Happy 4th of July!

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Behind the Scenes Link Up

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This blog is all about finding myself and being me… being real in an online world of “make-up version” only. So I thought it only fitting to take part in this fun link up from Crystal Stine. You can find out more about the link up here, but the general idea is to post a photo of a very real moment and tell the story. It’s an opportunity to be real and show the world what takes places outside of the cropped photos and edited blog posts.

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A few years ago, I read on a blog somewhere about a woman who had friends over for an Easter dinner. While there, the friend asked if she would like help taking down her Christmas tree. I laughed and thought, “How can people leave their Christmas decorations up until Easter?!”

Well, I think I know how that happens now. We got the Christmas tree put away within the first week or two of January. But the rest… well, let’s just say it was well after Christmas when I finally got them packed away and carried back out to the garage.

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This photo (of my new can lights in the kitchen ceiling) proudly displays a Christmas garland still hanging up on February 28th. I was slightly embarrassed that it was still up then. Hahaha. If only I had known how long it would stay there.

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This photo was actually taken on Christmas Day after my 4 year old set up a fort with his new fort kit. But picture the sheets not there and the nicely arranged festive décor all in disarray with toys and general clutter mixed into it and that’s what it all looked like… (not too long ago).

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And this photo is of my sweet daughter who kindly agreed to help me pack up all the Christmas decorations, oh you know… about a week ago… on June 7th. I think we just might skip Christmas decorations next year.

A Few Good Reads

1IMG_0513Dear Mom Who Feels Like She Doesn’t Measure Up – Finding Joy – Laying aside the motherhood measuring stick and being real

Why You Need To Tell Someone How Scared You Are – Chatting at the Sky – Being real about our fear and finding strength in those around us

 

The Writing of a Love Story, Part 2

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Be sure to catch part one.

 

One Sunday evening, as I sat in the dining room with my roommate, the director of the training center came up behind me and whispered in my ear, “I need to see you in my office when you’re finished.” Immediately, I felt sick to my stomach. I managed two more bites, then realized I was too sick to stuff more in.

I looked around the dining room for Michael. Just a smile or even a look from him would put my nerves to ease. But I could not find him. I quietly excused myself, cleared my dishes, and slowly made my way to the director’s office.

“Hello, Samantha,” he said, without looking up from his computer. “Take a seat.”

I sat down in the leather chair positioned in front of his desk. He cleared his throat and turned toward me. By this time, I felt as if I would vomit right there all over his shiny polished desk.

“It has been reported to me,” he began, “that you and Michael have been carrying on a secret romance and meeting for secret dates every week.” He paused, waiting for my reaction.

I don’t think my expression changed. I continued to simply stare at him, unsure of what to do with such a ludicrous accusation.

He leaned forward, placed his hands on the desk, and folded them in a sort of praying fashion. “You know the rules here. There are to be no romances. Any romantic relationship should be developed only with your parents overseeing eyes.”

I had heard enough. “Sir. Michael and I have not been secretly dating. We gather supplies each week at the same time to give us a chance to just talk and be friends without someone condemning us. It’s the plain and simple truth.”

He looked at me and raised an eyebrow. “Samantha, THAT’S dating.”

I leaned forward and looked him in the eye. “Now let me get this straight. If my friend, Bridgette, and I were to gather materials at the same time every week, so we could talk and just be friends, we’re dating?”

He pushed himself back from his desk. “You know what I mean, Samantha. Now go pack your bags. You’ll be leaving Tuesday morning. I’ve already called your father.”

There’s was nothing left to do, but stand up and leave his office. I went to my room, but I didn’t pack. My roommate came in after a while, and I told her everything. She cried with me and said she’d pray.

The next day, Monday, I was relieved of all my duties. I had nothing to do but hang out in my room and pack. I cried a lot.

I’m not sure what made me do it, but I went down to 208 at 7:00. I hadn’t seen Michael since Saturday evening, but I guess I was hoping that somehow he would be there too.

I walked into the room and looked around. There was nothing in there but paper and boxes and shelves upon shelves of supplies. I made my way to the long waist high table in the middle of the room. “Now what?” I thought. I didn’t want to leave, but what was the sense in staying?

I leaned forward, folded my arms across the table and buried my face. I knew that going home was going to be awful. I would have to face the silent anger of my father and the sorrowful disappointment of my mother. I just needed one more hour with Michael. I needed his strength.

I felt a hand on my back, and I quickly jerked my head up. There he was in all his handsome glory. Michael. Relief washed over me like a welcomed wave. For a moment, we didn’t speak. We just stood, receiving comfort and courage from each other’s presence.

“Where have you been?” I finally asked.

He took my hand and held it tightly. This was the first time he had ever displayed affection for me. I wasn’t sure what to do. Everything I had ever been taught about the defilement of affectionate touches from the opposite gender ran through my mind. I wanted to pull my hand away, but the need for him was too great in that moment.

“I was called into the director’s office Saturday night,” he answered. “I was told that I would have to leave the training center by Tuesday morning. Apparently, they disapprove of our friendship.” He paused and smirked mischievously.

“I left that night. I called my uncle who lives nearby and stayed with him. He gave me a job on his construction crew. Today was my first day. I borrowed money from him to buy a car. I will continue to work for him until I can pay off the debt. I want to get my own apartment too. No one knows I’m here tonight, but I just wanted to see you one more time.”

He pulled his hand from mine and sat in a nearby folding chair. My empty hand felt cold, and I shivered. “I called my parents last night,” he said as he folded his hands nervously. “They were not happy.  My father told me to end my rebellion and come home. He said I needed to serve my family and forget about you. When he realized I was not changing my mind, he said he and the church would pray that God would bring me out of my backslidden mindset.”

He stared at the shelves of colored paper until I broke the silence. “I fly home tomorrow morning. My dad is going to be silent and angry. He will treat me like I’m not even there. My mom will cry and sulk. They think I’ve sinned, but I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Neither of us knew what to say. He stood and took a step toward me. He looked into my eyes, and this time, I did not look away. There was a good 12 inches between us, but the burning pull was irresistible. I just wanted to be in his arms. I wanted to lay my head on his chest and know that everything was going to be ok. It took every ounce of will I could muster to keep from flinging myself at him.

He reached for a small box of chocolates on the table. I hadn’t even noticed it before then. He held it out to me. “I wanted to give you this before I leave,” he stammered.

I took it from his hand. “Thanks,” I whispered.

He quickly leaned forward and gently kissed my lips. “Only God can write a love story,” he whispered. “Don’t let anyone else dictate yours for you,” He turned away from me and walked out of the room. I thought that was the last time I would ever see him.

I slowly made my way upstairs to my room. I opened the door and stepped inside, sighing with relief that my roommate was not there. I walked to my bed and sat down. I wanted to cry, but there were no tears left.

I was not hungry for chocolate, but I opened the box anyway. Inside I found a CD and a note.

My Dear Samantha,

Please read these Bible verses and listen to this song. Call me if you feel as I do. 123-123-1234.

Love, Michael

Listed below were several Bible passages. I pulled my Bible off the nightstand and onto my lap. I turned to the first passage and read the story of how Eve was created for Adam. I flipped to the next and read about Jacob and Rachel. Then Ruth and Boaz. And on and on. Love story after love story. Each of them different, yet each of them orchestrated by God.

My roommate still had not come in, so I put the CD into her player. I didn’t know who sang the song, but her voice sounded young and confident.*

Elevator buttons and morning air  Strangers’ silence makes me want to take the stairs  If you were here we’d laugh about their vacant stares  But right now my time is theirs

Seems like there’s always someone who disapproves  They’ll judge it like they know about me and you  And the verdict comes from those with nothing else to do  The jury’s out, but my choice is you

So don’t you worry your pretty little mind  People throw rocks at things that shine  And life makes love look hard  The stakes are high, the water’s rough  But this love is ours

And it’s not theirs to speculate  If it’s wrong and  Your hands are tough  But they are where mine belong and  I’ll fight their doubt and give you faith  With this song for you

So don’t you worry your pretty little mind  People throw rocks at things that shine  But they can’t take what’s ours  They can’t take what’s ours

The stakes are high, the water’s rough  But this love is ours

*Ours by Taylor Swift

I went home the next morning. I talked with my parents for hours that night. I told them about everything that had happened while I was in New York. I told them how Michael and I had questioned and put to test every principle the Advantage Teaching Institute was built upon. I told them how I had liked Michael since the day I first met him. I told them how I never knew he felt the same about me until he kissed me. I told them I was going to study hard, pass the GED, and then attend college. I told them I was going to get a job to pay for it all. Most importantly, I told them that I loved them, but this is what I had to do.

They were sad that I questioned all that I had been taught. They were mortified that I let a man kiss me. And they were outraged that I would work outside the home and go to college.

I called Michael the next day and every day after that. He gave me courage to resist bondage. It would have been a lot easier to simply submit and continue in the conservative, quiet life my parents felt was right. I needed his strength when my parents kicked me out of the house. I was told not to return again until I let go of my rebellious streak. I needed his acceptance when I was shunned by everyone in my parents’ church. Those who did speak to me simply stated they were praying for my soul.

Eight months later, I was on my way to New York again. This time as an independent adult, headed for the college life experience. It felt odd, but so freeing.

Michael and I kept our 7:00 Monday dates for the entire four years of my college time. I got a job at the local newspaper, editing articles before they were sent to the press. Michael continued working in the construction industry with his uncle. He took a few classes on the side as well.

I graduated as valedictorian of my class. I invited my parents, but they did not come. They could not support my decision to live away from home and further my education.

Two weeks later, Michael and I were married. It was a small wedding with local friends and family. Once again, I invited my parents, but they did not show up.

We’ve been married now for 10 years. We have three very adorable daughters and one handsome baby son. I am ever so grateful for a box of chocolates, a kiss, a song, and a God who writes unique love stories.

 

*While this story is written in the first person, it is entirely fictional. Any correlation between this story and the stories of those raised in ATI (Advanced Training Institute) is entirely intentional.

Photo Credit

Music Mondays: Gold

goldBritt Nicole – Gold

(Listen on Spotify or Youtube)

You were walking on the moon, now you’re feeling low
What they said wasn’t true, you’re beautiful
Sticks and stones break your bones, I know what you’re feelin
Words like those won’t steal your glow, you’re one in a million
 
This, this is for all the girls, boys all over the world
Whatever you’ve been told, you’re worth more than gold
So hold your head up high, it’s your time to shine
From the inside out it shows, you’re worth more than gold
 
Well everybody keeps score, afraid you’re gonna lose
Just ignore. They don’t know the real you
All the rain in the sky can’t put out your fire
Of all the stars out tonight, you shine brighter
 
This, this is for all the girls, boys all over the world
Whatever you’ve been told, you’re worth more than gold
So hold your head up high, it’s your time to shine
From the inside out it shows, you’re worth more than gold
 
So don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not loved
And don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not enough
Yeah there are days that we all feel like we’re messed up
But the truth is that we’re all diamonds in the rough
So don’t be ashamed to wear your crown
You’re a king you’re a queen inside and out
You glow like the moon, you shine like the stars
This is for you, wherever you are
 
This, this is for all the girls, boys all over the world
Whatever you’ve been told, you’re worth more than gold
So hold your head up high, It’s your time to shine
From the inside out it shows, you’re worth more than gold
 
So don’t be ashamed to wear your crown
You’re a king you’re a queen inside and out 

 I recently heard Britt Nicole on the radio telling the story behind the birth of this song. She tells how she woke up one morning feeling defeated, beating herself up, and just plain down. She pulled her Bible into her lap and prayed, “God, what do you think of me?”

She read in Psalm 8 how God created us a little lower than the angels and crowns us with glory, and in I Peter 2, we are called a royal priesthood. How exciting that we are royalty, that we are right up there with the angels!

As I listened to her story, I thought about all the negative voices that tell us just how worthless, ugly, and insignificant we are… past abusers, current abusers, bullies, culture, magazines, TV… sometimes, even our own voice lashes out against us.

But we are His. We are loved. He has made us royalty and crowns us with glory. What a tragedy to throw this gift on the ground in disdain. No matter what any of the voices tell us, we need to hold our heads high and wear our crowns with confidence.

 

*Britt Nicole’s website can be found here. However, it is download heavy and may crash your browser session.

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In the conservative circle in which I grew up, contemporary Christian music was not allowed. After marrying, I began to listen to a CCM radio station. Much of my spiritual growth since then can be attributed to the many CCM artists and the songs they write. There is truth in those words and power in their music.

If music means as much to you as it does to me, you might want to check out Spotify. This music program allows you to search for particular songs and save them to playlists, allowing you to listen to your music whenever you wish. Best yet, it’s free. (It will require you to download their music program to your computer, but I promise it will not download any junk.) You can find all the songs highlighted in Music Mondays at the Recovered Identity Spotify playlist.

photo credit

A Few Good Reads

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When Your Mother Says She’s Fat – Stuff – A good look at how our self image affects our daughters

Be the Boss of You – Simple Mom – Finding freedom in the responsibility of being an adult

Why I Gave Up On Being a Perfect Mother – Money Saving Mom – Embracing the imperfections of motherhood