CHAPTER 1: DESPERATE FOR PEACE
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7
I knew it the second I looked down at my feet. The rhythmic beeps of machines and monitors all around me. I was finally waking up after two days and over seventeen grueling hours of spinal surgery. I tried wiggling my toes. I could feel them this time, but no matter how hard I strained, they just wouldn’t move like my mind was willing them to.
My immediate thought, “God wouldn’t allow me to go through something like this again without great purpose in it.”
I had been there with God before — heartbreaking pain that lead to great purpose, spiritual growth, and unshakeable faith, despite the outcome or circumstance surrounding me. I was able to say “even if,” because I knew if my prayers were never answered on this side of heaven, my hope resided in Him and Him alone.
Since writing Brokenhearted Hope in 2017, I’ve experienced two more miscarriages (for a total of four), found purpose in helping women find freedom, checked boxes and reached goals I never dreamed or imagined would be reality, had our rainbow baby girl, lived through a global pandemic, experienced debilitating postpartum depression, and finally got back up on my feet. Just when we had paid off all debt including our mortgage, I had retired as a college instructor, and experienced one of my best months in my online health and fitness business… I was knocked off my high horse right onto my back — both figuratively AND literally.
At one point I was convinced that things were as good as they were going to get. I had everything I had ever prayed for. After years of ups and downs I finally felt like I was on the mountain top instead of desperately trying to climb out of the valley.
I was actually fearful of the crash. Life isn’t linear. It’s constantly changing and what goes up must come down (and back up again). There’s a time for every season. The sun can’t shine all of the time. We need the rise and fall from day to night. It allows us to rest and signifies new beginnings and fresh promises each morning. And when you’re in the middle of a storm that feels like you’re stuck in a sideways downpour without cover or an umbrella, you have to remind yourself that the rain won’t last forever. Eventually the skies clear and you feel that familiar warmth of the sun shining on your face once again.
I’m still waiting on the clouds to clear completely, but somewhere along this journey I realized that I had my umbrella up in anticipation of the rain. And when you do that, you may be prepared at the sign of the first drop, but you’re going to miss the beautiful skies above you that God is painting.
Even when I was at my “peak,” I still felt unsettled. It was like life was a house of cards I constantly had to earn or prove. I was running full speed up a down escalator — burnt out, imposter-syndrome, and utter exhaustion I couldn’t seem to escape.
I was desperate for PEACE. If you’ve read my first book, you know I’m a serial planner. Up until our first miscarriage in 2015, I had my life planned out in my head perfectly. And it went according to my timeline for the most part. Patience isn’t my virtue, but growing up, I typically (eventually) got whatever I had set my sights on. One of the greatest ways to motivate me to work harder or try another avenue is to tell me “no” or that I can’t do something.
Didn’t make the middle school cheer squad?
Worked harder and made varsity as a freshman.
Grad school deadline passed and all spots filled?
Stood outside of the dean’s office pleading my case daily until they let me in.
Couldn’t afford to be home with our 1st baby because ends just didn’t meet? Busted my butt for financial freedom so if we had a 2nd I had the option to CHOOSE whether I worked or not!
When it comes to crawling out of a slimy pit, it’s easy to give God the glory. You’ve made it through heartbreak, circumstance or a season that you absolutely couldn’t have survived without Him!
But when you put in hard work — time, effort, blood, sweat and actual tears… it’s easy sometimes to forget where your strength comes from.
That’s where I was. I had just received one of my biggest blessings, but then, seemingly, the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan. March 5, 2020. The maternity leave I had imagined… days of finally getting to breastfeed (and not exclusively pump locked in an office all day), strolling the neighborhood on peaceful spring morning walks while big sister was at school, and soaking up all of the baby smells and snuggles I could possibly get came to a screeching halt with two words in an email from the school… VIRTUAL LEARNING. (Parents, I know you get me on this!))
Our beautiful rainbow baby had severe dairy allergies, colic and silent reflux. If she wasn’t sleeping she was screaming. We joke (is it considered a joke when you’re serious?) that if she had been first she’d be our last. She’s like a little feral cat. Unpredictable, beautiful and terrifying all in a matter of minutes. That commercial that says, “first they’re sour then they’re sweet…” that’s her. But usually the sweet doesn’t last long until she’s back to sour again.
The thing is… I felt utterly and completely out of control in both situations: vision-board bliss AND the mass chaos of teaching a second-grader to use a laptop while trying not to be caught on zoom with my boob whipped out feeding screaming baby during a global pandemic.
Although I’d like to say it’s taking a deep dive into meditation and quiet time praying and studying God’s word, my general coping mechanism for out-of-control is some sort of over-the-top rigid program, diet or challenge that gives me some false sense of having it all together.
As soon as Blakely turned one I was ready to thrive instead of survive. I began what I thought was going to be my greatest mental and physical toughness challenge ever. (HA!) If you’ve ever heard of 75 Hard you know what I mean. 75 days, two 45-minute workouts per day, one must be outside (rain or shine), a gallon of water, no alcohol (Lord help me now!) and zero treats/cheats.
I designed a pretty poster on Canva and had it blown up, printed and laminated at my local office supplies store. I taped it up on our fridge, planned out my meals, laid out my workout clothes and was a woman on a mission.
I completed the 75 days including multiple birthdays, saying no to Easter candy (denying Reeses eggs should be an actual SIN!) and a trip to Disney in which I contracted E-Coli the night before we left.
Just imagine a red and white polk-dot Minnie inspired romper (you know the ones you have to unzip and get fully naked to use the bathroom in), just my 9-year-old daughter and I, and an app that I checked between rides religiously because when I had to go, I HAD TO GO! It wasn’t a good look… but by gosh I FINISHED.
I was so proud (as I should have been I guess… I lost 35lbs and completed a challenge most quit within the first week), but despite my shrinking waistline, I had grown what my mother would call, “too big for my britches.”
The week after the challenge concluded I turned in my resignation from teaching and Brandon and I headed to the lake to celebrate all of the things. Little did I know, that trip and one boat ride would change the trajectory of my entire life.
Just when I had thought I had been obedient, achieved all my dreams and every prayer had been answered, God said, “I’m not done with you yet.”
Although I had tried to ignore the signs, I was no longer on the path God intended. I started on the right street, but somewhere in my journey I took a wrong turn that was leading me to a deadly destination. I heard the instructions to make a u-turn. I saw the signs that said, “Danger! Turn Back!” But as patience isn’t my virtue, neither is listening. Unfortunately, I’m more of the gotta try it for myself and learn the hard way kind of gal. (As you can imagine, my type A, always-right husband who’d save me from A LOT of heartache and difficult lessons if I’d just LISTEN loves this!)
I’ll never forget a mentor of mine sharing a quote with me that planted a seed in my heart and got my wheels turning. He said, “make sure you’re not climbing up a ladder to reach the top only to realize it was leaning against the wrong building.”
It hit me. What once was a journey and purpose to help women heal (including breaking generational chains for my girls and I too), became a moving target of worldly success that was never going to provide fulfillment or true happiness.
I hate that it took something so life changing to get me here. But my mission now is less about what’s happening on the outside, and all about finding and maintaining peace that surpasses all circumstances or understanding. Peace that can withstand storms of the strongest winds. And peace that doesn’t waiver based on titles, achievements, opinions, an amount in a bank account or current events.
I’d like to invite you along for the ride. I want you to find it for yourself. And then together we can pass it on to those around us and create a lasting ripple effect for generations to come.
There’s no better time than NOW.
There’s nothing our world needs more.
This is the journey of PURSUING and passing on PEACE.