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Good Words

Friends, my playlist is about to get a major Mama makeover. Elliott and I have never been the kind of parents to keep our preferred music away from our son. Sure, some of the content got watered down once little man’s ears started to pick up on words, but we never fully converted our music of choice over to a Kidz Bop-approved variety. Over the last year or so, Brooks – our son who is now five years old – has taken a special interest in singing along with me to the songs that are on my playlist. We sing in the car, he sings along with the music while I work out or while we run down back country roads. It’s kind of become our thing. When we get to the songs that are filled with uplifting messages – messages that reinforce our faith or encourage self-confidence – I always say, “Listen, buddy! These are good words.” After a few months of me reminding him to pay close attention to the lyrics in certain songs, Brooks has now started to ask me, “Mommy, are these good words?” wh

Choosing the Light

I'll be honest. This is the post that I've been halfway dreading to write. In some ways, I'm thrilled to write it, and I'll be so relieved when it's over. As a writer, it's a story that I need to tell - I'll feel lighter somehow once the words are on the page and out of my head. As someone who is living in a season of personal development and transparency, I'll feel better about telling the full truth. But it ain't easy, y'all. Even now, as I begin to write, my stomach is in knots. (That could also be the Chinese food I just ate. Hard to say.)

I need to tell this story because it's such an important piece of who I am and who I'm becoming. And I need to tell this story because I think there are folks who need to hear it. I'm pushing aside my fear of being judged by some, in an effort to share words of hope, inspiration and encouragement with those who need it.

Since Elliott and I started AFP, we've had so many sweet folks tell us how much they appreciate the content we've been sharing. Those comments mean the world to us, they really do. But the more we hear them, the more we feel a sense of responsibility to share the full story of where this project came from. To be open and honest about the good thing that grew out of one of the hardest seasons we've ever walked through. We believe that it doesn't do anybody any favors to only see the highlight reel of life; but true beauty is found when we have the courage to share the gritty truth of our lives.

The truth is, 2017 was probably the hardest year of our marriage to date. And it had a lot to do with me. There are plenty of reasons for it, but I think one of them was a delayed grief from losing my dad at the end of 2015. When Daddy died, I truly didn't know what to do. I kind of expected to fall apart and lose my mind, and that never really happened. But I also couldn't read the grief books. And I didn't go to therapy. For a while, I didn't really know how to pray. I just didn't know what to do.

So I just started doing...I took care of my mama. I took care of my son. And I threw myself head first into my job. About a month before Daddy died, I had gotten a promotion at work, and I felt like I was in over my head. So I dove into working as hard as I could, as much as I could. In the beginning, I did it because - in addition to trying to catch up with the pace of my new position - I thought it was what Daddy would want me to do. I really thought if I hung his artwork on the walls of my new office and worked really hard to manage people the way he would have told me to, I would be honoring his memory in the best way I knew how. I felt like I needed to pick up some baton that had been dropped when he died and keep carrying it to some imaginary finish line.

In the meantime, I wasn't focusing on any kind of true self care. While my mama was reading grief books and devotionals, and working on strengthening herself and her faith, I was just going through the motions. And at some point, over time, something started to shift. I started to - subconsciously at first - feel better at work than I did at home. Home was hard. My personal life was filled with constant reminders that my world was different, a bit more empty with the absence of Daddy, and it felt better to surround myself with situations and people that didn't have any connection to my past.

Looking back, it's so clear to me now that I was filling a hole in my life with so many wrong things. I developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol - it made me feel better. Ironically, Daddy told me years ago that I should be careful to never have a drink if I ever felt like I NEEDED one. I should have listened...and I hope that if you're reading this and need to hear this word, please HEAR it. You don't have to be an alcoholic to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. If it's acting as a band-aid for a hurt that you want to ignore, that's unhealthy. Even if nobody knows it but you. Admit it to yourself and fix it.

I also developed an unhealthy relationship with folks outside of my family. As much as I hate to admit it, and as sick as it makes me to think about it even now, I prioritized relationships with other people over my own family. And it skewed my judgment in a massive way. I made poor choices that I never thought I would make. It's been a humbling journey, to say the least.

I knew - for nearly a full year - that I wasn't living the way I should be. And my saint of a husband was doing everything he could to keep me, and our life together, on the rails. Meanwhile, I was just hiding...from myself, from my family, from the truth. I felt like such a hypocrite and a phony. I would go to church on Sunday mornings and sing in front of our congregation, and feel like I shouldn't be up there. I would sit in our Bible study and think: "If these people knew how I was really living, they wouldn't want me in here." I confessed some of this to a co-worker recently who said he was so sorry - he had no idea I had gone through such a rough year. I responded by telling him that there was no way he could have known - I hid it completely, and I ran away from anything and anybody that would have held up a mirror to how I was behaving.

Everything came to a head last December. After dancing all over "the line" for nearly a year, I crossed it. My husband was fed up. I was disgusted with myself. It was my official wake up call. After hiding in a self-inflicted darkness for so long, I made the choice to step out of it. I was honest with my husband. I was honest with my mama. I was honest with my Creator. I was honest with myself. And telling the truth - as scary and dreadful as it may have been - felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. Stepping out of the darkness, deciding to choose the light, flooded me with a sense of relief.

I want to be clear about something here. I very much believe that a power greater than me, a power that could only have come from the One who created me, saved me from that darkness. I believe that I was allowed to walk through that season so that I could discover the person that I'm supposed to be. But I caused a lot of hurt along the way. The people closest to me showed me an enormous amount of grace and mercy, even when they didn't want to. That's no small miracle, friends.

When I finally, FINALLY woke up, I wanted to change everything. I was done making excuses for the way I was living. I wanted better. I wanted to chase down the best, healthiest version of myself that I could possibly be - in mind, body and spirit. As a starting point, I asked Elliott to start training me. A few weeks into it, a couple of really cool things happened. One, I started to notice an exciting difference in my body and overall health, thanks to the workouts he was writing for me. And two, we were growing together through a shared passion and a project we were creating with each other. As an aside, working with my husband has always, always been a dream of mine...and it was a dream that I had stopped believing would ever happen. All of a sudden, after stepping out of such an intensely difficult season, that dream seemed possible again.

This past March, we decided to officially start AFP. The rest is an exciting work in progress. I feel like I am finally starting to truly live as the best version of myself - to become the person I was created to be. And not for anyone else...for me. It's a dangerous game to play when you manifest ideas about the person you think people want you to be. It's even more dangerous when you hide behind a thinly veiled image of who you WISH you were, while you're actually living in a way you know is wrong.

I don't know who all is reading this, and who all needs to hear these words. I know I'm taking a risk by putting myself out on the ledge and telling my story. But if even one person needs to hear it, then it's worth telling. Friends, the darkness is no place to live your life. And if you're trying to escape one dark place by filling your life with unhealthy things that bring temporary solace...well, you're only going to leave one dark place to find another.

But here's the good news: there's another option. There's the light. The truth. The sweet goodness of being in step with your Creator, your family, your true self. Living your best life. Being healthy in mind, body and spirit. It's possible, friends, I promise. No matter where you are or where you've been, all you have to do is turn around. Look up. Choose the light.

"After your season of suffering, God in all His grace will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you." 1 Peter 5:10


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