Acceptance

I couldn’t share this picture until now. It was Caleb’s first day of Kindergarten, a day we were not celebrating because of how painful it was. I was desperately worried about Caleb, being pushed into this situation a month after being in another classroom with his close friends, to being in a classroom twice the size and not knowing anyone.

I’ve been reflecting about this past year since his diagnosis. It feels like a lifetime ago, and yet it flew by. It was a traumatic year, so my memories are already blurry and faded. I am struck by the nagging feeling that I need to remember it, to process it all. I have to take something from it, make it make sense and have meaning, so it’s not just something we survived. I want to walk into the pain, feel it, and let it teach me something. I’m not afraid of the pain for myself anymore, but I admit I still fear his pain. I will do all I can to set him up for the best future possible, but I must accept that I cannot take away the pain or struggles he will face.

We got the diagnosis right before this school year started and have grieved what this all means for him, with each new event since then. From being asked to leave the school he’d been at since toddlerhood a month into the school year… to hearing of his behavior issues in school… to meetings with teachers… to calls and emails home…to working with an ABA therapist… to continuously developing new strategies and procedures to help him function in school…to helplessly watching him struggle and fail for 12 weeks in a general education class…to IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings… to moving to a special ed class in December… to thinking all was well, then getting more calls about his behaviors at school and after school… to BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan) meetings… to hearing that they don’t have a good option for him next year… to not knowing where he’ll go and what will happen for weeks… then finding out we need to go to another new school next year.

I’ve done a lot of crying in the car.

I feel like the wind gets knocked out of me as soon as I catch my breath. Again and again with each new thing. I’m scrambling to understand and process it all, feeling helpless and afraid for his future, and trying to accept this new normal. Caleb isn’t able to be in general education yet, but he also doesn’t fit well in more severe special needs classes, either. It is both the curse and blessing of this “in-between” place he’s in. It’s harder to find appropriate services.

School was so much harder for him than we anticipated. He goes through good seasons, which I totally celebrate and am grateful for, but it also makes the calls and bad seasons more difficult, partially because I don’t think I really wanted to fully accept that he’s autistic. I mean, I KNOW he is, but in my heart I didn’t want to see him that way. I’ve come to realize that that’s not a good thing.

Caleb is Autistic. That means that almost every single aspect of his life will require more from him and from us. On his first day of 1st grade, Caleb will have been to 3 schools, and in 4 different classrooms. Because of how everything went down this year, we didn’t even get to celebrate Kindergarten. We had him in Junior Kindergarten because we wanted him to be older (his birthday is July 1st), but when we had to quickly scramble a month after school started to find a place for him to go, the best option seemed to be our public school since they have a great team and offered many classroom options. The problem is, we had to enroll him as a Kindergartener. I asked about holding him back and having him repeat Kindergarten and it seemed like it wouldn’t be a big deal. (I now know that holding a child back for anything other than academic reasons is nearly impossible). So, we enrolled him thinking that this year would be practice and I could feel my feelings and celebrate him being in elementary school next year.

I still can’t believe he’ll be in first grade next year. It’s all a little surreal, since this wasn’t our plan (but this is a feeling we’ll have to get used to). I still believe it would be better for him to be older, but there doesn’t seem to be much else we can do at this present moment. Maybe he can repeat the grade when he transitions into general education classes, but it may not be what’s best for him at that point. We’ll just need to take it one year at a time for now. I only want what’s best for Caleb. My most consistent prayer is that the Lord will reveal that to us as we go on this journey. He’s been faithful so far.

This new school does seem really incredible. Lord, I wish it weren’t so far away, but I will drive for over an hour every morning if it helps Caleb. He will be in an autism class, and it makes me happy to know that this class will be the first big step in helping him understand and accept who he is, exactly as he is.

When I view Autism as a part of his identity and how his brain is wired, I can actually love him better. When I remember he is Autistic, I celebrate his victories all the more because I’m not forgetting how much harder he had to work for them. “A normal day” requires so much more from him. When people tell me, “he doesn’t seem autistic”, I have to remind them (and myself) how hard he has to work for that. I chose not to be upset about it anymore, because I know people mean well. They also are not seeing what we see at home and school.

And conversely, when I see him as Autistic, I remember to have more grace and patience when he struggles/melts down/hurts us/or has a terrible day at school. It took long enough, but I’m getting a little better at anticipating his struggles so I’m not always taken by surprise.

Our healing largely depends on the story we believe about our suffering. Was this hell something we were able to learn something about ourselves through? Was it something that made us better? Or was it just this terrible thing?

I am telling myself a story every day. I am believing a narrative that I myself set with my thoughts. My story is that this has made me a better mom, a better friend, and a better therapist. I have been forced to grow and challenge myself in ways I never knew I would need to. I’m better about setting boundaries, sticking up for myself, and not letting other people’s opinions bother me. I’ve learned how to take care of myself better, not waste my energy worrying about things I can do nothing about, or feel the need to compare myself to any other mom. There’s not much room for the unimportant things, and it helps me focus on the big picture. I appreciate the simple pleasures of holding my boy’s hands, talking to them, playing games, and reading because time goes by so quickly and they will want me less and less. I have to soak it all in.

The last stage of grief is acceptance. I can’t say I’m in a place where I “accept” his diagnosis and honestly, that’s not really my goal. I accept him. When we first found out, I said stuff like, “Autism is not who Caleb is, it’s what he struggles with.” “He has autism, he’s not ‘Autistic'”. Then I started reading material written by Autistics and realized that most of them self-identify as Autistic. They want others to see them that way because it helps foster understanding, grace, and doesn’t force them to ACT like everyone else to make other people more comfortable. It’s no longer my goal to have Caleb seem as “normal” as possible for fear of other people’s reactions. It is my goal to help him love himself and accept his differences. Then, I endeavor to help him learn the skills and resilience he needs to deal with those who don’t understand him and face the challenges ahead.

Pain has a way of refining us when we let it in. When we don’t waste all our energy pushing it down and ignoring it, we can let it teach us something. I trust that the same will be true for Caleb’s pain. His resilience, kindness, integrity, and joy will depend on whether or not I allow him to actually struggle and fail, and help teach him how to deal with it.

Autism is not bad, it’s just different. His brain is different and that is ok. He is fearfully and wonderfully made. I’ll never stop figuring out how to accept WHO he is. All the time. Every moment. Every time I don’t understand. Every time he says and does the worst thing he can think of in the moment. Every time he’s pushing me away. Every time he says and does things against what we’ve so carefully tried to teach him. Every time I’m getting yet another call from the school. Am I able to separate his behaviors from who he is and accept him in spite of them?

I’m getting closer, and I count that as a victory. Progress, not perfection. Having more knowledge and understanding about Caleb’s challenges have helped me accept HIM better. Understanding helps us all. Understanding someone is the difference getting angry at the person who was rude vs. knowing they just got the news that their parent/friend/spouse was recently diagnosed with cancer. Can we better accept someone’s behavior when we know that it had nothing to do with us? Can we better forgive our spouse/friend/co-worker when we understand why they may have behaved poorly? Of course! Understanding leads to compassion, and compassion enables acceptance (of the person, not the harmful behavior).

Caleb’s autistic brain makes him different and special. It makes some things easier for him, and some things harder. He is kind, sweet, and loving.  He was SO brave this year, you guys. So freaking brave. Braver than me sometimes, let’s be honest. I am insanely proud of how hard he has worked. He’s my hero, that kid.

We’ve been so blessed to have such amazing teachers love him this year. I have an even greater respect for teachers, having seen them go above and beyond for Caleb. I will always be grateful for their love and acceptance of him, and as hard as this year was…it would’ve been worse if I hadn’t felt that they were fighting for him. In addition to his teachers, we had a wonderful ABA therapist who talked me off the ledge many times, wonderful friends and family, good jobs so we can afford what he needs, and flexible schedules. We also worship a God who has been ever faithful through it all. He has a plan for Caleb, and He loves him even more than we do. We are truly blessed, and I do not take it for granted.

Thanks to all of you who have had a part in our blessings this year. We love you!

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How do you know?

How do we know Caleb has autism? Well, as you saw in my last post, it was not a simple process for us because Caleb is very high functioning. His challenges are often unnoticeable… until they aren’t. It’s been harder to understand him because he has so many times where he can “perform” or behave like a neurotypical child. We go through seasons of really good times and seasons where we face more challenges and autism seems more present in our daily lives. The following post is to help others understand his autism symptoms and how we were able to make this diagnosis, but it is not a clear picture of who Caleb is on a daily basis. He is affectionate, bright, enthusiastic, loves to learn, loves games, and is a sweet older brother to our son, Mason (much of the time, anyhow!). The following are the symptoms that are not present all day, every day.

ASD is diagnosed based on the presence or absence of certain behavioral symptoms in: social interaction, communication, and behavioral oddities or interests (Kaiser Permanente, 2006).”The first is in the way the child develops. A child with autism may start to develop normally, and then seem to stop,…or be very good in some areas and very poor in others. It is this inconsistency that is important in making a diagnosis” (KP, 2006).  Caleb walked at 10 months and he knew his alphabet at 22 months. He reached all his early milestones on time or way before. Yet, as he got older, he began to show delays in gross motor and fine motor skills. He also seemed to forget things he’d already learned. He mastered writing his name, and then seemed to forget how. Currently, and even with lots of OT already (because of his Sensory Integration Disorder diagnosis in 2014), his fine motor skills are at a 3.5 year old’s level (he’s 5). He still has difficulty riding a bike, swinging, sitting up straight, and with other gross motor skills as well.

One of the biggest reasons this diagnosis was hard to make is because Caleb is very friendly and social most of the time. He loves people and attention. He has friends his age, but he does prefer adults (adults are better able to compensate for some of the areas in which he lacks sufficient skills). He is very affectionate and loving. He makes decent eye contact. “It is not that autistic people do not relate to other people; they relate in odd ways. It is not that people with autism do not want to make friends, but they often do not know how” (KP, 2006).

The  second diagnosable area is communication. Caleb has difficulty with conversation, offering information, nonverbal communication, and with emotional communication/awareness. It has only been recently that Caleb will say, “I love you, too” after I say it, or respond when asked how he’s doing. He often seems to space out and not listen, or will respond to a question you didn’t ask, or shift topics to his own interests without responding to what was said prior. He will say made up words or gibberish to compensate for a lack of understanding, or to avoid complying. He will sometimes repeat made up words over and over or make strange sounds. Or hyper focus on a statement and repeat it over and over. He often seems to be in his own world. I thought this statement was perfect,

“People with autism see the world like a radio station that is poorly tuned in. Sometimes the world comes in clearly and at other times it does not. Therefore, people with autism tend to respond very inconsistently. For example, sometimes they will appear to hear you and at other times not. Autistic people may at times appear perfectly typical, but at other times very withdrawn. Inconsistency is a hallmark of autism” (KP, 2006).

That is Caleb to a T. I know that as he gets older, more will be expected of him socially, and we’ll see these issues even more. Continuing to teach him social skills will be paramount to his ability to maintain relationships in the future. I also see that he often needs some more time to process a question before answering. He will try to divert the attention away when he’s too overwhelmed by saying made up words or making a sound. He needs patience and someone who is willing to give him a few extra moments to process the question so he can answer when he’s ready.

He also has a difficult time understanding other people’s need for personal space, for example, not touching near or directly on people’s private areas. These are things I have taught and talked about very regularly, and he just seems to forget. Manners are also something that he has trouble remembering as well, despite the fact that I have been a total nazi about them. Sitting in his seat, buckling his seat belt, brushing his teeth, using his napkin, and other basic skills are a challenge. Again, these are skills I have to teach or remind him about daily many times.

The third area is behavioral. This was the most obvious category in which we saw Caleb’s challenges. “Autistic children can have a narrow range of interest, repetitive behaviors, or fixations” (KP, 2006). Caleb’s interests are usually very intense. Recently he became obsessed with numbers. He wrote out pages of numbers, asked questions about numbers, and wanted to add and subtract all the time. Now, he’s into games. He wants to play games all the time. He wanted a list of all his games, and will make a check mark by each after playing. He has decided we need to play each game 10 times. I find much of this very endearing and special. He lines his toys, will set up all his games on his floor, and will lose control if Mason puts one item out of place (that part isn’t endearing).

He sometimes has difficulty with transitions or change, has very large reactions to minor upsets or injuries, and can have unusual responses to sensations/textures. He may want to put something unusual in his mouth, or rubs strings on his lips (these strings can be attached to a stranger’s pants-agh! stranger danger is something he does not seem to understand despite regular conversations).

He will sometimes drool, but mostly just has a lot of excess saliva or want to eat non-food things like putty.  These are his sensory integration issues, despite significant progress through intervention.  He still has very picky eating habits and can have very large and intense negative reactions to the introduction of new foods or textures.  He has meltdowns (complete loss of control) over failed expectations (these can sometimes be anticipated and managed, but sometimes the expectation cannot be anticipated, i.e. he wanted a certain cup he hasn’t used in ages or we didn’t place his waffles on his plate the right way, etc). These meltdowns have shortened and lessened considerably since he was 2 years old and would have self-injurious  meltdowns for an hour (talk about Mommy PTSD).

Ok, back to the meltdowns. These are not tantrums. He loses control completely. I’ve tried all of the normal behavioral interventions for tantrums, and nothing seems to work. He also has these at school sometimes over a perceived slight, and sometimes even for reasons that are not apparent. Once he begins his “defiant spiral” as I call it, stern discipline or anger makes his behavior escalate further.  He will yell without words or scream at the top of his lungs, destroy his classmate’s artwork,  refuse to participate, and continue to do the opposite of what is asked of him. This continues until he is able to self-regulate. This does not happen very often, fortunately.

Only kindness and patience, and/or distraction has ever worked to shorten these defiant spirals. I will tell him, “there is nothing you can do that will make me love you less.” My best guess is he gets overloaded or overwhelmed with how hard he has to work to be “typical” that he just can’t do it anymore. He has cried to me after a defiant spiral saying, “I want to make good choices” (this makes me cry every time I remember this). He doesn’t seem to be able to control himself, that’s the thing. It breaks my heart when I remember how we’ve inappropriately (but understandably) reacted to these spirals. It’s especially hard for us to understand because he CAN and DOES behave. It appears like he’s deciding not to when he isn’t making good choices (I’m sure that’s sometimes true, but it mostly isn’t true). He cannot help it.

It’s like I can see the train coming, and I don’t know how to stop it or how long it’s going to barrel through. It is the most helpless, upsetting feeling, and I really can’t even put words around it. At times, I just shut down and numb out to prevent myself from totally losing my mind. We need more skills. This is where I’m hoping ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy can help us. We will restart OT for his fine and gross motor skills. And begin speech therapy again to help his articulation. I will educate his teachers and work out a plan to get him the extra help he needs.

Ultimately, Caleb will be able to stay in regular education classes, has a great chance of going to college, and will hopefully develop and maintain meaningful relationships. I truly believe his future is just as open as his neuro-typical friends. I do not take for granted how fortunate we are for this. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it will be an ongoing challenge, and he (and I) will have to continue work harder than almost all of his (and my) peers to make this a reality. I already admire and respect my sweet and special boy, but this diagnosis has made me do so even more. He is kind. He is loving. He is smart. He is strong and brave. I am so honored and blessed to be his Mommy.

Caleb, I have always loved you and I always will.

 I can’t wait to watch you climb more mountains, baby.

Love,

Mommy

 

 

 

 

one child with Autism

“If you have seen a child with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), you have seen ONE child with ASD.” Autism is a spectrum of neurobehavioral disorders with manifested symptoms in an individual child that are unique (Mark Mancino, M.D.). This means that the difference between mild ASD and severe ASD, plus everything in between is profound.

I have suspected for a long time that Caleb’s unique “quirks” and challenges were not well explained by his diagnosis of Sensory Integration Disorder when he was 3 years old. I would read a description of ASD and think, “that’s definitely not Caleb.” Then, I’d read another and think, “that sounds a lot like Caleb.” We’d go through cycles of “good” times, and then cycles of really hard times. I would try to come up with other explanations, “he’s tired/sick/getting used to a change, it’s the sensory stuff, etc.”

As a counselor, I’ve learned that pursing a diagnosis of any kind is not a black or white process. Whether the diagnosis is depression or autism, most of us have some preconceived ideas of what said diagnosis looks like, usually based on someone we know or saw on tv with the same diagnosis. When we see someone outside of those preconceived ideas, we immediately form an opinion about the validity of said diagnosis. Friends, we must suppress our urge to invalidate someone else’s experience/feelings/diagnosis based on our own life experience or lack thereof. If I am confused about something, I assume that I do not understand it yet.

Since my suspicions about Caleb were not going away, I did some research and then reached out to Caleb’s pediatrician asking for the next steps in evaluating Caleb. Her response was, “Caleb is not autistic. He makes eye contact.” I was hurt and angry.  In 2 short sentences, she’d completely invalidated the thousands of hours I’ve spent with Caleb (not to mention the fact that NO parent would want their child to be autistic).

What I WANTED and needed was to understand him better, and to have more resources for helping him. What I wanted and needed was to be heard. If Caleb is autistic, Josh and I need to know. His teachers need to know. Discouraged, but still determined, I made an appointment and armed myself with pages of notes I’d taken on Caleb’s behaviors based on my own observations, as well as his teachers. I was incredibly nervous and keyed up at the idea that she would continue to base her opinion solely off the 15 minute interactions she’d had with him, over my own experience with him.

Ultimately, (and thank God) we ended up not being able to see her and met with a different doctor that day. He listened well, asked questions, and even made copies of my notes. He put in a referral for the developmental pediatrician. Once the referral was processed, I made an appointment with the developmental pediatrician. At the appointment, Caleb and I spent 2 hours with him. He listened, took notes, and gave Caleb a series of tests, in addition to interacting with him. I filled out several assessments while we were there. Then, he sent me off with packets of more assessments for myself and his teachers to complete. Once we finally got all the materials we needed, I waited well over 2 months to hear back. During this time,  Josh and I decided Caleb probably wasn’t autistic. Then, after a very difficult night, I reached out again asking when I’d hear something.

Less than a week later, I met with the doctor and he talked to me about why he was diagnosing Caleb with Autism Spectrum Disorder. All the hard work, time, and effort had finally come to a conclusion, and I felt…a little surprised, but  also not surprised, relieved, concerned, and numb. Yes, one person can feel all those things simultaneously.

My hard work is far from over, this is just the beginning of continuing to advocate and fight for Caleb. To get him more OT, speech therapy, and hopefully ABA therapy. To aid others in understanding and helping him, and to set him up for the best possible life and future. If you are the praying type, I would covet your prayers and encouragement.

My next post will be about why Caleb has autism, because his symptoms are on the milder end of the spectrum, it makes it even harder to explain and conceptualize. The post will be as much for me as it is for you. Stay tuned.

5 Tips for Finding your Style

Full Disclosure: I’m still a novice when it comes to style! Until recently, getting dressed was something I absolutely dreaded. I did not like the way anything looked or fit, and I often didn’t feel good about what I was wearing. One of the main reasons was because of my displeasure with my body. Running hasn’t changed my body much, but it’s completely changed my mind about the way I see it. I appreciate my body now. I feel strong and capable in ways I never have before. Making peace with my body, appreciating it, and loving the things it allows me to do was my first step in finding my style. Sister, don’t wait to wear the things you’d love to wear once you lose the last __pounds, or fit into a number you have in your head. Wear what you want to wear now. Waiting to feel good about yourself, to treat yourself, to wear that style you love on others until you __________is a waste of your precious time, dear one. Get your clothes altered or buy some new pieces you can feel good in now. Feeling better about yourself and loving yourself AS IS will help you reach your goals, I promise. Which brings me to my first tip:

  1. Accept and make peace with your body. What your body is (real), and what it isn’t (surgically altered or photoshopped). Speak kindly to yourself. Spend time with people who lift you up and love you well. Love them back. Do not withhold your compliments out of jealousy or your own insecurity. Beautiful comes in all shapes and sizes and YOU are perfectly and wonderfully made.
  1. Get on Pinterest and notice the styles you are most drawn to. Create a board for inspiration.
  1. Pick one piece that is outside your comfort zone and buy it. For me, it was a pencil skirt. I loved the look on others, but feared it would highlight the width of my hips in comparison to my skinny legs (my legs are one of my favorite parts of my body now!) Once I bought one, I got on Pinterest again for inspiration on how to style that piece. And then repeat with more pieces over time.
  1. Remember the rule of 3.
    1. Base outfit (dress or top and bottom)
    2. Extra element: vest, cardigan, kimono, fitted jacket
    3. Another extra: bag, scarf, belt, statement necklace…

…and Voila! You’ve styled an outfit

  1. Have FUN and take risks! Fashion is so fun right now, because it’s cool to break the rules (white after labor day, mixing black and brown, and even mixing patterns!)

Bonus tip: You won’t necessarily look like a fashion blogger right out of the gate, and that’s OK! I can already see a difference in the way I’m styling now as opposed to when I started. Finding your style and practicing your new skill takes time and practice. Give yourself grace, you don’t have to get it “perfect” every time (I know I don’t)!

Confidence is the best accessory, sister!

Style On,

Lauren

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flame lit

Part 2, of 2.

Quick 411 about Winshape Marriages:

Winshape offers 3 categories of care for marriages: prepare, strengthen, and save. Within each category, there are many different programs offered.

I wanted to do our intensive through the Center for Relational Care (CRC), as this program was the class that ignited my hope for a deeper emotional connection with Josh. This was a “save” category, and even though we were not in crisis by any means, it served to strengthen our marriage and parenting skills exponentially.

CRC’s intensive has a prerequisite of 8-12 hours of “pre-work” counseling with one of their trained counselors. This time serves as information gathering, screening, and teaching the intimacy therapy principles. There is a considerable amount of paperwork and assessments prior, as well. All of it is so worth it, trust me! It makes the time at the intensive more productive and helps really solidify the new “language” (aka, intimacy, emotions, 10 Relational Needs, etc.) you learn while there.

We met with Dr. Courtney Putnam, and our time with her was the start of Josh practicing comfort and empathy. We discussed our highest relational needs, and how we could better met them. We discussed how our needs were (or weren’t met in childhood). After meeting with her, we were both got really excited and less anxious about the intensive because it was already working in our marriage!

Ok, fast forward to last Sunday afternoon. We arrive at the Normandy Inn, already super impressed with beauty of the Berry College campus. We are warmly greeted at our car, by Terry and Theta, our host couple. We are instructed to leave our bags for Terry to carry to our room, while Theta gives us a tour. It is clear they are warm and kind and glad we are there. They lovingly serve and pray for us for the duration of our stay.

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Lisa and Carl Peck are our leaders and they are amazing, loving, helpful, wonderful teachers and therapists. They share and incorporate their story of redemption and healing in their own marriage. We journey with 3 other couples and I’m certain we’ve met life-long friends in them.

And the rest is a blur of eating (amazing, delicious food!), laughing, crying, sharing, healing, warm community, and learning, all while in the most beautiful and serene setting you can imagine. Rinse and repeat.
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No description could ever do the beauty and sacredness of this experience justice. So I won’t try. Instead, I’ll simply share what it has meant to Josh and I.

Josh says, “I miss it already. I feel as though a curtain has been opened and I can see clearly now. Thank you!”

I say, “Thank you!! I cannot say thank you enough, really. My husband not only cried for the first time through this experience, but he also cried for others. My 2 highest relational needs are: attention and comfort. He saw me use my therapeutic skills AND got a good picture of what I do for a living. He fully entered my world (aka: attention!!). And, he was taught the skills to comfort emotionally. I learned the ways I could be a better wife to him. How I could help and not hinder the new skills he was learning. I have fallen in love with my husband more deeply than ever before, and I’ve never felt more loved or known by him. I will never, ever forget the many folks who so lovingly poured into us and prayed this experience into existence. Thank you ALL.”

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Hope ignited

The story of our Winshape experience, part 1 of 2.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” –John 10:10 ESV

The truth is, there is a large part of me that doesn’t want to share about our experience at Winshape. It feels too sacred, too personal, to even put words around it. The reason I am sharing is because I think someone needs to hear it. Do you believe that life abundant applies to your marriage?

For years, I told myself many good and healthy things regarding my marriage. That Josh is an earnest, loyal, dependable, steady, good man and a good husband and partner. He is a wonderful father. I am truly blessed to be his wife. All still true.

However, I also believed some partial truths. The biggest one being that I would never experience emotions with or from him (besides “glad” and “mad”). I told myself that I needed to accept that “he just wasn’t wired that way.”

For years, I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge the longing I felt when I saw other men cry when their brides walked toward them. Or, their tears of joy and emotion when they became fathers.

And then, while innocently taking a class to improve my clinical skills, I heard a man named Dr. Bruce Walker say that after decades of marriage (and experiencing the principles of intimacy therapy/Intimate Encounters) that he and his wife, Joyce actually lived a bible verse together for the first time, “…mourn with those who mourn.”

Once I heard that, my longing was reignited. Y’all, I need to warn you. It didn’t feel good to let myself feel that. It actually hurt deeply. Longing usually does. Even still, I couldn’t dim the hope that Josh was capable of feeling and experiencing emotions; he just didn’t know how yet. And suddenly, I no longer was willing to accept that I couldn’t have a more deeply intimate marriage with my husband.

The hope of a marriage, more abundant, was lit. We had a good marriage. Great in many ways, even. But, I wanted us to go to the marriage intensive. One that is generally for couples in crisis. Are you picking up on why this might have been a difficult conversation to broach?

So I told Josh about the marriage intensive. And he said, “YES, OF COURSE! ANYTHING FOR YOU, DEAR!”

No. That’s not what he said. He was hurt and confused, understandably. He didn’t believe it would accomplish what I was hoping it would accomplish. Plus, we couldn’t afford it. 4 days?! Thousands of dollars? He said no.

There were a myriad of reasons why it wasn’t practical or possible and only one reason to do it: I was no longer believing the lie that good was good enough when it came to our marriage.

So I prayed. And God, though not immediately, heard my cries. He provided a way. And, I didn’t let it go this time. Josh finally agreed.

my biggest regret

I was recently asked what my biggest regret was. My mind flitted over bad decisions in my past. Hard to pick one, honestly. Then, it hit me that my biggest regret is not loving myself sooner. Loving myself sooner would have surely shortened my list of bad decisions, but even more important than that; I would have been less afraid to try new things,  and to challenge myself. I wouldn’t have let the fear of failure or embarrassment prevent me from trying, or from expressing my true feelings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so infinitely grateful to be figuring it out now! This season of my life has been about learning how to love myself. Learning how to be kind to myself and comfortable in my own skin. Challenging the negative assumptions I’ve always had about myself. I wrote about my assumption that I’m not athletic or strong (among other things) in my last post and how I overcame that by adding truth with actions. I’ve spent time learning how to become a better mom, and be less critical of my mistakes. Every mistake is an opportunity to become better, and I’ve really made it my mission to learn and grow.

My newest negative assumption to overcome? “I’m not stylish”, “I don’t know how to dress myself”, “I’m just not cute”, “I couldn’t pull that off.” I’ve never been comfortable wearing the things I so admired on others. Afraid to accessorize. Afraid to step out of my comfort zone and buy much more than the simple, easy, same cuts and lines and colors.

I realize now that it’s all about confidence. Once I became comfortable in my own skin (oh high school body, why did I not appreciate your hotness?!!!). This comfort happened like yesterday, so I’m still a novice at this whole self love thing. It’s a process for sure. Better late than never though, right? This comfort has given me the ability to try new things, and to wear things that have been sitting in my closet forever because I just couldn’t feel confident enough to wear them.

Y’all, loving yourself doesn’t mean you stop improving. It doesn’t mean you are prideful. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fitness goals, or notice the blemishes. I’ve wasted so much time waiting to be comfortable in my own skin until I lost the last 5 pounds, my face cleared up, or whatever the next thing was. It just means that you use kind words, you step outside your comfort zone, you embrace the gift of your body, AS IS. What it allows you to do and experience. Once you can do that, I bet meeting your fitness goals will be a heck of a lot easier.

I remember when a zit would ruin my whole entire day(s). I mean RUIN! I couldn’t find a way to be happy or joyful because, ZIT! I have a ZIT(S) AND IT’S ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT AND YOU ARE LOOKING AT IT. YOU SEE IT. YOU ARE CRINGING BECAUSE I’M SO DISGUSTING. Nowadays, I still have zits and wrinkles. (Thanks, 30s). But you know what? It doesn’t rob my joy anymore. Still not a fan of zits, but I now have freedom from totally obsessing about them.

I’m going to share some of my new truth with you! I love looking at outfits, and I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and showing you some of my new attempts at being stylish!

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I’m on a skirt kick!

The first 2 photos are LuLaRoe’s Cassie skirt (which is the most comfortable, versatile, cutest skirt ever! $30 folks!), the last skirt I tried to sell at a garage sale because I’ve had it so long and never wore it! Glad it didn’t sell! All the shirts are from Target, because no matter how stylish I try to be I will never like spending a lot of money on clothing. The boots are at Old Navy now (they aren’t available online)!

How would you like to love yourself better today, friend?

Love,

L

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