Tag Archives: relationships

What 2013 Taught Me

I don’t know what yours was like, but my 2013 was quite the year.

2013 was a year I’ll certainly never forget and wouldn’t necessarily want to re-live. I won’t, though, go as far as to say I wish I could just re-do 2013 all over again. Though it was excruciatingly hard, the lessons I learned within the crazy that was my 2013 were well worth the pain and will never, ever be forgotten.

I’m not going to re-hash my entire year in this post, as there is plenty of posts already written (even whole series — read here and here) about much of what transpired in my life last year; others part of my life have remained more private, as they should.  If you haven’t been reading my blog the past year, just know I, even one with a wild imagination, could never have written the journey through which the Lord asked me to walk in 2013, especially the first 8 months of it.

As much as you’d like to think differently, you can’t change the past. You can only move forward. 2013 was what it was and it’s my job to learn from it, embrace the brokenness that came in many areas from it, and walk in 2014 full of joy and hope, just like I did when I walked unknowingly into the madness that was last year.

So, what did 2013 teach and/or remind me?
Well, lots of things.

Here’s some examples, in no particular order (except the 1st one):

  • God is still good and sovereign. Absolutely nothing can change that fact.

Though 2013 was my hardest yet, my steadfast belief in God’s sovereignty and goodness did not change. Were their moments I struggled with why God allowed me to become unexpectedly pregnant, let alone why He then allowed our child to die? Of course. I’m a human, after all. I am a human, though, who has seen the hand of God all over their life time and time again, even when things look the darkest from an earthly perspective.

  • My life is not about me.

After almost dying at 19, I am blessed to know from a young age that my life is not about me but instead the glory of God being displayed through how I respond to not only life’s highest highs but also its lowest lows. Though I know I didn’t do it perfectly, I hope that this year I brought Him glory through how I dealt with the circumstances He allowed into my life for my refining and His glory. I pray I do the same in 2014, no matter what happens.

  • My marriage is rock solid and can withstand anything that life throws its way.

I didn’t say my marriage is perfect, because it most certainly isn’t; it does involve two humans, after all. 😉 It is, though, rock solid, and it just keeps getting better. 2013 was the hardest year yet for our four-year-marriage. I’m thankful to say, though, that everything we went through this year brought us even closer together, horrible miscarriage included. During this year, at times, we fought a lot. At times, we cried a lot. At times, to be honest, we struggled a lot…but we came out on the other side a stronger, more unified couple. We came out a better definition of two people living “one flesh.” We came out of the struggle closer to the Lord on an individual basis as well as a corporate one. As  a couple, we came out of 2013 changed, changed for good! I can’t imagine displaying God’s love for the Church through marriage with anyone else than my best friend.  He rocks my world. 🙂

  • I long to be a mother more than sometimes I even know.

This could, and eventually will, be the subject of a whole post. Stay tuned. 🙂

  • Adoption (at least our journey) is hard – really hard – but so worth it. We can’t wait to meet Noah and Hannah and pray they join our family at the same time. 🙂

The giant mountain of paperwork hasn’t even been the hardest part. Being married to a really detailed-oriented person, though, definitely helped in that area. 🙂 No, the paperwork has been a breeze compared to other things, mostly emotional in nature, through which we’ve had to work; some of those things are just a part of the usual process (and will be written about in another series) and others are unique to our particular situation. No matter what comes up, though, the important thing is we’re committed to working through it; we’re committed to finding our children and bringing them home. No matter what, we Paynes don’t ever give up.

  • People like other people’s drama and shy away from public expressions of grief.

I learned this lesson back in the Spring/Early Summer. I had thousands of people (mostly strangers) suddenly flocking to my blog to read all 21 posts about our hard-to-believe adoption/surrogacy/pregnancy/miscarriage/adoption journey. Only an 1/8 of that audience read, though, after the 13th installment of the aforementioned series when I was heartbroken, and therefore devoted three blog posts to redeeming my miscarriage; most of the sharing of my posts stopped, too. Not surprisingly, most of that audience (and shares) returned once again when the other more-appealing series resumed for the last 7 posts.

Don’t get me wrong. I sincerely appreciated the concern (or curiosity) others showed (either through reading and/or contacting me) during my large series full of twists and turns. I just was rather shocked that my readership went down so much when I took a break from the other series (since I was initially hiding (even from my own parents) the fact I was sick post-miscarriage) to publicly deal with the intense grief that came with all that drama people loved to read. Though they were much, much fewer in nature, the private messages I did receive from that miscarriage series made the emotional exhaustion from writing them well worth it. It also reiterated to me just how important it is for me to obey His voice and live as transparently as possible, so that He can use me to encourage others who often feel alone in how they feel. I was amazed how alone so many women who have had miscarriages felt; it made me incredibly sad. It shouldn’t be this way, and as long as I’m alive, I will continue to be as real as possible (on that issue and others) so that others feel the freedom that comes with living without satanic shame.

Though I was humbled by my viewership this year, I don’t write for certain stat numbers. I write in order to be able to breathe, to connect with my Creator, to glorify His name and have Him do whatever with it He wants.  Your guess as to what He does with it in 2014 is as good as mine. No matter how many read, it’s all for Him!

  • Living “transparently” doesn’t have to mean giving anyone and everyone 24/7 access to your life, emotions, time, thoughtfulness, etc. without requiring anything from them; no, that would be toxic and will eventually leave you feeling burnt.  Having Christ-inspired, personal boundaries is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and others.

I wrote about this topic in my “mid-life crisis” series.

  • Though he came in contact with thousands, and was followed intensely by 12, even Jesus’ inner circle only consisted of 3 people. Yours will look about the same; don’t kid yourself into believing otherwise.

Not every friend sticks closer than a brother, and that’s OK. Life is full of relationships, each with their own level of closeness. Oftentimes, those in relationship aren’t even desiring the same level of closeness, but unless they’re willing to be honest with one another, one just assumes (and prays) the other will “get a clue”. Somewhere between sometimes and usually, the other party eventually does get a clue and is consequently left confused; that is, unless you’re like my former self, and then often you are left clueless for far longer than expected. In my case, for most of 2013, I also didn’t believe in personal boundaries, so my addiction to emotional harlotry didn’t help my case.

Some friendships are for a season, then fade, then come back again. Some never come back. Some evolve and change over time. You can be someone’s friend without giving them permission to know every single thing about you and vice/versa. You, unbeknownst to me until this year, can also do this while still upholding Christ’s call to love. In fact, sometimes the most loving thing you can do is let things change inside of, or even let go of, a relationship that is near and dear to you.

In rare cases, you will find those with whom your soul connects in a way that is, if I can say, not of this world. You will find people who just “get” you without you needing to explain yourself. They will give you the benefit of the doubt but be willing to confront you when needed. They will desire your good above their own, always without question. They will guard your heart as if it were their own. In your divinely-inspired friendship, you will give and take in a natural, beautiful exchange of wills. Cherish those people. Protect those people with a fierce and loyal love this world does not know.

  • With God’s help, you really can survive anything. Better yet, you can not only survive but thrive while in the midst of the deepest pain, no matter its nature.

I learned this valuable lesson in the physical realm back in 2005 and the emotional realm in 2013.

So what will 2014 bring?

I read a quote on New Year’s Eve that really spoke to me:
“A new year is at hand,” the king said. “We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle, we shall remain undaunted.”
King George VI

That is my prayer for 2014, that I remain undaunted in my commitment to the Lord and His sovereignty and goodness, no matter what befalls me this upcoming year. Whether it be another year of not having the opportunity to be a mother, another year of disappointments and confusion, or even death. By God’s grace, as long as I’m alive, I pray I remain undaunted in my commitment to Him.

Lord, let it be so.

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Filed under 2014, Adoption, Baby, grace, Life, Marriage, Miscarriage, Prayer, Purpose

Lessons Learned During a Mid-Life Crisis

“If you deny your story, you deny not only yourself…
but you deny the very Author Who is writing your redemptive epic.”
– Ann Voskamp

FYI: This post is not going to be about our family planning. You’re free to check back at a later date, or you can stay and learn more about the woman behind the blog — a woman who, emotionally-speaking, is coming out of a really, really dark place. Don’t hide your surprise. Believe me — this is just as shocking to you as it was recently to me. This post isn’t really for you as much as it is for me, but you’re free to listen to me process. I’m warning you; it’s going to take a while.

No one wants to admit they’re having a mid-life crisis, especially me. [I say “mid-life,” because even though I’m only 27, let’s face it — I most likely am in the middle of my life, if not the latter part. As I’ve always told you, transplant wasn’t a cure. Though I refuse to be a slave to statistics, and wholeheartedly believe my God can have me live 100+ years if He so wills, having a shorter life-span is still very much most likely my reality. I had to acknowledge that fact a long, long time ago. In fact, daily embracing my mortality is a huge part of my personality and the driving force behind my transparency.]

There is nothing fun or sexy about saying you’re emotionally in crisis, especially when you live your life as openly and positively as I live mine. No, I would say that someone with my personality admitting such a thing is one of the scariest things they’ll ever do; as one who “let’s it all hang out,” it takes the concept of being “vulnerable” to a level they weren’t even aware existed. That’s why I almost saved myself the embarrassment and just went on my merry, blogging way. More so, that’s why it took me so long to admit to myself I was (and had been for a long time) struggling, let alone to anyone else.

After all, I am a “the glass is always half full (and usually brimming over)” kind of person. No matter how many trials I endure, I have made a conscious decision to be always pressing forward in Jesus’ name, in championing His sovereignty and goodness amidst human suffering to anyone who will listen; that message is my calling and my song. If I didn’t believe that concept down to the very marrow of my bones, I wouldn’t have wasted my time, tears and energy (spiritually, physically and emotionally) writing two books and starting a non-profit ministry around that idea. I would have done anything but endure everything that came with getting that all done. If I didn’t believe the Lord made it very clear from the moment that the idea of surrogacy was brought to us (before I had the slightest idea of the twists and turns of life ahead) that I was to be painstakingly transparent with all of you about the excruciating year that has been me 2013, I never would have. I don’t know about you, but re-living my worst nightmare (and then remembering it was actually my reality) by writing almost two-dozen blog posts with a box of tissues beside me every time isn’t really my idea of ‘fun.’  Had I been a “normal” person, I wouldn’t have ever subjected myself to such emotional trauma. But I did, time and time again. 

I did because, no matter how hard you try, how much you let yourself get distracted, how many times you run, how much you want to deny it, don’t like it, or want anything but it, you can’t outrun God and His calling on your life. You just can’t — me included.

You also can’t run from your humanity or the humanity of others.
You can try. I did. I can promise you, though, it’ll catch up.
If you’re not ready, it won’t just catch up; it’ll trample you.

In the process, this head-on collision with human nature (yours and that of others) will leave a gaping wound on your heart that only Jesus and time can heal. I speak from experience — lots of it here recently, actually. My realization of my deep, emotional wounds didn’t happen overnight – hardly so. It was a slow, very painful process. It was only after the recent, final blow that I finally realized I had been unconsciously, but dangerously, “running with the bulls” for a long, long time. I wasn’t just emotionally injured but instead bleeding profusely and far from healthy. After years of running through the streets exposed, my pulse was thready and my body was broken.

After finally admitting I had been feeling tired and battered for oh, so long, I began to acknowledge my “sickness” to a few and seek out why I felt like I was suffocating. To be honest, for several days, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I just wanted to be left alone. I was no longer full of positivity and hope. I was instead full of brokenness and despair. I had nothing left to give. My body was physically tired from crying a sea of tears caused by an attitude of “just keep swimming” after years of deep disappointment, numerous serious trials and wounds caused by relational betrayal and misunderstanding.

I had hit my limit. I was officially done.

Once I dried my tears, I began to come to terms with the fact that, no matter how much I wanted to believe otherwise, my joy was gone, long gone. I began to come to terms with the fact that the person I saw staring back at me in the mirror wasn’t someone I recognized. Instead of a woman full of hope and joy, instead I saw someone who bore deep, deep wounds from not only a very difficult life but a difficult life lived wide-open.

If you think I’m honest on my blog, you should meet me in real life.  I not only write, but also walk around, with my heart on my sleeve. I genuinely adore people and can feel extremely real, very deep connections (and the emotions that come with said connection) to people I hardly know, let alone the people to whom I am close. To say I’m “relational” is an understatement. I thrive off of interaction with people. I’m the furthest thing from an introvert you can get. Human interaction for me is like a hit of the best drug for an addict. I can never get enough.

Because I know our life is but a vapor, and have a constant dialogue within about that fact, I sincerely love pouring into the lives of others and being open (even to the point of it being unhealthy for me) with them about my life so that they, too, feel safe to be open about their struggles, fears, failures, etc. I happily spend hours a day investing in others. I easily give people the benefit of the doubt and can’t hold a grudge more than an hour, if that. I admittedly have a really hard time understanding passiveness, let alone passive-aggressiveness. I don’t play emotional games. I don’t have hidden, ulterior motives when dealing with people, and find the actions of those that do appalling, sad and confusing all at the same time. My motto in life has always been, “what you see is what you get” – always without question.

Thankfully, the Lord gave me a spouse who appreciates this way of living. Most importantly, he values, believes in and protects my tender heart. Though he is much more introverted, private and less relational than I am (opposites do attract), he is is just as much a lover of living transparently as I am. We are both far from perfect, but one this is for certain: We say what we mean, and we mean what we say – the first time, all the time. We don’t wonder what the other is thinking or feeling; we know because we share it all– the good and the bad. We live life completely wide-open with each other every second we’re together. We aren’t afraid of disagreeing with each other, having a confrontation or embracing raw emotions, even if they involve hurt caused by the other.  In fact, for us, dealing head-on with those things are quite normal and highly accepted. Why? Well, because as we learned especially this past year, our love for each other (and others) is strong enough to handle the truth, even when the truth is hard to say or to hear. It’s been often said you never have to worry about where you stand with the Paynes. I am proud of that fact. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Except for our staunch commitment to honesty, my husband and I vastly differ in how we relate to the human race. Though he’s completely honest with everyone, he’s only transparent with a few. Like me, he’s far from passive, and will answer anything (and I mean anything) you ask him. Unlike me, though, he doesn’t trust just anyone with his heart. He’s cautious and guarded. He makes you earn his trust, his time, and his heart, instead of giving it out generously; once you earn it, though, he’s as loyal as they come. He doesn’t live his life exposed for all to see. He doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve but instead gives it to those whom he trusts to protect it. Simply put, like most people, he gives his heart to few and far between; he doesn’t live life wide-open.

Wide-open. That’s how I’ve lived my life since I was 18 and faced with my pending death. 9 years of refusing to go back to putting on the mask and being a part of a facade for which we were never meant. To combat that lie, I ended up going the opposite-but just-as-unhealthy way and conforming to a mindset that says you bear all, and give all, to everyone, no matter the cost or what little emotionally-speaking you get back in return. Christ has called us to live “selflessly,” after all.

9 years of no-holds-barred, not-worried-about-self-preservation wide openness. 9 years of, at least in a way, relational unhealthiness that involved me giving myself so deeply, so genuinely to so many without a second thought. Unknowingly to me until recently, this mindset I thought was so life-giving and Christ-like was instead toxic and exhausting for a human who could benefit from some self-preservation, and relational reciprocation, now and then. 

For years, though it was never my intention, I played the relational harlot. I gave myself away too easily and too deeply to far too many people. I didn’t think that showing all my cards to anyone and everyone was a bad thing, let alone a harmful thing. I didn’t think the fact that I admittedly asked for, and consequently oftentimes got, nothing (or little) back from my relationships was going to have consequences; just as long as I was being “selfless,” that was all that mattered to me. After years of loving and giving so deeply to far more than who returned the favor, and being (whether intentionally or not) misunderstood and used by many of them in return, I was left jaded, confused, and broken. I was left to deal with the mess, that because of my own doing, was my battered heart.

Through it all, I’m learning to allow Jesus to mend my heart and move more toward a happy, relational medium. I’m learning to emotionally take care of myself.

Even though it feels so wrong to even say that, let alone do it, I’m learning self-preservation, at least in a way, is Godly and good. In return, though I extensively invest in fewer people, instead of being emptied, I’m left full of joy and life. I’m left far from bitter but instead better. I’m left to pave a path in a different and foreign, more guarded, yet healthier direction.

I’m left to make a conscious decision to still live as authentically as I always have (and always will) but not as transparently as I – and everyone else – have become accustomed.

[Side note: This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop blogging, so don’t worry!] I’m left to daily choose to not become hardhearted but also not to whore my whole heart out to anyone who breathes. In return, I’m left with more time and emotional energy to love with reckless abandon those who, like my husband, value and protect my tender heart.

Instead of wondering why I feel so empty when I’ve given to the point of exhaustion, I’m left to show more wisdom and pursue “wide-open” relationships with people who don’t question my heart and desire to reciprocate the transparency I’ve always so easily given. Moreover, because I’ve consciously preserved myself and not expended myself (even if sincerely) to the point of emotional depletion, I’m left with more emotional energy to “love” the masses from a healthier distance without unintentionally needing anything from them. It’s a win-win, people.

I’m learning how priceless my marriage is and how much my husband means to me and deserves my undivided attention. I’m learning relationships where both parties, whether in a marriage or a friendship, are being mutually transparent and giving are precious and few and far between. When you find them, though, they are a glimpse of Heaven on Earth. Most importantly, I’m left with a peace I haven’t had in a very, very long time. I’m left feeling redeemed and new again. 

Thank you, Father, for continually redeeming me.

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Filed under grace, Life, Purpose, Sanctification