Easter 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
This Easter was a miraculous one, one for the history books.

Ever since Dan and I started dating back in 2011, we've been longing to spend a Rock Harbor Easter service together. 2011 we were still long-distance, and 2012 + 2013 Easter's were spent back in Pennsylvania with my family. Since this year my parents are in Beijing, Dan and I got to have our first RH Easter together. But I'll be open and honest (as I always am on my blog) and share that I was nervous for this one. I'm not sure if you know or not, but I moved out of living with Dan for a bit a couple of weeks ago. I don't want to go too far into that right now as I want to keep this post mainly about Easter, but the time has been good for both of us - is allowing us to just focus on ourselves after completely losing who we both were over the past two years that have been jam packed with trials and fire. We've been meeting weekly with an awesome Christian marriage counselor and God is revealing so much about ourselves to ourselves and... He is just doing an amazing work. We are still in the midst of this, of course, and I wasn't even totally convinced where our marriage was heading,
but yesterday the good Lord made it quite clear.

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If you haven't seen my Instagram post (here), then I'll give you some details as to what first started our day together: it all began with baptism. As far as our respective history with baptism goes, Dan was baptized into the Lutheran church in 1986 when he was two months old, and I was baptized in September of 2005 (I was 15). At least a year or so ago, Dan and I had a conversation about adult baptism for him, and I sort of mentioned that if he felt led to obedience in baptism, that I would be honored to do it with him - sort of as an act as One that we are, now bound by marriage. That was that and we never really brought it up again. Fast forward to this Easter season, the idea of Dan getting baptized at Rock Harbor's Easter service (held at the massive Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre in Irvine) kept coming into my mind, but again - we never discussed it. I woke up Sunday (Easter) morning with Dan's baptism on my heart. I felt compelled and drawn and so completely led that if the Spirit made it clear throughout the service, that I would get baptized with Dan - not having known that baptism had also been on Dan's heart. So I texted him. I told him that if the Spirit led, that I was 100% on board with getting baptized together - that I thought it would be such a beautiful, redemptive, and restoring first step toward healing in our marriage; allowing us a clean, risen-from-the-dead, fresh start. He was baffled. (That's God's work for ya!)
He said he had been wanting to talk to me about it but that He trusted if the Lord
wanted it to happen, He would speak to me.

Don't want to get too wordy with this post, but I want to share the other beautiful and life-changing details God threw into the 5ish hour period between when we left for church and when we finally headed home. As I'm sure you know (and you may even be one of them!), a lot of incredible people have been praying, encouraging, and just simply lifting Dan and I up in this dark and painful trial of our marriage. I've received emails of prayer, truth, encouragement, love, and acceptance; one of those people who emailed me being the absolutely beautiful Andrea (of Aidie's Hideaway). This girl gets it, and she gets me. She emailed me a few months ago and long story short, I had been wanting to meet up with her to sort of be mentored by her, but for some reason it just never worked out. I guess God graciously got a little bit tired of us trying to make it happen, so after running a bit late to the service, and even staying in the car when we parked to have one last moment of cool air before walking into the hot sun, as Dan and I were walking in, someone stopped me: it was Andrea. We had never met in person before, and she has such a passion for marriage restoration - so, bam.
Detail #1 that showed me God's passion is for healing in our marriage.

That alone had me freaking out over seeing Jesus so clearly, but then fast forward to us sitting down in our seats, and this sweet couple asks to sit beside us - lo and behold, they live in our hometown and one of our favorite couples (hi Matt & Jenn!) have been being mentored by them in their marriage - and highly recommended we pursue the same - so we exchanged numbers. Detail #2 that God's passion is for healing and restoration. By this point, I'm feeling in my soul that God has confirmed that He was asking Dan and I to get baptized together, but then our pastor - the one who has been meeting with us since the beginning of all of the pain in our marriage - walked up to where we were sitting - in a sea of at least 3,000 people - and I asked what he thought about baptizing us. He lit up. He would be honored and would absolutely love to not only support us in such a holy decision, but take us through it. Wow. (Detail #3)

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The service then began with some awesome worship, an incredible message, and a guest speaker from Liverpool where he mentioned how God healed his broken marriage. (Detail #4) After some more worship, the call for prayer and baptism was made. Dan and I took our shoes off, got all our stuff together, and headed over to the baptism tent where we were asked why we were doing this - Dan for a couple more reasons than me, but still some of the same - and then prayed over, and claimed God's truth and promises for our marriage. It was beautiful and incredible and so so so much of what I needed. And then we waited!

Something I've sort of struggled with at Rock Harbor is feeling like I'm lost in the sea of people; it being a big church has made it difficult for me to feel like I'm taking part in a holy community, but throughout the past year especially, God has shown me that this is exactly where he wants me. The biggest way He's done this is by the relationships that He has forged between three of the pastors and myself (and Dan), and yesterday He solidified those even more.

As soon as Dan and I walked out onto the stage together, we met the first of those three pastors and he, with tears in his eyes, hugged Dan, and then hugged me so tightly for so long because Dan has been sharing with him what's been going on between us. He was so excited for this step we were taking together and showed that to us so beautifully. (Detail #5) Next, we came to the pastor who had previously said he would baptize us, and he hugged us both tightly. Dan and I then got into the water together, side by side, our pastor holding my hand and another man holding Dan's, us holding hands in the water. My pastor spoke to me exactly what I needed; words of truth that confirmed exactly why I wasn't doing this - as I had already been baptized - and words of encouragement and prayer that confirmed exactly why I was doing this - as an act of putting the old ways of mine and Dan's marriage to death, and being resurrected as a brand new couple forged tightly with the ways of the Lord. We were then dunked together, brought up together, and we hugged and were both so giddy - not just out of feeling, but because we knew what we had just done and symbolized. (Detail #6) As we were walking off of the stage, the lead pastor of RH (Dan has had a pretty good relationship with him since Dan joined the church four years ago, and he's known what's been going on in our marriage) ran over to us with tears in his eyes and wrapped us both up into such a huge and tight hug - rejoicing with us, and then praying over us and for us and with us. It was beautiful and incredible! (Detail #7) God is so good and loving.

After that, we stayed and worshipped some more, hugging others who had just gotten baptized, and kept hugging each other. Then we were told that they were beginning to clear people out of the ampitheater and we had to leave, so we began to head back to our car. On the way there, oh goodness, on the way to our car, I spotted someone I had been longing to meet basically since I moved to California in 2011: Danni from Oh, Hello Friend. I walked right up to her and hugged her and told her who I was, and she recognized me! And then God led the conversation after that and we exchanged numbers and the four of us (her, her husband, Dan, and myself) are going to get together soon because God has plans for this friendship! I can hardly believe it and it's just so awesome; it's so awesome how well and perfectly and graciously He loves His flawed-but-trying children.

Both images from @rockharborchurch on Instagram.

To all of you who have been praying, encouraging, and sending positive vibes: thank you. And please keep them coming, as we aren't out of the fire by any means; this is just the beginning. Praise Him!

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My Darling Words

Monday, April 7, 2014
I have always loved words. Always. Ever since I was a little girl, I've been obsessed with books, with reading, with poetry. I remember when I was 7 or 8, I wrote a spin-off of the Rocket Power cartoon on Nickelodeon (I still have that story somewhere, I think!); in 6th grade, I read Robert Frost for the very first time and I knew there was something in those words I had never experienced before. As time went on, I didn't really know my passion for words was there, but there were subtleties that proved I leaned in that direction. I was a smart girl in school, graduated with a 3.67 and barely ever studied - would've been a 4.0 if I didn't hate math and science so dang much, haha. But then I went to Bible school and had to write papers. Often. And that was my absolute favorite part. But then, as you know, I didn't get to graduate due to my health, so I moved home and began attending junior college with an undefined major - and then one night while sitting in a cafe in downtown Pittsburgh with a friend, it hit me like a ton of bricks: English major.

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From that night on, I think I truly began to come into myself. I now had an explanation and reason for loving books so much, for feelings things from song lyrics and poetry most people didn't feel. In the past 4 years since then, I've come into myself even more and know what things about grammar, the English language, hyperboles, punctuation marks, etc. do to the blood in my bones. I am passionate about words. Some of my favorite songs in the world aren't my favorite because of the way they sound, but rather because of what they say. And that also makes it difficult for me to even try to choose one favorite song - because so many songs have made me feel so many different things at so many different times, that I simply can't put my finger on just one.
But this week, something changed. (I'm so serious about this change that I just put ear plugs in my ears as I write this in order to block out all of the outside noise.) I'm not sure where to begin, or how to begin, but I know that I need to just trust my fingers to do the typing that my mind is slowly feeding them. There are words that once strewn together were made, I feel, to make my heart shake and my eyes well up with tears. There are tones in a voice that speak beautiful lines of heartfelt truths that make my ear drums vibrate in a way normal tones and words don't. I must try to convey what some of these poems I'm speaking of have done to me.
The first one I'm speaking of came into my life while sitting in a friend's car outside of Starbucks. The poem began, and I broke. My insides were taken over by a tidal wave and then mashed back together by sticks of glue and Scotch tape, and I don't think I'll ever be the same again. I've never had words destroy and heal me so much. So I listened again, on Friday night. And I was slowly but immediately wrecked even more than before - it took me quite some time to stop the tears and the shaking. (I am an emotional masochist. I love sadness, because it is real life.)

But the second one, the second poem I'm speaking of, I listened to alone, with headphones in my ears and my eyelids heavy with sleep, and again, I broke. It's not necessarily what the words are saying that get to me so much. No, it's the way the beauty of a human mind puts words together and creates imagery and metaphors that you never dreamed would come true. And I'm scared to share these words with you, because I'm scared they won't touch you like they've touched me. And I want to protect them and keep them holy and sacred in my own heart. (But I won't be greedy - if you want the titles, shoot me an email. But please be kind and don't share your response or lack therof with me, I beg you.)
"I will love myself despite the ease
with which I lean toward the opposite."


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Bonjour April

Friday, April 4, 2014
Hello and happy Friday!

Also, happy Spring and happy April!
Goodness, I've missed a lot around these parts lately. I promise to catch you up on why that is as soon as I sit down this weekend and write it out! Until then, here is my goal list for the new month of April 2014!

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01. Write 10 letters/cards. (2/10)
02. Read 5 books. (0/5)
03. Begin meeting with a lady named Patricia to help teach her English.
04. Attend Rock Harbor's amazing Easter service at the Verizon Wireless Ampitheater!
05. Help out in the nursery during the afternoon Good Friday service.
06. Get into the daily or bi-daily habit of walking a mile in the morning.
07. Officially decide where my heart is in relation to where my marriage is headed.
08. Reply to all of the companies/brands who have e-mailed me recently and I've yet to respond to.
09. Motivate myself, no matter how fatigued or in pain I feel, to do things that matter.
10. Skype with my momma and sister, Xue Ni, in Beijing!
11. Teach myself Changed By You by Between the Trees on piano.
12. Find and watch season 3 of Sherlock online.

A couple of these goals are exact copies of ones I made for myself in March (here) - specifically numbers 1
and 2 - but because of all the hullaballoo going on, along with me still trying to find my groove in being unemployed, they turned over to be accomplished in April! Grace over perfection.

Have you made any goals for yourself this month?
Did you make any in March? How did you do?

I hope you have an absolutely lovely weekend!

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A Sigh of Relief

Friday, March 28, 2014
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No more.
No more apologizing.
No more giving in when I feel guilt overcome me.
No more hiding my feelings in order to make someone else feel comfortable.
No more suppressing who I really am to be who someone else wants me to be.
No more pretending.

Instead, there will be feelings hurt - for which I apologize about in advance right here, right now.
There will be feelings I address in myself that have needed to be broken and changed for...
well,
basically my entire life.
For the very first time, I will become selfish in a new and healthy way.

All this time I was finding myself,
And I didn't know I was lost.

Listening to: lots of Dallas Green and City & Colour
Feeling: overwhelmed, yet empowered.

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My Heart in Our Marriage

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
A lot has been happening, once again, in The Marvelous Life of Cara, and I wanted to share with all of you what those things have been looking like in my day-to-day happenings.

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Last week, I hit my breaking point with Dan. I guess I haven't really been speaking about the complications and emotional damage we've been causing each other for the past 6-7 months, mostly because I - understandably - wanted to keep a low profile when it comes to something so serious as a hurting marriage, but I feel like it's finally time to begin sharing, at least a little tiny bit. Basically, we've been meeting with our pastor off and on since we finally got the ball rolling around the middle of last December, and that had been going well I suppose. But last week, when I hit my breaking point, I went in to meet with our pastor the very next day, and I just laid it all out for him. I told him I can't do this anymore, and long story short, that I was done. After explaining to him what led me to this decision, he said, with tears in his eyes, that he absolutely understood, but would I do one thing for him: would I make an appointment right then and there with the therapy organization our church is in partnership with, and would I go to counseling? I told him I didn't want to, that I don't even care to fight anymore, and so he said that he was going to ask me to do something I don't want to do - because he remembers the first time I was sitting with him and I told him that I would do whatever I can as far as I am concerned, so that in the end - if this ends - I won't have any regrets. So I made the appointment and went in with Dan Thursday afternoon.

I've never felt so hopeless about a situation before in my life. My will to fight is essentially gone, and I don't even want to bother to try to explain/defend myself in this fight anymore. I'm so worn down and so overcome and I just can't. Please be gracious to me in this. One thing I'm learning above all else through this is that God doesn't do "black and white." Rather, God lives in the gray places; He specifically makes it quite clear in His word that following His son, Jesus Christ, isn't about rules, but rather a relationship. And relationships are dirty and every situation is different and His grace extends to the empty parts and dark parts of ourselves. Some people who get a divorce might be doing it because it's the easy way out, but I guarantee you this is not the easy choice by any means. I've never seen that so clearly before in my life, and no matter what happens from here on out - I will remember that because God is gracious to me, I must be gracious to others.

But I do plan on continuing counseling at least until something is 100% clear. I know how I feel, and how I've confided in some dear friends about this strong, dark struggle; I know what God is shaking up within me, and I know where my breaking point is. I know that marriage is a holy and beautiful institution and I want a happy marriage - I want a relationship with someone who I willingly lay down my life for on the daily and they do the same for me. I just think Dan and I have gotten so mixed up and still have yet to give up pieces of ourselves in order to better the other, and I honestly don't know if we can lay some of those things down. My biggest regret in all of this is how we handled things prior to getting married. We dated long distance for 2 months - which is difficult because I now realize you can be whomever you want to be on the other end of the telephone - and then got engaged a month after I moved out to California. Then, five and a half months later, we got married. I know many couples personally who dated the same amount of time and were engaged the same amount of time as us - and their relationships are so strong and beautiful and exactly what they wanted and needed. I just know that it wasn't the wisest choice for me at all. Blah, I have so many more feelings on this in so many different parts of my heart, but I'll just suffice this to share what has been going on for now.

On a happier note - I received my unemployment aid in the mail on Saturday so now the huge impending doom of just $77 in my bank account has been redeemed! Thank You Jesus.

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Down South || Part 2

Thursday, March 13, 2014
Sitting in Panera Bread alone as I prepare this blog post really takes me back to the good ol' days (circa March 2011) - living at home, in my prime as far as fitness goes, attending college - and sitting here now, all the way across the country in southern California in March of 2014 - I'm a completely different woman. I look back to that girl who was finally finding herself after 20 years of not knowing where she fit into this world, I see a girl damaged and hurting but despite all of that, confident in her own skin, and I miss her. Because sitting here now, surrounded by the chaos of no job, no income, no health insurance but awful health, still no degree, a nearly-destroyed marriage, and a few more pounds, I would choose to go back to that time and make a few decisions differently.
Anyway, I promised part 2 of my North Carolina journey, so here we go!
Read part 1 here.

Later that night, something horrific happened. Something I think I'm still being blamed for that I actually didn't do, and if I did, I only did jokingly and innocently. So that night, I stayed up till around midnight calling friends and my favorite US Airways pilot asking for help. Eventually I just gave up and decided I'd come to a conclusion Sunday morning, and goodness gracious God blew me away.

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Sunday morning, I woke up and for half a second, thought last night was simply a bad nightmare. Granted, it was only about three and a half hours later (I was woken up at 3:30 AM due to the stress and anxiety flowing through me), and when I finally remembered why I was so stressed and anxious, I went to work. I believe the majority of you saw my shout-out for help on Instagram, and offered me a place to stay - THANK YOU. So many of you whom I've never even met offered to do so much for me - you are all angels and may God bless you abundantly! The one who finally made the absolute most sense - who I met during my NTBI days 5 years ago, has followed me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, but we never really connected - reached out and told me she lived right there in Wilmington. A few hours later, she and her husband were out front picking me up and heading to treat me to Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts!

Oliver and Karla blessed me more than any two people normally would in a situation like that. Not only did they rescue me from an awful situation, but they went above and beyond the "call of duty." God miraculously kept us in touch for all those years for such a time as that, when I was in desperate need. We became instant friends, and the beautiful friendship I've found in Karla is something I was sadly living without until this trip - so the pain and sadness was worth it if I got this awesome blessing of a friend out of it all. Seriously, I can't get over how awesomely we connect! We were literally made to be friends. I am forever thankful for Karla and her husband! So, once we got back to their apartment and all had some donuts (they spoiled me - let me, along with them, pick out a dozen donuts. Actually, even apart from the donuts, they absolutely spoiled me), I laid down on the guest room floor - which also happens to be the room they keep their two dogs, Gus and Mollie in when they go away for the day - and granted it was stinky, but it gave me some much needed time to rest.

Then, all of a sudden around 8:30 PM, I heard it. The Pretty Little Liars theme song. Karla watches PLL AND Oliver watches it with her?!?! It was incredible. We had so much fun that evening, and for dinner they made me some gluten-free grilled cheese along with some homemade amaaazing tomato soup for dipping! They also got me a bunch of food I wanted and could eat that were in the confines of my gluten-free diet, and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Goodness, they just gave and gave and gave.

On Monday and Tuesday, days 2 and 3 of my time with the sweet couple, how we spent our time kind of blends together in my memory, but here's what I do know: I watched Cars and Cars 2 (been dying to see Cars 2 foreverrrr), we all watched Pretty Little Liars and Parks & Rec together, I spent some time reading, Karla and I had some amazing bonding time where we seriously talked about e v e r y t h i n g, I went on a long walk around their neighborhood and happened upon an awesome pond where there were alligators and ducks and turtles (oh my!), and we got Chinese food. I left Wednesday, late morning, and couldn't wait to get home - mostly because my body takes a beating when I travel all day and I really didn't want to deal with that.

Moral of the story: someone please make apparation (Harry Potter) or teleportation a thing.
We're living in the year 2014 for goodness' sake.

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