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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Messy Opportunities [Day 4]

This won't sound glamorous (thank you Fergie, I can spell that properly.) 

My post this morning probably isn't going to give you goosebumps.. or cold chills, but it's what was on my heart this morning looking down at my sweet almost-3-month old. 

I changed one of the worst diapers I have ever seen about 9:00AM. Oh yes. I hadn't even had my morning coffee yet. About 20 minutes after Quinn opened those bright blue eyes, it was on. I could tell by her facial expressions that this wasn't going to be pretty. I was already mentally and physically preparing myself. Something around my nose to withhold the awful smell, wipes, diaper, hand sanitizer. I was set.

Quinn isn't one of those babies that enjoys having something in her diaper. So, she was immediately uncomfortable. What you might not know about me is that this breaks my heart. I remember one time on the way home from the grocery store (about a 20 minute drive to my house), I heard her doing her business and then the waterworks began. It's heartwrenching because you know that has to be extremely uncomfortable for them. It's the way of life, but it isn't fun.

This morning was nothing different.

I started hurrying to get her undressed and that diaper off. And as soon as that diaper came off and she was all cleaned up, you should have seen the sense of relief on her face. She felt comfortable again. She felt clean. She felt happy.

And *I* did that for her. I changed her diaper. I cleaned her off. And it brought peace to her. It changed the course of her day. I could have left her laying in it. I could have ignored her cries. I could have left her there to suffer.... it would have made her have a bad day. But I chose to push myself to the side... and bless her. 

Now you all are probably wondering how I am turning a story about changing a newborn's diaper in to something worth remembering... and here it is:

Sometimes things are going to be messy. Opportunities to help people are going to be disguised by not-always-pleasant surroundings. That's life, folks. Sometimes we are going to have to get our hands dirty, but here's the thing: PEOPLE ARE WORTH IT. 

Quinn is worth it. Quinn is worth every dirty diaper change. Quinn (and Tayler-- my 2 year old)  is worth the not-so-glamorous parts of parenting.  They are worth having to take 15 different breaks during editing my photography sessions. They are worth it because I care. I feel like so many times we pass up opportunities to bless others because it doesn't fit in our schedule. Because sometimes it looks like it is going to be messy. Because sometimes it is going to get us out of our comfort zone. Because sometimes it doesn't seem convenient. And because sometimes-- we just don't want to.

I don't always want to change those diapers. I'll be honest. Sometimes it makes my stomach turn (Yes, I was one of those people blessed with an extremely weak tummy!) But THEY ARE WORTH IT. Is there someone worth your time? Is there someone that is seeking help... seeking a blessing... seeking a friend... and you have just felt like it isn't convenient? 

Don't get so caught up in life today that you forget to bless someone. It will do your heart good. Every time I see relief on Quinn's face that she no longer has to sit in a dirty diaper, my heart skips a beat. I helped her. I saved her from that uncomfortable situation. She needs me. She trusts me. 

Bless someone today! It will change your life... and theirs! 


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Monday, July 22, 2013

Fear and Love [Day 3]


'I'm lookin' right at the other half of me.
The vacancy that sat in my heart is a
space that now you hold.

It's like you're my mirror
my mirror staring back at me.
I couldn't get any bigger
with any one else beside of me.'

[Mirrors by Justin Timberlake]

While both of the girls were sleeping last night, Ethan and I were laying in bed talking about life before we found each other. It's amazing how one day can make the difference... it can change life as you once knew it. I didn't realize that December 23, 2009 was going to change the course of my life.

Most know the story of how our paths crossed. It was one phone call. He happened to be beside of the person that called me, he heard my voice, got the number from my brother, called me, asked me on a date, and the rest is history.

The 'behind the scenes' parts of this story aren't as glamorous.. or well known.

I remember getting off the phone December 23rd. I remember saying to myself, 'Well, this isn't going to go anywhere. I won't let it. I can't let it. I need to just shut off my emotions now.'

Why?

Because I was suffering from a little word called 'Anxiety.'

Most didn't even know. I was great at the excuses. My family knew. They knew because they saw me lose my job.. they saw me stay in my bedroom when everyone else was out having a great time. They saw me refuse to leave the house. They saw the struggle to even get in my car and drive somewhere. It's embarrassing to even explain to some people because I feel like some people will think, 'What the heck? Why couldn't you leave the house?' But some will never understand. My mind was under attack. I was plagued with this fear. Fear of something bad happening. I felt safe in the four walls of our home. What could get me there? I didn't want to be alone, but I didn't want to leave either. 

I remember thinking, 'I'm not living. I'm dying a slow, lonely death in here.' I might have been surviving, but I wasn't truly living.

I was doing great keeping people at an arm's length. I had friends, but I controlled the surroundings. I controlled how 'close' we actually were. Everything was going as planned.

And then Ethan showed up.

What was I going to do now? We couldn't really date in the confines of my house. We couldn't do all of the things couples do in the confines of my house. How could I meet his family? How would I see his apartment?

I decided right then and there, I would control the settings. I would control where this relationship went. 

He asked me to meet him at the mall on December 26th, 2009. I, of course, brought my family along. They were gracious. They knew I had a problem, but they knew I needed help as well. I know it was a tough battle for them... deciding whether I needed tough love and a swift kick in the butt, or just a lot of love and empathy. I feel bad looking back now because I see the struggle in their hearts and minds. 

Ethan ended up coming back to our house and spending time with me there.. and he did that for the next 3 weeks. I wish I was kidding. He spent a lot of nights there. We never went out... I never went to his house. And I thought things were going great. He never suspected an issue as to why I wouldn't leave.

Then January 17th came along.

He called me and asked me to come spend the night at his apartment. Fear hit me instantly. What would I tell him? I didn't have excuses. I didn't have a job. I didn't have kids. I did schooling online. I had nothing to give him, so I just told him 'no.' I know. We were supposed to be in that 'honeymoon phase' where we just wanted to spend every single minute together.. and I told him 'no.' Then he said those dreadful words, 'Alyssa, I don't know what your problem is, but you have yet to see my world. You have yet to see my apartment, meet my friends, meet my family. I can't do this anymore. Either you make a decision to come down here and see my life or I can't see you anymore.'

Tough love.

I hung up the phone without giving him any answer.. and I went out to the kitchen to tell my parents all about that 'mean boy.'

And guess what?

I didn't receive ANY sympathy from them. 

My mom said, 'Good for him! You are going to lose a wonderful person, Alyssa. You are never going to know what could really happen because you won't get over this hump. You are never going to know a future with him. You are going to let this fear take everything away from you. I don't feel bad for you. You need to go see him!' They packed up their stuff and walked out the door. My grandma was really sick and in the hospital, so they were headed up there to visit her.

And I was left alone with my thoughts.

What was I going to do?

I didn't want to lose him. He made me feel more alive than I'd felt in years. I was falling in love with him and I knew I couldn't let this fear take that away. He was worth risking it all for.

So, I called him and asked him for his address. He sounded so excited. I even felt a bit of joy for the first time in awhile. I packed up my bags, loaded up my 1995 Dodge Intrepid, and out the door I went... destination: Dresden, OH.

I remember I had the air on full blast (yes, in the middle of January) just to keep me calm. Hey, if that's what it took to get me down there, I'd do it. I would have done anything for him.

I remember pulling in to his apartment complex for the first time... all by myself. I was away from my home. Away from my parents. But I was with the person that was making me feel 'free' and 'happy.' 

I walked in the door and he was standing there with his arms out. I remember dropping my bags and just hugging him. He didn't judge me. He didn't yell at me. He just loved me through my fear and anxiety. He hugged me for about 30 minutes while I just cried. I was embarrassed but at the same time, I felt a peace. He was my safety. It was right then... after only 3 weeks of dating... I knew he was 'the one' because I'd never felt something like that.

I look back now and think about what fear tried to take from me. Look at the beautiful life I have now. I wouldn't have a husband that still takes my breath away. I wouldn't have my two beautiful daughters that have caused me to face more of my fears. I wouldn't live in Dresden, a gorgeous village that I am so excited to raise my family in. I wouldn't have a thriving photography business. I wouldn't have the relationship I have with my parents.

The whole way to Dresden, I kept thinking, "Why would they (my parents and Ethan) be mean to me like this? Why would they force me to do this? Don't they love me?"

Of course they did. That's WHY they were tough on me. They knew I was going to miss out on LIFE. 

Fear tried to take my world away from me. But God had other plans. He brought an angel in to my life. That's what Ethan is to me. My angel. He always says he needed me, but I don't think he will ever need me like I needed him in that moment.

I couldn't get any bigger, with anyone else beside of me...



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