Disclaimer: This is a long post and it might make some uncomfortable…feel free to stop reading at any time and go on about your business. I’m writing this post because I feel like someone somewhere can relate, and well, I just feel compelled to.
I loved you at your darkest. Romans 5:8
I am a broken, imperfect human being. I have always been, and I always will be.
I have always known that. I am my own worst critic… seriously. Most of the time no one knows that because I’m stoic, and I am great at faking a smile when it’s necessary. I’ve always had issues with procrastination, fear of disappointment, with food and weight…and on a side note, if you have always been skinny – you will NEVER understand how much of a lifelong, uphill battle that is…but that’s a whole other subject, so I’ll address it another time. I still get nervous – and probably always will – when I send new design work to clients. I get nervous in crowds of my peers (that whole fake smile thing comes in handy there), but not in crowds of strangers (weird, I know). I’m really pretty quirky when it comes down to it… but the point is, I’m imperfect. And I’m finally ok with that. It only took me nearly 35 years.
When I was in high school, I went to an evangelistic event at Coastal Carolina University with several of my closest friends. I was brought to tears by the speaker, although I can’t tell you his name or a word of what he said as I write this… it’s the first time I can remember clearly accepting Jesus into my heart. I can remember my heart changing at that time, and really for the first time feeling connected to my Faith. However, I was not even remotely a perfect follower of Christ from that point forward. I wasn’t even really a good one. As I grow in my faith, I am finally realizing that although I wavered and faltered and utterly fell flat on my face at times (most of my late teens and early twenties to be quite honest), Jesus never left my side, and held my hand all the way through the muck as I staggered blindly through my past.
As a child, I was active in the youth choir, and all through high school I was very active in my Methodist Youth Fellowship group at the church I grew up in. Of course there were plenty of “hypocritical church people” to go around – that goes without saying in most churches in the South, I think, and I was also surrounded by some fantastic adults and peers who helped lay the groundwork for my walk and my Faith.
When I went off to college, to quote Van, my husband, I was “a little fish in a big pond”. I immediately fell in love with Clemson University. I loved being a student. I fell in love with the Upstate of South Carolina. The crisp fall air. The beautiful changing leaves. The buzz of a large college campus in the fall…and um, CLEMSON FOOTBALL – HELLOOOOOO. There was so much to do on and around campus!! THERE WERE FOUR DIRECTIONS YOU COULD GO! Growing up the beach, there were only three – go too far East and you’d run into the ocean. You always had a point of reference. One of my roommates and I used to go driving around, singing in the car, trying to see if we could just get lost sometimes… interesting looking back now, metaphorically.
I could set my own schedule, and on the weekends I could sleep in! Both days if I wanted to. I learned a lot both in and out of the classroom…both good and bad, about life, people, friends, gentlemen and not so gentlemen-ly men.
What I did not do, was stay connected to my Faith. I know there were activities and organizations I could have joined to do so, but those were not the choices I made. I didn’t want to be a “bible beater”, for whatever reason – I can’t even tell you now…I probably would have saved a lot of money, heartache, and time if I had…but I didn’t. I did not make an effort to grow spiritually, and my behavior, choices and priorities reflected that. I partied wayyyyy too hard at times, even tried things I never said I would.
In my early twenties, all I know is that I was completely lost. Four and a half years and almost finished with a degree from Clemson, I stopped going. I worked, and while I was gaining VALUABLE experience in the workforce that I am very grateful for now, I was depressed and so very lost. I was miserable. I was lonely. I was faking a smile nearly all the time. Oh, I had some good times, and I have some great memories, but I was heading for disaster spiritually, mentally, and physically. I was far from home, faking happy, feeling lost and unfulfilled – basically wandering aimlessly.
And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love Him. Romans 8:28
Instead of loving myself as God loves us, I allowed myself to believe that my love wasn’t good enough, and I settled for guys that probably didn’t deserve my time – not to mention my attention, or worse, my love. Ultimately, after a blind date that wasn’t supposed to be any more than an evening of partying, I ended up in an unhealthy relationship that became an unhealthy marriage. In hindsight, if we both had been honest with ourselves from the beginning we would have seen that neither of us was ready for marriage, but instead he proposed and then the wedding plans started happening. When I finally started to recognize major red flags about the relationship it was weeks before the wedding. I had the perfect dress, the church was booked, the reception was planned, and the honeymoon had been paid for.
Your beauty should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:4
At the wedding rehearsal on July 20, 2007, having never been baptized, I again accepted Jesus into my heart and was baptized in front of my closest family and friends. The next day we got married, and once the honeymoon was over and we started to get real…I realized we had some serious obstacles to overcome. We both had a lot of room for improvement. We began attending NewSpring church semi-regularly with his family when we moved back to the Upstate in December of 2008. I was teaching K-3 at a Baptist Preschool, and had applied to return to Clemson to finish my degree. After being accepted, I worked my boohiny off from May 2009 to December 2009 to earn mental closure and one very expensive piece of paper also known as my Bachelor’s Degree. I’m pretty sure I learned more in those 30 hours at Clemson than I did in the first 4 ½ years.
My marriage, however, just got worse. As I grew – in both Faith and maturity, my spouse did not, nor did he want me to. The more I grew and flourished, the more I was controlled, talked down to, and discouraged…and ultimately abused. When the relationship became so toxic that I was in both mental and physical danger, I made one of the hardest choices I’ve ever had to make…I ended it. I come from a history of “DIVORCE IS NOT AN OPTION”, and I saw it as a failure, a scarlet “D” that would be plastered on me forever. “D” for “divorce” and “damaged goods”.
My divorce was finalized in May of 2013, and in December, my friend Van asked me to go to a dinner with him because the girl that was supposed to go cancelled on him. (I still owe her a thank you note for that). He had already committed to the second spot at dinner, and he knew I would know people there, too. That night, we had more conversation than we’d had in the five years I had known him prior. The next week he asked me on a real date… our first REAL date, December 27, 2013…where he picked me up from my parents’ house while we were coincidentally both at the beach for the holidays. My Dad answered the door when Van arrived, and the start of the date was super-awkward like we were 16. The awkwardness paid off though, we began a perfectly imperfect relationship in our thirties like two high schoolers. A couple of weeks later he asked me to go to church with him at NewSpring. On March 11, we attended ownership class together, and decided to become owners.
Part of NewSpring’s policy is that baptism is by full immersion, and because I had been baptized previously by sprinkling, I would have to be immersed to become a member. On Palm Sunday in 2014, I was baptized at NewSpring Church. I again asked Jesus into my heart. The baptism was also extremely personally symbolic for me. I went under the water that day holding onto all of the pain and mistakes of my past, and when I came out – the water – and my Faith – washed it all away. Not the wisdom I’d gained and lessons I’d learned, but the self-doubt, anger and bitterness that mistakes and adversity can often leave behind. Early in my relationship with Van, I was able to put the past behind me and gain a fresh perspective on life. I am thankful for all that I have learned and the experiences of my past. I am a much stronger, more grateful person because of them.
On June 27, 2014, Van asked me to marry him. Neither of us are perfect, but we are honest about our imperfections. We have a relationship built on love, respect, commitment to each other, and a mutual commitment to the Lord, striving to live a life of service and purpose.
On April 4 of this year, the day before Easter, we tied the knot on a beautiful Spring day in a park, in this sweet little town we call home. Though life has its ups and downs we know that together, with Jesus in our hearts, we can overcome any obstacle life sends our way.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; and laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25
Although I still struggle with my own shortcomings – procrastination, nervousness in crowds, my perpetual uphill battle with my weight, work stress, and heck, day to day life half the time, I have found a peace that I can’t even explain. I know that ultimately it will all be ok if I just take a deep breath, push through my fears and struggles, and keep working hard to be the best version of myself that I can be.
You are beautiful, for you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14
I am a broken, imperfect human being. I have always been, and I always will be. I am messy. Life is messy. I have made a mess of my life at times, but I always come back to Him; He always welcomes me back with open arms. I have seen what He can do with broken people, because I am one of them, and He’s changed my life. I have hope. The best is yet to come.
But as for me, I will always have hope. Psalm 71:14
…and pretty shoes, of course ;-P
Lauren is a Sr. Designer of Product Graphics for an international manufacturing company by day and a creativity crusader, designer, planner extraordinaire, artist and blogger in her “free” time. Follow her and The Olive Shoe on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram! Please subscribe to receive emails, of course, come back and visit again soon!