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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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Seeing Red

Some dates are etched in your memory forever.

Birthdays. Anniversaries. Days our loved ones pass away. Major life events. We all can list at least a few dates that automatically stick out in our minds, whether for welcomed reasons or not.

December 4, 2013 will always be one of those days for me. That was my estimated due date for the child I miscarried on April 1st at 5 weeks gestation. That was the day our child, as microscopic as he/she was, went to be with the Lord. That was the day part of me went to be with Him, too.

To say I was heartbroken after we miscarried is a gross understatement. If you recall, there was a lot already going on in our lives in early Spring. It was so much that the most grounded people would feel like they were losing their grip on their sanity prior to what transpired on April 1st. As we all know, the roller coaster wasn’t over, though.

Once the bleeding stopped, I was emotionally as empty as my formally impregnated uterus; in a matter of a few hours, the life had been sucked out of me, literally and figuratively. Like millions of women each year, I was left to pick up the pieces of my shattered heart and move on.

For me, though, “moving on” was going to be a long, long journey.
It was going to be a much longer, harder, more private pilgrimage through grief than with what I (and, in some ways, others) was comfortable.
It was my journey, though, nonetheless.

The first few weeks, I would come home from work some days and just sit on the floor in our empty nursery. I would begin to replay over in my mind the trauma that had been the few weeks leading up to me unexpectedly getting pregnant, as well as the subsequent drama which led to finally having a confirmation that I had indeed miscarried and wasn’t losing my mind...or was I? 

When I was alone, the previous few months played out like a dramatic Nicholas Sparks’ movie in my head. Scene after scene, I saw the characters, i.e. me and my husband, develop and the plot thicken and thicken some more. The plot became so thick, I felt as if I were traveling through a dense fog in my head, a fog which would last for months. Some days the fog was so thick, I couldn’t tell if I was indeed the protagonist or the antagonist of my own story; some days I felt like both, sometimes simultaneously. As I dealt with post-miscarriage health complications for months on end on top of my grief, there seemed to be no climax of events (let alone a resolution) in sight, in my real life or in my imagination.  I wanted out of the madness. Honestly, some days I wanted to just go to sleep and never wake up. I wanted peace and rest, and those things seemed hard to come by at the time.

After all, it was hard to feel at peace when you feel you have failed as a woman, and more importantly, as a wife. For a myriad of reasons, that’s the way I felt for a long, long time. Thankfully, though, after months of spending time with the Lord, countless hours of conversation with my husband and a few close friends, and being forced to deal with the root of my feelings, I (for the most part) don’t feel that way anymore.

Thank God, I don’t usually feel that way anymore.
One day, I hope to say I don’t ever feel that way anymore.
One step at a time, though.

I don’t really feel it necessary (at least now) to take you through the play-by-play of the highs and lows of my journey of grief. I guess after the realization I came to during my mid-life crisis, I don’t feel anymore like I “owe” you, the reader, an “all-access” pass into the most personal caveats of my life. I guess I’m still learning to have boundaries in my relationships, online and off. I have to say, after a year of a lot of hurt and heartache, it feels good to not (usually) feel guilty for protecting myself emotionally.

Just know that the last 8 months of my life have been filled with extremely personal, heart-wrenching moments. It hasn’t always been pretty. In fact, many times it’s been rather ugly, but it’s always been one thing – real and raw. After all, love it or hate it, I know no other way to be. If there’s one thing I’ve re-learned during the craziness that has been my 2013, it’s that I can’t control a lot in my life. God, in His sovereignty and goodness, numbers my steps, oftentimes much differently than I would. On the flip side, though, I’m learning there are some things I can control, namely having healthy boundaries with people and owning and being proud of, instead of shaming, my own journey.

And oh the journey it has been.

I’m thankful, though, I’m finally far enough down the path that I can say I’m thankful for the past 8 months. I may not ever understand why John and I had to lose a child, or why it had to affect me so deeply, but I do know good has come of it.

do know that what Satan meant for evil, my gracious Lord meant for good. Yes, He meant it for my good and, more importantly, His glory. Those nights I lay crumbled up on the floor in my empty nursery, when I wasn’t sure if I was the protagonist or antagonist of my own story, I had forgotten to ask the Author and Finisher of my story who I am. Instead of trusting Him, I listened to my doubt. Instead of believing I am who He says I am (beloved and loved, far from a failure), I believe the father of lies who is always out to steal my (and your) joy and vision. Thankfully, I don’t forget anymore.

In the Old Testament, when God’s people had an unforgettable encounter with the LORD, they often built a memorial out of stone in commemoration of the event. They (and sometimes the LORD Himself) wanted a tangible reminder of what the LORD had done. I, too, wanted a tangible reminder of how the Lord had restored and healed my heart, so I completely changed my appearance (at least for now).

For almost 28 years, I was a blonde. Now, I’m a red head. 🙂

2013-12-05_16-12-01_263When I look in the mirror, I am constantly reminded of the fact I not only look like a completely different person, I am a completely different person because of God’s gracious work in my life! I’m pretty sure I will eventually go back to my roots (or closer to them than I am now 😉 ), but for now, I needed an external expression of a very powerful, inward change. The dye is temporary, but the branding on my heart is forever.


I finally see He is bringing much beauty from the ashes of my once shattered heart.
He is mending and strengthening. He is healing and restoring.
He is being what He always is – good. So, so good.

I’ll leave you with a song that has meant so very much to me over the past several months.

 

Father, thank you for loving me so.

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Filed under Baby, grace, Life, Marriage, Miscarriage, Redeeming Loss, Sanctification

Cosmic Shift

Drafts. A post. Lots more drafts.
That’s been the extent of my blogging the past several months.

Tears. Refining. More Tears. Did I mention tears?
That’s been my life the past several months.
Much of that just hasn’t been put into words, here or even in-person.

Why?
Well, because…

Sometimes the most powerful, gut-wrenching yet healing moments in life leave us simply so undone we (even I) am unable to utter a sound, let alone wax poetically about the cosmic shift occurring within. We are unable to ascertain just exactly what our Creator is doing in the miry depths of our disheveled soul, which can leave us feeling vulnerable to the core and, at times, scared of what is next. All I know is that, if we surrender to the beautiful chaos, when He’s done chipping away and putting back together, we will never be the same. I will never be the same.

Thank you, Father, I will never be the same.

More to come. 🙂

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Life After A Mid-Life Crisis

I recently had a mid-life crisis.
Sounds fun, huh?
Not so much.

During the emotional turmoil which was that season of my life, I discovered (and shared about how) I was a relational harlot – for years. The crisis is over, though, and life has thankfully moved on. I’m officially a recovering relational harlot at this point. From the messages I received after my post, it sounds like some of you are moving into that category, too. Good for you! I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t be happier. I pray the same for you, as well.

So, not only has life post-crisis moved on, it’s changed – a lot.

Some days I willingly embrace my new-found relational freedom. Other days, like a drug addict in rehab, I crave my former life and wonder if I was really hurting myself as much as I have recently come to make myself believe. No matter if my feelings align or not, I’m daily 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.

After a few minutes of doubt, some prayer, and a lot of grace with myself, I feel confident in my decision once again…until the next time, when I repeat the process over and over again. I guess that is what people de-toxing from old, unhealthy habits do. As I “get healthy,” I don’t want to get so caught up in not going back to my old relational habits that I am tempted to move the complete opposite way, which wouldn’t be healthy, either. That wouldn’t be profitable and would just lead to another rehab program down-the-road. No, thank you.

I’m daily committed to finding the happy relational medium.

That means…

  • 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 are few and far between where both parties, whether in a marriage or a friendship, are being mutually transparent and giving; they may be rare, but they truly are a taste of Heaven on Earth.  I am more consciously aware of these relationships’ value and uniqueness. Moreover, I am more devoted to cultivating these few relationships, especially with my spouse, instead of giving so much of my heart to so many and not getting much (if anything) in return. I’m learning you can be loving without giving all of yourself to every single person.
  • Furthermore,  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. I’m left to show more wisdom and pursue “wide-open” relationships with people who don’t question my heart (You want to really hurt a hyper-relational, honest-as-they come type of person ? Just question their motives.) 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 or getting hurt when they don’t (for whatever reason) accept my genuineness.
  • I’m on my phone a lot less. This is still a work in progress (ask my husband), but I’m slowly losing my desire to constantly “connect” with people via text, to “Like” everyone’s latest status updates on Facebook, and everything else that can easily deceive you into thinking you have a close, mutually-giving relationship with someone when you have the furthest thing from it.  My phone doesn’t blow up nearly as much as before, because I’m intentionally taking a step back and not initiating contact with most. I’ve slowly realized that, because of my former propensity to live life wide-open with everyone and therefore share all my cards to anyone who breathes, I have been duped all along into believing this sentiment was mutually being practiced by far more than who actually reciprocated that level of transparency. Ouch. Admittedly, after years of being the pursuer, I’m wanting to be, and working on being, pursued. Though it’s hard,  I guess I’m learning that timeless lesson, “You teach people how to treat you.” People are rightfully used to me being the pursuer; that’s what I’ve always done and enjoyed, after all. Well, not anymore. I’m sure I’ll increase my pursuit with time (never to the extent I did before), but during this time of transition, I’m not setting myself up for failure. I don’t want to go back to bad habits, and they do die hard. In the meantime, I’m learning the few people who do regularly contact me, without me always having to contact them first, are the ones who deserve my attention the most. My love and appreciation for said individuals has only grown and matured. 
  • I spend time with Jesus a lot more. Since my phone hasn’t been occupying my time as much, I have had much more time to devote to the Lover of my Soul, Jesus Christ, during this season. Not surprisingly, He hasn’t changed. He has waited patiently for me to climb up into His lap, tell Him my troubles, and let Him slowly heal me to the core. I listen to sermons a lot more, in particular those on relationships and how most people function with each other (I’m realizing I really am rather strange). I review almost daily how the Lord ministered to (and very much loved) the masses, yet was obviously closer to the 12 disciples and even closer to the “inner circle” of 3. I am encouraged by the fact that, if Jesus didn’t feel guilty for not giving Himself fully to every single person, I don’t have to feel guilty either. I journal prayers and talk much more to the One who knows me better than I know myself. I love you, Jesus. Thank you for never giving up on, and believing in, me.
  • I’m choosing to be more guarded with most, yes, but also refusing to become someone I’m just not, i.e. cynical and cold. Though I wish it were possible to healthily give so deeply of yourself to as many people as I’d like without hurting yourself, I’m learning it just isn’t. No amount of sincerity can change that fact.  On the other hand, becoming bitter and cynical isn’t an option for me. Sure, I have my moments when I think about some past relationships and realize it wasn’t really the way I perceived it and feel hurt. There’s even past relationships that, now when I think about them, make me feel extremely burnt. That’s when, though, I find myself having the most compassion, even for the people who caused me the most hurt. I find myself praying for them and their families. I find myself genuinely wishing them nothing but God’s best. I told you before, I’m not very good (at all) at holding a grudge. I refuse to stop loving people. Doing so, would just deny a very large part of who I am — a very outwardly giving, caring person who loves very deeply very easily. I’m just learning I deserve to be loved, too, and that starts with me properly loving myself through putting up relational boundaries.
  • I’ve realized that, for years, I haphazardly left so many more very personal pieces of me with a much larger population than whom has left valuable pieces of themselves with me. In a way, because of my carelessness, I’m left feeling like a prostitute who has given away her body far too many times. I wasn’t just cordial with the masses. I didn’t just “kiss” all of these people. I emotionally went to bed with humanity, exposing all my “goods” for the whole world to see. I’m now dealing with the consequences of my emotional promiscuity. I honestly still don’t really know what to do with that fact but face it and move on; what else can you do?

Yes, as my good friends (a girl can dream, right? ;)) Rascal Flatts would say, I’m movin’ on

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Why We’re Adopting

In case you haven’t heard, we’re adopting! 🙂

The question one is usually first compelled to ask upon hearing this news is, of course, “Why?”

Don’t be ashamed for wanting to know. It’s rather natural to be curious about such things. I’ll do my best to answer you. It’s not a simple answer, really, though I wish it were….but it is what it is.

The Back-story:
If you’re new here, the long and short of it is that I had a double lung transplant over 7 years ago due to being born with cystic fibrosis. Even if I wouldn’t have ever needed a transplant, I would have only had a 50% chance of being fertile. With transplant, though, comes more statistics a healthy woman in her mid-20s doesn’t want to hear. You see, though the transplant not only dramatically improved the quality of life I was accustomed to living pre-transplant, but actually saved my life, it also came with medications I take on a daily basis which bring many risks when it comes to pregnancy. Those risks would not only be for me but also any child I would conceive, if I wasn’t infertile from the disease with which I was born and even capable of conceiving.

For the sake of argument, say I could conceive. Well, due to transplant still being quite a new medical breakthrough, especially double lung transplant (which is considered the 2nd hardest transplant to survive, only beaten by heart/double lung), not a lot of people have gone through the procedure. Consequently, out of the few who have had transplants, there are very few women of child-bearing age who have had one, let alone had one and then taken the risk and gone ahead with pregnancy. Needless to say, since there is little-to-no (depending on to whom you speak) research on the effects of pregnancy on transplanted-mother and her child, transplant centers strongly urge their patients not to get pregnant. Though having a healthy mom and baby at the end of a transplantee’s pregnancy has been done by a few in the past, in the majority of the transplant community’s doctors’, minds, who happen to mostly be men, it’s better to be safe than sorry. This leaves transplanted women of my age with a choice — don’t take a risk and never (unless you practice abstinence or God sees otherwise) have your own biological children or gamble and pray things turn out in your favor.

After over 4 years (if you count our dating relationship, and you should because it was a VERY hot topic back then) of praying, talking, and sometimes crying together, and even occasionally being angry at each other (emotions are real, people) over this all-important decision, we are finally both at peace and have made up our minds.

The Present:
For now at least, we are choosing not to take that gamble. We still desperately want to be parents, though, so we are choosing to become a family through the beautiful-albeit-sometimes-trying-and-messy gift of adoption. This decision did not come easily for us, though we’re sure many would say it should have. That’s your opinion, and you’re entitled to that, as we’re entitled to ours.  Should our decision in the future change as we look to expand our family, that will be our decision, too. We’ll just leave it at that.

I wish I could say that our desire to adopt was completely based on altruistic motives, that it didn’t matter to us at all that there’s a very likely possibility we’ll never have biological children of our own, but saying so just wouldn’t be true. We are humans, after all. We also believe God is sovereign and good, though, and if He would so choose to allow us to get pregnant even when we’re using barriers, then we would trust Him to see us through. We fully believe He is capable of doing that if He wanted glory through such a circumstance. If so, no, abortion would never be an option, so don’t even ask. On the contrary, if He never chooses to give us biological children, our beliefs about Him remain unshaken. He is good — no matter what.

It’s not always easy to say that, though, when it comes to this issue. Believe me.
I have my great days.
I have my good days.
I have my OK days.
I have my bad days.
I have my absolutely horrible days.
Again, I’m human.

Like all wives, I desperately want to give my husband biological children, especially a son. I know if I were pregnant there would be no way I could guarantee him a son, but I know that’s his heart’s desire, so in turn, it is mine. We are one flesh, after all. If you’ve struggled with fertility and/or miscarrying, I know you understand. It’s almost as if the verse “Be fruitful and multiply” is the only thing we (or maybe it’s just me) can hear sometimes when the enemy is taunting us for our “failure” to “obey” the Lord and “love our husbands,” when others chatter and the enemy takes their words and tortures us with lies straight from the pit of Hell.

Ladies, you are more than your ability, or lack thereof for whatever reason, to see 2 pink lines on a stick.
Your worth as a woman and a wife is not found in your ability, or not, to get pregnant or sustain a pregnancy.
Your ability to mother is rooted in God’s grace and your intrinsic design, not whether you can give birth.
You are not broken. You are not second-hand goods.
You are a marvelous, beautiful, loved woman of God.
Cursed be anyone who says otherwise.
Don’t lose hope. You are not alone.
I say that to myself as much as I say it to you.

Whether or not you and your spouse come to a place where you corporately choose it’d be best to still have children through adoption and/or fostering is a completely personal decision and should be treated as such. Just know no matter what you decide, no matter what the enemy tries to make you believe, know you are still loved.

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