On Creating Your Own Safe Space

I want to chat for a minute (or ten) about safe spaces.

Sometimes the places you think you should be safe aren’t, and the places you are afraid to be vulnerable are the best places to do just that.

Have you ever noticed how like attracts like? People with similar (I’m going to call it for the sake of this discussion) trauma seem to find each other. Sometimes people on the outside of your hurt, no matter how close to your heart, cannot understand what you’re going through. There’s a reason humans create support groups, that we seek experiences like our own.

If you are going through something painful, difficult, confusing, or emotionally draining I want to encourage you to seek out a safe place, with safe people, to talk about all that these kinds of life experiences encompass. You might be surprised what and who that looks like.

Your safe place might be with family members. Or it might not. It might be with close friends. It might not. It could be that your safe place is with a professional counselor, or with a group of strangers…gathered because they share a similar need. Someone to understand.

There should be no judgements in your safe place. Dirty laundry isn’t dirty in a safe space. You’re allowed to be selfish, angry, hurt, raw, or whatever you need to be in your safe space. You’re allowed to not make sense, you’re allowed to say bad words, to ugly cry.

Sometimes our traumas need to be held by more than one body. Sometimes we need to spread the burden a little and hear we are not alone in order to cope day to day with the huge thing overshadowing everything else in our lives.

When you start to look around you and decide who is allowed access into your safe space I want to encourage you not to allow guilt to follow those people in. In your safe space there’s no room for guilt over who’s included and who is not. It could be just one person, or it could be a whole group of people. Size doesn’t matter; that’s true for so many things and especially here. What matters is building a trust that gives you the freedom to get brutally honest. What matters is people who love you no matter what ugly stuff you have to say in the moment. Let’s face it -trauma is ugly, pain is ugly. People who hear you and let all of that be ok -that is beautiful.
That is a safe space.

Even if you are thinking you don’t need that, you’ve got this thing handled. Let me just say, oh friend, we all need it at some point. And the blessing of needing a safe space is that when the tide turns you have become someone else’s safe space in the process. That is surely an amazing calling. Being trusted that much, loving someone through the most difficult days of their lives…well, there’s divinity in that, and we might all pray to be so blessed.

Don’t be afraid to mindfully create your own safe space. Don’t let past let downs keep you from trying to find just the right people to let in. Sometimes there’s set backs, no body is perfect. But when you find just the right people, when your safe space comes together and actively holds up that burden for you a little…well, there’s magic in that. I hope everyone is touched with that magic at some time in their lives even when it hurts to get there.

To the people who make up my own safe space -thank you, I love you, I’m so thankful for each and every one of you.

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Asked to Look

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A week ago I joined a Bible Study, one that is familiar -the people, the place- and also new in the word. In the Fall a group of women and I gather to study together, this year we are studying Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. Today I did my first two days of homework and was moved to tears.

During day one Priscilla asks how we approach God; What are your feelings about hearing God’s voice? I said:
I doubt my own worthiness to hear from God and in doing so do not expect Him to speak to me.
I approach God with a doubtful heart instead of the expectant confident heart He wants me to have.

Day two struck a nerve. We are reminded of the story of Abraham and Sarah from Genesis 18:9-18 where God promises them a son at the appointed time. If you know the story you might also know that in their doubt Abraham and Sarah used Sarah’s maid to bring about a child instead of trusting and waiting on God’s promise. Priscilla writes: “While the righteous man trusts God to fulfill His Word, the proud man (self-reliant) depends on himself to bring things to pass.”

It was here my heart started pounding. Did I do that? Did I pray and wait on God or did I move without Him? Are we doing the right thing?
You might be thinking -uh, Steph, I think eight years is a good ‘waiting on God’ time period. If you know me you will know that during this infertility struggle we’ve prayed and asked and begged and tried to move and not felt right and changed our minds. You will know I struggled with how far to go into treatment, is choosing IVF not trusting God?

All of those fears rose up within me today. Have I done something wrong? And, so not knowing what else to do in my panic, I prayed. Father, is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Did I lack enough patience? Did I not wait on you? Is this bound to failure because I’m going about it all wrong? Tears were falling, heart was pounding, fear and doubt were building…and then I heard Look.

“Look…Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days…”   – Habakkuk 1:5

So I did. I took a deep breath and I looked back over the unfolding of this story and I saw the God has guided our family even in my doubts and fears. He has stilled my rush to move when it needed to be stilled, and He has opened doors to move us forward when it was time to go. God has provided a way for us to do IVF; financially, emotionally, physically.

He has provided a doctor and nurses I adore and wouldn’t want to go through this without. There’s no one else but them for our journey, they are important.

He has provided a supportive and encouraging community to surround us. Would we have had these people through other routes to children? Of course, but it’s not a coincidence I have several science/medicine loving friends who are all in to talk about the process we’re doing. They’re interested, fascinated, want to be a part of this difficult journey. That’s a God thing.

I have sisters and brothers in infertility walking the road with me. Some up ahead who have their miracle babies and are cheering telling us don’t give up. Some right along side crying the same tears when it gets hard, and moaning the same moans as we trudge on. I’m not in any moment of this alone and that is possibly the most important part of the journey.

God made us for community and connection and through the last eight years He has steadily built mine. I married into the family He knew I needed. I found a church with leaders He knew I needed. Within that church I found a circle of friends that are irreplaceable. His hand moved when I met my best friend’s husband on new-member class day (in a room full of people he sat down next to me), and it moved again when I joined a Bible Study and found her sitting across from me (only later realizing the connection). His hand moved each time from one friend I met another, and another, and another. As our stories unfold together and we have a million Me too! moments, God is there knowing these are the people I needed for the journey. He’s been building the village our children will grow up in slowly, steadily, faithfully. He’s given us to one another for a reason.

What I learned today, what has the tears streaming down my face as I write this, is that I am not unworthy. Those doubts, those fears, those moments when I question my faith, my hope, my trust, my belief -that is not God. That is the enemy trying to break what God is building, trying to blind me to the blessings in the struggle, the glory in the journey. I must come back to Him in those moments and remember that He asks me to look.

Look and see what He has done, do not doubt what He is doing.

Every Little Minute

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It’s time to start again. The forced hiatus we’ve been on while my body healed and recalibrated is hopefully going to be over very soon. Tomorrow, if things go the way they should.

I’ve been fortunate this week to be busy enough not to dwell on the ifs and whens. Fortunate not to be stuck inside my own head with questions that don’t get answers until it’s all over. In the grand scheme of things this process is pretty quick, especially compared to 8 years of waiting. But, in the day to day it is excruciatingly long, and the calendar of meds and appointments overwhelming.

I’ve learned to work through hard stuff one thing at a time -sometimes I’m good at it, sometimes I’m not- but coming back to the process over and over helps. How will I get through the next couple of months? A minute, an hour, a day, a week at a time.

Sometimes in the big and scarey every little minute matters. The minutes when my stomach hurts and churns in anticipation of things I can’t control. My period will start on time and we move forward, or it won’t and we wait. The minutes my head is pounding and diving towards a migraine while I worry if the meds will cause awful side effects, or not work at all. The minutes my throat is choked with tears and the fear that it’s all for nothing drowns me. The minutes I cry out to God to just get me through the next wave and help me keep my head above water while I try to reason with anxiety that can’t be reasoned with. The minutes I take a deep breath and look in the mirror and tell my self this is happening for a reason and I can do it and it’ll get better and just keep going.

All the minutes matter; the hard and scarey ones aren’t for nothing.

I’ll be the first to admit that some days it sounds like complete shit. Because what I want to know is Why? and How? and Please God, are we done yet? and the only being I know with answers isn’t giving them to me. But I also know that a simple act of empathy can make someone else’s struggle a tiny bit easier. And, let’s be real, people, we all struggle with something. This whole big living thing is a give and take. It’s sometimes being the one who borrows strength and sometimes being the one who gives it -more often than you realize it’s doing the two things at once.

Eventually -and oh my word sometimes that feels like forever- those difficult minutes pass and then you know not to take the good minutes for granted. The minutes you’ve forgotten to worry about what might or might not happen in two days or two months or two years because today was full up. The minutes when you are just being; just talking to a friend, just thinking about what you’ll wear on tonight’s date, or writing the grocery list. The minutes when Matthew 6:34 is possible.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

It’s easy to take the good minutes for granted. Easy to forget that those happy minutes are precious and the people that fill them up are blessings. When you spend too much time in the dark you can forget how good the light can be. How much that light that life is worth fighting to get to. The process of hunting for a path back to the light can be just flat out exhausting. It takes courage to keep on going. It takes an awesome depth of strength and perseverance to fight darkness that lives inside your head. It takes a supernatural faith to believe the hard minutes are worth the effort and you are worth the fight.

What I know is this: every little minute can be different, and you do whatever you can to get to the next one.

Sometimes you hit your limit and that was far enough. Say no when you need to. This isn’t a competition. You are allowed to disappoint people and make them mad. The good ones forgive and are waiting when you’re ready, the others aren’t meant to be yours. Knowing when you need to ask for help and focus on self-care is important. Surround yourself with people that value you for who you are and allow your process to be whatever you need.

Sometimes those same people help you push yourself until you’re sure you’ll break. They help you do it scared because they believe in you, and they know you might find out you can do things you thought were impossible. You can do hard things.

I can too.
Thanks for reminding me.

Eight

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Eight is the number of years this man has called me wife.

Eight seems like forever and no time at all.

Lots of people think that the rush of falling in love is the best part but I whole-heartedly disagree. This. This right here is my best part. I’ll take this over falling in love all over again any day.

I’ll take every tear shed.
I believe him when he rubs my back and tells me it’ll be okay. When he surprises me with his thoughtfulness. When I am overwhelmed and he carries the burden.

I’ll take every laugh.
The little ones that come just from a cocking of the eyebrow in the way he knows that gets me. Those belly laughs when I can’t breathe and nearly fall off the bed. The triumph when I get him to really laugh out loud and his amusement when he does the same to me.

I’ll take every surprise.
When what I thought I had figured out changes and I learn something new about him. When he teaches me something new about myself.  When he knows my thought before I can speak it.

I’ll take every eye roll.
When he pushes the joke a little too far. When his sarcasm and stubbornness join forces. When I’ve asked the same question just to be really really really sure. When my sense of justice and loyalty rain fire.

I’ll take every annoyed sigh.
When he says yes when I wanted him to say no (or vise versa). When he tells me to wait. When he wins the argument and I… don’t.

I’ll take every familiar touch.
When he grasps my hand it’s confidence and comfort not flirtation. When I can’t sleep until I’ve scooted back into his chest and pulled his arms around me. When I’m so excited he’s mine I hang on like a rabid spider monkey.

I’ll take every kiss.
Our three times to say: I. Love. You.
Always. Because I do.

Eight is not nearly long enough and I hope we never find out what is.

♡♡♡

Today we have our (please dear Lord) last IUI, and then we wait to see if eight is our lucky number.

Don’t Go It Alone

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You should know that when I go through hard stuff I tend to curl up and find a familiar hole to crawl into. I hide, I take refuge, I go inward. You should also know I try very hard to reach out when I need to, even though it feels strange. It like I’m burdening people I love, it feels needy and helpless and I don’t really like it.

Growing up means coming to terms with the fact that sometimes you really need the things you don’t like. (Is anyone else crinkling their nose up at some awful medicine on a spoon from childhood?) God made us for connection, He made us to need each other, and He made us to need Him.

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. {Romans 12:4-5}

One body, each unique, each with a different purpose or gift, each a member of a greater whole. We are meant to connect to each other, share our lives, ask for help and give help in return. When one part of your physical body hurts other parts can compensate for the injury. When you feel joy you don’t feel it in an isolated part of your body, joy is all-encompassing. All the parts of your body work together to help carry a load, they also work together when you rejoice. So it should be with our community. 

Recently, when I was having a hard day, I went looking for some encouragement and found just what I needed in Holley Gerth’s book The ‘Do What You Can Plan’. I borrowed Chapter 4’s title for this blog post because it just encouraged me when I needed it most.  The verse she used for this chapter is Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.

Two are better than one,  because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Holley talks about the journeys we all go through on our way to reaching our goals and she mentions something I far too often forget: Reaching a goal is much more satisfying when you have people alongside of you, encouragers, who know the messy backstory.

If you let others into you journey and cheer them on as well, you’ll not only go further but find much more joy all along the way. {Holley Gerth}

When you think about the people in your community, in your spiritual body, and you think about the people you want to share your journey with, remember you get to choose. You get to choose to share your journey with encouragers, with people who speak with wisdom and not criticism, with people who guide you back to faith.

I’ve been thinking about the journey I’m on so very much recently…I’ve been thinking about its success or failure and what that means if I share it here. I don’t like to be embarrassed or vulnerable and my great big messy life has plenty of room for that.

I’ve also been thinking about what it means to feel isolated in a crowd. Knowing you’re not alone in whatever messy life you call yours is such a passion of mine. My friends can certainty attest,  I don’t care if we agree on all the things, I just need you to know I’m willing to listen. When one of my spiritual body (I refer to these people as MY people) has a need my instinct is to say “What can I do?” Because, let’s be real, when you’re hurting or frustrated or scared and you have the courage to reach out the last thing you need is someone to criticize how you got there.

I’m passionate about people knowing there’s always someone to call. I’m passionate about people not being made to feel embarrassed when they ask for help. I’m passionate about saying “you are not alone”. So when I think about the things I have to share in this space I realize sometimes being the vulnerable voice is scary and uncomfortable, but someone might need me to go first. I’m certainly willing to try.

Let’s talk about our journeys and our goals. Let’s find more joy along the way. Let’s start here:
What are you passionate about?

The Time Is Now

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I’ve been thinking a lot about waiting recently…

Waiting for the right date on the calendar. Waiting for the right feeling. Waiting for someone else to make the first move.  Waiting for a specific event, a sign. Waiting for the fear to go away.

You could wait yourself into nothingness. You could wait and never do.

When my husband’s father and grandmother had a major life altering car accident in November we had been stuck in a cycle of endless waiting. But like life altering things do -we were shaken- woken up to the fact that The Time Is Now. No guarantees, no better day, no better occasion, or prefect moment.
Now.

I had been gifted a lovely journal for my birthday and I was waiting to use it. Saving it for a really good reason to”mess up” the crisp, clean, pretty pages. Saving it for January 1st perhaps, or the day we got a positive pregnancy test. You see I love journals, I love writing, but sometimes the possibility in a bright and shiny new something leaves you paralyzed with finding just the *right* moment, the right inspiration, the perfect words.

Here’s the thing-
There is no *right*, there is no perfect.

The whole of life is one big beautiful imperfect mess. You can’t order and organize it out. Oh, you can try, you can tell yourself that if you wait things fall into place or you can wait until you force them there. And then life can drop a bomb in the middle of your tidy plans and remind you: If Not Now Then When?

Don’t take your moments for granted, you could lose years in a well of waiting. You could lose joy and laughter and time with loved ones to that well. Open up to the hard things, take a deep breath and step into the scary places, make a choice for importance and let go or show up as needed. Take a deep breath and breathe through it. Even on the days you’re shattered and think you can’t go on, you do. It’s amazing and crazy and you’ll say “I can’t believe I did that. ” The things you’ll learn about yourself and the people in your life might surprise you. You might find that an awkward, shaky step forward feels really good and leads to another. You might find yourself re-engaged and re-energized for life. Step out in faith, jump in fear, get going friend -the time is now!

Dear little-girl-me…

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It’ll be okay.
That’s the most important thing I have to say to you. It’ll be okay.
You will be okay.

The teasing from the other kids doesn’t mean nearly as much as it feels like it does right now. When you grow up being short doesn’t make you any less awesome. Being smart isn’t something you need to hide. Not being good at sports shouldn’t keep you from enjoying them. (One day your husband will teach you that and it’ll open your eyes to so much fun!)

Speaking of husbands…
He’s out there. The right one, the best one for you. It’s okay to wait for him. The road seems long and hard, I understand, and you’ll think you’ve found him a couple times before you know -and you will know- that he is the one. You won’t doubt, you’ll know by his kindness, his generosity, his faith, his love of family, his willingness to do and care for others. You’ll know by his shyness, his smile, his teasing and his love of laughter. You’ll know him, trust me, just wait, he’s so worth it.

One day being an individual will mean so much to you. This desperate feeling you have to fit in will go away and you’ll wonder why it was ever there in the first place. The people who need you to fit in to a mold to be a part of their lives are the ones you want to leave behind. The people who meet you and love the true you, the ones who feel misfit just like you -hold onto them. They are life’s true blessings. You’ll make real friends, I promise, ones who lift you up and celebrate your quirks. Friends like family -they are out there waiting for you, too.

Little-girl-me,
I know the road in front of you is shadowed and full of big scary things. Giant life questions you can’t begin to wrap your brain around. I know people seem mean and scary, that judgment and teasing make it hard for you to want to be among them. I know you’d rather live in a story book and daydream than face the kids on the bus and at school.

Being a shy introvert will never be easy. You were made that way, and sometimes the world doesn’t understand people who are made differently than most. But God does, he made you that way for a reason. Being shy and introverted will give you a compassionate spirit for other people who have challenges the world doesn’t understand. And compassion is a blessing, don’t wish it away.

I know asking for help is hard, it will always be hard. But, I also know people are basically good. Your parents instill in you a security that many kids don’t have. You have a support group built in this crazy family of yours. They’ll pray you back to the right road when you wonder off. They’ll tell you you are loved no matter how many times you scoff, or how hard it is for you to believe it.  They won’t always do everything right, they won’t always understand you. That’s ok. Nobody’s perfect. Just trust they love you. They do.

One day you’ll finally learn that God has blessed you with a hope so big you can’t talk yourself out of if. That he’s molded a heart for people and hands for making. Embrace who you are made to be because your differences make you beautiful. Your journey with faith will be a long one, filled with ups and downs and what feels like more questions than answers. Don’t give up on it, He never gives up on you.

So, little-girl-me, Hard stuff is to come.
Life is hard, but the hard stuff makes the good stuff better -and you a better you. And, oh there will be good stuff too. Great stuff. The things that make your heart nearly burst with love and joy. Unimaginable beauty in everyday life, His glory in unexpected places, laughter so big you’ll fall right out of bed…those things are coming too. Enjoy the journey, you only get the one.

» It has been a long while since I could really call myself a compassion blogger, but this is the month to renew that commitment. I’m joining many who are inspired by their love of helping others to write and share it in our spaces. I’m a Compassion sponsor and so much of what I would tell my little-girl-self I want to tell my kiddo. ‘You are loved.’ Chief among them. What things would you like to tell your child-self?

I am here

Here. On the other end of my interweb tether, coming back after not feeling compelled to write for quite sometime. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say, but that life was making the things I had to say too hard, or sad, or seem very small and unimportant. And so I went away and found a puzzle piece to pick up and came back to tell you about it.ImageI went on a Christian women’s retreat called Jumping Tandem. A retreat I had been super excited for when I signed up with a friend months ago. A retreat that I was anticipating reading books and blogs and studying up for. I wanted to be prepared, I wanted to be ready to soak up and take in and change. Then life changed my focus.

I found out my father has liver cancer. I found out the life I was imagining as an infinite timeline had a definitive end looming. I found out that it is not an easy task to prepare for something so heart breaking. I found out that one diagnosis can so shift your focus that everything else you are doing and feeling is a blur.  So, I didn’t study up, I barely looked at the material Jumping Tandem offered to prepare myself for what was coming. I just went and trusted that I could figure it out once I got there. Preparation for one more thing seemed like too much.

I got in the car Friday morning and began the drive East to Ashland, Nebraska. It was only then, with the immediacy of Jumping Tandem upon me, that I switched my focus to where I was going and what I was doing. It was only then that I was in the moment, that I am here became true.

My friend and I talked about 1000 things through Colorado and Nebraska. (including my dad) We planned for the future; the next few hours, the next few days, and the next years to come. In our task of getting to Jumping Tandem – the place we would explore our God-sized dreams – we began to sort them out and focus on the big ‘what will come’ for each of us. I went into my weekend thinking I hadn’t come prepared enough to get anything out of it, and in the course of just showing up God made sure I brought something home.

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I found myself in a not unexpected place this weekend. I am by nature an introvert, I am painfully shy, I hate speaking in public or in groups (even small ones), I find it incredibly difficult to meet new people and develop even a simple conversation with them. I tell my friends (who have all done the work of getting to know me) that my brain is missing the ‘small talk’ area. Normally in conversation there is a give and take and people who are asked a question answer and then respond with a question. I, however, answer and then miss the ‘ask a question’ cue. I remember it hours later when I realize I could’ve made a 2 minute conversation into a 10 minute conversation simply by repeating their questions to me. I occasionally have the ‘ask a question cue’ close enough to my awareness to make it happen, but it is a struggle and most often I am the dead-air girl. I am stunted, it’s a thing.

So, on a retreat where I could have made lots of new friends, I went with a comfortable friend who I had tons of awesome conversations with and had several 2 minute conversations with strangers.  That’s totally normal for me and was completely expected. But, fear not, the retreat was not a loss on this girl, because even though I don’t connect with new people well I am an excellent student!

I took a bazillion notes. I worked through stuff in my own introvert way, and I came home with my God clearly in my heart saying things like:

“Hello! You circle around this same idea for a reason! Your dream is where your passion meets my need.”

and

“I told you other people feel that way too.”

In my sessions, with speakers the non-studied-up me was clueless about, I heard my own voice from those daringly brave women who spoke and spoke up. In voices saying they were scared, they were unsure, they were lost and confused. These women who just wanted to know what God had planned, just wanted to be willing, wanted to be used by Him, to love on others, to encourage and support, to ask questions, to say the hard stuff, to dig in, open up…they all had pieces of me. It was amazing.

I came home knowing I don’t have to have all the answers -and that there would be plenty of times that fact alone will make me crazy. I came home knowing I don’t need the big picture but just the willingness to pick up my puzzle piece and take the first step with God. I came home knowing that allowing yourself to feel the hard emotions is OK – and that I will struggle with letting it be OK every time I need to cry and say I’m scared or I need help. I came home knowing bravery looks different on everyone -and that everyone is brave just by opening their mouths and sharing their dreams with another person. I came home thankful to have gone, for being in the momentand to have deepened the friendship I carried with me through it. I came home still afraid (because fear never really goes away) but trusting that I will be OK through whatever is to come. I came home looking up.

I am here.

IMG_20130420_180445[1]*For more posts about my experience at Jumping Tandem check back and click the Jumping Tandem category below .

Added Blessing

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Last night we moved the dining room table to its new position in the old family room. I laid down a blanket we bought in Mexico on our honeymoon. I lit candles, I made a simple dinner, and we sat down at that table together. We prayed, we talked, it was the first time we’ve done this just him + me. No more dinner while staring at the TV every night for us. The dining room table is no longer to be cluttered with mail and stuff and collecting things. Our dining room table is now for gathering people and having connection everyday, not just for entertaining. It’s the added blessing of rearranging and redecorating this space. It’s becoming more of a reflection of him + me and making us more of a reflection of that too.

With Snow and Love

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Ok! It’s finally beginning to feel like Winter around here! It’s feeling awfully Christmas-y today!

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My crafty girls and I had our gift exchange today at our favorite coffee shop. We laughed out loud! Wow, that is such a good feeling! Feeling ten years old and giggling with your friends.

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These girls get me. I love that.

When I came inside from taking random snow pictures (including the obligatory feet photo) they just smiled.
I said “You don’t have to understand my neurosis, you just have to love me through it.” And among nods and ‘yes’s there is the truth…
Just love me anyway.

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Of course we talked about other things – sickness, hurt feelings, debt, worry, sadness…But mixed in with the hard stuff was good old fashioned belly laughs. The kind that make you smile to yourself for days afterward.

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We’re blessed in this life, in this world of ours, that there are a million different ways to connect to people and an equal number of chances to do it. A little thing like embroidery brought me into this group, a big thing like love keeps me here.

Love on your people even when it’s hard. It is so worth it.

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