Monday, October 26, 2015

Cheers to 34: Grace Wins Every Time

{Disclaimer: This post is raw.  I didn't plan on sharing this but something tugged at me to do it. So I watered it down a little and hit publish. It isn't all sunshine and rainbows, but I promise it has a very happy ending!} 

Thanks to Timehop and my upcoming birthday I have been walking down memory lane the last week or so. Apps like Timehop can be really awesome as it reminds you of little moments that you might of forgotten about. Yet at the same time it can be painful as it reminds of times you might like to pretend never happened. This is where my reflection started.

A very dear friend and mentor always told me I was going to love my 30's. (I'm looking at you Melanie Wilson!) She would tell me that my 30's would be the best time of my life. I thought she was crazy!

My 20's were pretty much awesome, but the closer I got to 30 the more terrified I was. So much of my life was about checking things off a list I thought had to be completed by a certain time in my life. Don't get me wrong - I was happy and loved the path I was on. Even dealing with small bouts of depression and being medicated - I honestly didn't think life could be better. But looking back I realize I also felt this nonstop self induced pressure. I lived with the fear of missing out. The fear of not living up to the standards everyone expected me to uphold, even if those standards where created in my own head. Yet in those moments I was happy because I didn't know better. I couldn't imagine being happier.  And even though I was terrified of 30, in typical Allietober fashion I was already planning in my head the amazing 80's themed 30th birthday party I would have.  

Shortly after my 29th birthday everything changed. My world was rocked with pain and loss. Without going into details, I watched my family have the wind knocked out of it and struggle to navigate the new normal. A month later I watched a family I loved and cared about start their 6th or 7th battle with cancer - a 3rd diagnoses for sweet Lauren at only 20 years old. At this point the antidepressants no longer numbed the pain. Some days just getting dressed for work was more than I wanted to deal with. The weight began to pack on and added to my misery. This has become known as my "Dark Year" and not just because I choose to show my sadness by dying my hair dark. 

When life turned upside down, the over the top party I had planned got thrown out the window.  I vividly remember getting dressed for my 30th birthday party. Nothing fit right. I felt hideous and alone. And worst of all my heart was aching as Lauren, just a few days past her 21st birthday and being declared cancer free, had be admitted with the hospital and the family was beginning to prepare for the worst. I felt guilty for being so depressed and lackluster about going to a party where friends and family were waiting to celebrate me when someone I loved and cared about was suffering. 

I look at the photos from that night I am reminded how I kept reminding myself to smile.   Over and over I told myself to "fake it till you make it" because everyone is there to have fun and no one wants to be around a broken person.

At this point I still couldn't imagine my 30's being great. I was broken. I was hurting. I felt like God had abandoned me. Over the course of the next month or so I would hit my rock bottom. I became bitter and cynical. The thought of going to church or even opening my bible made me cringe. Yet in my weakest moments I found myself asking God to show me a sign He was still there.

Then something happened. In a moment of sheer desperation to feel normal and alive again I made a bet with my husband to run a mud run. That day in the mud changed me. I specifically remember a moment on top of a wall where I was terrified to come down. Again I asked God to show me a sign He was there. Seconds later a yellow butterfly landed right next to me and it was almost as if all my fear melted away. That might sound cheesy but its the truth. Even now when I am scared or feeling alone, I think about that moment and the impact it held on me. 

The truth is God never turned His back on me, it was in fact the opposite. I was so lost in my own pain and darkness I shut Him out. Looking back I see that He was always there, I was just too blind and self consumed to see it.

I've heard it said to truly find yourself you have to hit rock bottom. And while I would never wish the "Dark Year" on anyone else, for me that was the truth. 

So in the end Melanie was right - my 30's have been so much more than my 20's ever dreamed of being. My relationship God is stronger than ever before. Those dark times turned dear friends into family. And the bond with my husband is far stronger than I realized it ever could be. Finding true joy in God's love and incredible grace is so healing. 

The crazy part of all of this is that we have gone through some really rough things the last 4 years. From infertility and health scares to financial struggles and major life changes - things that would have broken me to the core before. They still hurt and I still struggled but it is different. Being completely honest, I struggle with depression but I never feel completely helpless or alone like before. The day that happens I know it is time to revisit the idea of going back on meds.  In the last 4 years I have found myself and my purpose. I am learning to love the body I have been blessed with. While it doesn't look too hot in a bikini anymore it can do some pretty darn incredible things that size 2 Allie would have never dared to try. (I know a few of your minds just went in the gutter...I'm talking about running you crazy pants!)  I am learning to trust God's perfect plan for me.  I am learning to embrace life when it doesn't go as planned. And I choose to wake up each day and choose JOY! 

I share all of this not for sympathy or accolades, but for the girl who feels like she has hit rock bottom. For the girl who feels alone and helpless. For the girl who thinks the best is behind her. There is hope. You are loved and so much more precious than you could ever imagine. 

As I start the first day of my 34th year I want challenge each of you to choose JOY and help share a little of it every day. 
  • Reach out to a friend. You never know how a simple phone call, text or unexpected happy hour could change things for them. 
  • If you are struggling - don't make the same mistake I did and turn from God. He has you - just have faith.  And if you have never had a personal relationship with Him it is never too late! You have no idea the peace and joy that is waiting for you. 
  • Give and keep giving. 
  • Break through your comfort zone and challenge yourself to something you have only dreamed of. But remember it isn't the end goal, but the journey getting there that matters most. 
And I couldn't end this without saying thank you to each and every one of you:
  • Who have never left my side
  • Who support me even when you think I am completely insane
  • Who encourage me to be and give more 
  • Who love me unconditionally even in my darkest days
  • Who bring me so much joy each and every day!! 

Cheers to 34, my friends!! The best is yet to come!! 

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