, brows, and dark circle corrector. Because no matter what is on my face on a given day, I am comfortable with it, and that’s one of the greatest gifts I could ever give myself. 

Almost

Almost is one of the saddest words ever. 

I almost got the job. 

You almost finished the race. 

He almost loved her. 

She almost made it. 

They almost saved that person. 

Almost. 

So close, yet so far away. 

Close enough to reach out, not close enough to touch. 

When your best truly wasn’t good enough. 

But almost can also be the happiest word ever. 

I almost quit – but I didn’t. 

You almost failed – but you didn’t. 

He almost lost her – but he didn’t. 

She almost didn’t make it – but she did. 

They almost didn’t cross the finish line – but they did. 

Almost. 

You were so close to not completing the task, but you did. 

Quitting was not an option. 

You can try and almost make it, but then you’ve failed yourself. 

You can try and almost not make it, but you do make it. 

Almost – the saddest and the happiest word.