The Big 2-9!

It’s the first day of summer! And it’s my birthday! 🎊🎂☀️⁣

To be honest, I’ve kind of dreaded turning 29 for most of this year. Maybe some of last year. If I’m being honest. 😉 (One of the books in this photo seems to be telling me I should be.) ⁣

I expected to be somewhere more “settled” by now. After all, aren’t your twenties the years you’re expected to be figuring life out and progressing to the stages of marriage, successful career, home ownership, and parenthood? I have accomplished one of those things, and I’m pushing toward my thirties. ⁣

Oops.⁣

But then I stopped to think about everything that I actually have accomplished. I may be struggling to figure out my career, to settle into a new state, and to chase my dreams, but I’m doing it. My husband and I moved across the country to start over and pursue a better life for ourselves. A better chance at some of those other things on that above list. ⁣

I’ve survived trauma and loss, picking out my parents’ coffins at an age when most of my peers were picking out their wedding colors. It was awful, but I 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘷𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘥. I helped my baby brother graduate homeschooled high school when Mom and Dad were no longer there to teach and encourage him. (He worked so hard and I am incredibly proud of the courageous young man he is!) I ran a marathon before I turned 26. (My boss best friend was beside me the whole way.) I recovered from the anxiety induced by a car accident that broke my leg, and continued to drive. (Who knew driving could be an act of bravery?) I’ve published 2 novels and a children’s book, and I’m working on my third novel. ⁣

This is not meant to be me bragging…I just want to remind myself (and others) that sometimes success isn’t the cookie cutter look we make it out to be. (Seriously. Make a list of the amazing things YOU have accomplished, if you are feeling a little “behind” like me. Also note that none of those things I accomplished were done on my own. TEAM EFFORT, always.) For me, I have spent my 20s loving even when it hurt, pursuing hope even when I didn’t think I wanted to be alive anymore, and fighting for my family. Now I’m entering a period where I get to fight for my dreams.⁣

I am privileged to have experienced so much wonderful love in my life. I am privileged to have the chance to start over, even at age 29. I am privileged to be able to read and write books, to enjoy the bookstagram community, to be breathing today. To know my Mom and Dad loved and still love me more than I can comprehend, and instilled the strength I need to survive whatever life throws at me. To have a God who carved stories in my heart and gifted me with passion and hope and joy. To have a husband who holds me when I grieve and rejoice. To have a close-knit family who united to overcome pain together, and to have friends who are as dear as family and who have walked with me through my best and worst days. ⁣

Yes, 29 may feel like an age when I should have a beautiful house or a thriving career. But I think what I have is much bigger than a pretty home or a fancy job. 💕 ⁣What are some amazing things you have accomplished that might fall outside the “expected” milestones for your age? And which amazing people were there for you along the way?

Grief on Father’s Day

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To be honest, I’m trying to ignore the fact that it’s Father’s Day. I might have forgotten, if it weren’t for social media. 🙃

But that’s OK, because my dad also deserves to be celebrated. Besides, grief is just a side effect of loving someone in heaven, so if I also grieve today, it’s because he was an absolutely wonderful person.

When I think of my dad, I get a rush of pride that he was mine. He was humorous, strong, loving, and with an amazing heart. He was the type of guy that big, burly men (his fellow corrections officers) and inmates alike wept for when he was gone. As in, sobbed as they shook my hand at the calling hours. At the prison, a former inmate approached my family to tell us how my dad gave him hope and treated all the prisoners like humans who could turn their lives around. This man told us my dad was the reason he now worked at the prison, so he could do the same for others. One inmate painted a portrait of him in his honor. Another wrote a sweet letter to our family.

When I think of my dad, I think of his love for historical books and The Hobbit. I think about how he introduced me to Holes–of COURSE he loved that story, it joines fun “history” of the lake with boys getting second chances and humor–and Agatha Christie books. I think about his laugh and his one-of-a-kind smile. How everyone said he was always saying to “Look on the bright side.” I think about his hugs and how safe they made me feel.

OK, I’m totally not crying now. 🙃

If you’re grieving on Father’s Day, for whatever reason: you’re not alone. And if you’re missing someone in heaven, maybe take time to think about everything you love about them. Yes, it hurts, but it also might make them feel a little closer. ❤

The Value of Persistence

One of the hardest goals I’ve ever set and achieved was running a marathon a few years ago. The training itself was intense and time-consuming. My best friend and I had to get up while it was still dark on weekends and run for hours. Sometimes we would get home and struggle to get calories back into our bodies as fast as we could, or fight to drag our aching carcasses into the shower before we fell into much-deserved unconsciousness or some other near-comatose state on our couch.

Popped blisters on our feet? Check. Sciatic nerve pain for her? Check. Side-stitches? Stomach cramps? Questioning our sanity? Definitely.

But the part that really tested me was race day itself, when all of our training and planning apparently went out the window, and my body rebelled. Horribly.

I had to stop and walk. I had to vomit at the side of the course, more than once. I had to douse myself in cold water and accept a bag of ice from some of the people running the race, and proceed to cram it down my shirt.

They worried they’d have to call an ambulance, but I knew I could push through. I was more worried that I wouldn’t finish, that all the training would be for nothing and I’d never finish my bucket list goal. 26 miles before I turn 26! I’d thought so blithely only the day before.

I felt like an idiot and a failure. It’s not fun puking in front of strangers, or having to slow your marathon pace to a crawl. Talk about humbling.

Isn’t this failing? I thought. I’m not “running” this marathon anymore.

But one of the other racers, who had run many marathons in her life, and who slowed her pace to keep me company while I struggled, explained to me that this race actually gave out a prize to the last finisher. Why? Because it takes incredible persistence to keep going when everyone else has finished. 

It takes a lot of endurance and will-power to keep running, walking, or crawling for hours upon hours and not just quit and go home.

And I was determined to finish that race, even if I had to crawl across the finish line.

I was not the last person to finish that race that day, but the lessons I learned were invaluable.

a river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but its persistence.

In life, if you want to achieve your goals, you have to want whatever you’re pursuing more than you fear the obstacles. Pain? Setbacks? Disappointment? Doubts? They will test your willpower, and they will crush you if they find it lacking.

What goal are you trying to achieve? Remember to hold on to the reason you so badly want to accomplish it, and the setbacks will begin to seem small. Remind yourself that the pain of failing will hurt worse than the pain you face along the way to accomplishment.

And if you’re fortunate, you won’t have to throw up in front of strangers along the way.

You’ve got this.