While I was there, I barely picked up my camera. I took a total of 9 film shots while I was there before my camera back freaked out on me and stopped working. Fortunately I had a backup, and I shot some personal work during my time in Florida after the conference, along with a family session, and mailed it off to the lab before I returned home so I wouldn’t have to deal with exposed film through airport security. Unfortunately, the envelope must have been faulty, because it literally came apart at the seams, and half of my film was lost in transit, including the roll from MTH. I can’t begin to tell you how devastated I was when I got the news from my lab.
But then I was reminded that my personal story was powerful as-is- no frills, no fuss. I was told that the things I shared during my time in NC had an impact on the lives of those who heard what I shared. And I remembered that my first love was always writing. And perhaps this was just a gentle nudging to return to my roots, just this once, and use words to share my experience here, with you.
Watching these snippets brings back some really strong emotion for me. Those two days, and especially the first day, were full of raw stories and serious transparency about where attendees found themselves in their lives and in their businesses. It was amazing to sit in a room of more than 100 people and literally bare your soul to all of them and feel completely safe doing so. I’m honestly not even sure how such a thing transpired, but… it just did. We processed through our fears, our goals, our dreams, and visualizing our future the way we want it, and faced the things that are holding us back head-on and with boldness.
It was intense. Seriously intense. I filled my notebook from front to back over those two days. I wrote furiously and I swear it was an act of God that my hand never gave out on me. I gained clarity and felt equipped and empowered to move forward with the things I have set aside for the past two years. And there is no doubt in my mind that God planned all along for me to be a part of those two days, to meet the women who lead this movement, to connect with others who I know I can lean on when I need strength and accountability and vice versa. Given the things that had to transpire perfectly in order for me to be there at all, I know it was exactly where I was meant to be to rediscover what I thought was lost for good.
The past two years, my spirit was beaten down, bruised and eventually broken. So many people let me down and, for a number of reasons, I felt hated, worthless, hopeless… it was not fun. The ones who let me down were people who really mattered to me, and from those events my intense fear of judgment and being known caused me to close myself off from not only new relationships, but existing ones as well. I started failing others and forgot how to be a friend. It was a really ugly spiral, coupled with the typical black hole of social media comparison where I would drown my sorrows out of boredom and lack of funds to get myself out of the house.
I was so, so lonely. I didn’t trust anyone anymore. Not quite suicidal… but when you are pregnant, and hormonal, and you start thinking being dead would be better than feeling like this because feeling nothing is a better alternative… I wish I could say I was making this up. It was a low I had never experienced before, and no one knew. No one knew because I wasn’t brave enough to be vulnerable. I couldn’t even bring myself to confide in my husband. Because being vulnerable meant being known, and once I’m known, apparently I’m not liked very much, according to my recent experience. I didn’t know myself at all anymore. I didn’t know who to be, because being me wasn’t good enough.
How could I possibly believe such evil lies?
I had realized before MTH that I had a serious fear of the judgment of others. But I never really faced it. I never saw it for what it was. I was putting the expectations of other people above the expectations of God. Who had I become? I placed way too much importance on the opinions of people who, at the end of the day, didn’t really play a part in my story. They aren’t lord over my life; they don’t own my story; they don’t call the shots. And what happened as a result of this? My life- my family’s life- downright sucked. Mediocre… everything was mediocre, or worse. The vibrancy of life disappeared and I had no idea what to do.
So we hit the reset button. We sold our house, a lot of our possessions, purged a TON of stuff, paid off all our debt, and started over. Then, on a random Tuesday while at the zoo with my family, I received an email from Lara, Emily, and Gina encouraging me to take the plunge and attend the conference. They had read my comment applying for the two scholarships they were giving away, and although they had already been handed out, they felt compelled to reach out to me and offer to save me a seat if I could make it happen (heh). The problem was, our house hadn’t closed yet, and wasn’t scheduled to do so until more than a week later, pending a flawless appraisal. Our realtor had already said he didn’t think it would appraise at full price, so I really didn’t think it would work out. At that point, the conference was only three weeks away. Too much had to line up at exactly the right time in order for it to happen.
But then it did. And I went. And WOW.
The past two years hurt. They were painful. And sharing my story with you now is not a call for pity- much of what went wrong was my own fault. And the people in my life who truly matter, they’re still here. Of all the powerful things I gained during my time at MTH, the knowledge that I am not alone was hands down the most priceless. So I am sharing my story with you because if even one reader can relate, then I want that person to know: You are not alone. You are not. There are people out there who will listen and care, and more importantly, God knows, and HE cares. HE CARES! He knows your heart and he loves you anyway. You are free to be exactly who you are- the wonderful person He created on purpose- with abandon and free of shame.
Imagine it with me: no more shame.
I have let shame rule my life for too long. I know this is not a new problem (read Daring Greatly for amazing insight on this subject). My biggest fear was allowing my life to go on the way it had been. My biggest fear is a mediocre life. The difference is I don’t have to be afraid anymore of doing what it takes to smash that fear like a bug hitting a windshield on a car going 75 miles an hour through the mountains, taking our family on a new adventure, creating priceless new memories together, far from the pitfalls of social media and comparison and mediocrity, tumbling face-first into a joyful and vibrant life, merging the seemingly unrelated into a way of providing the life we always dreamed of, being exactly who we are.
Freedom is what my dreams are made of these days. Financial freedom. Time freedom. The kind of freedom you can feel when the wind is blowing through your hair and the sun is shining on your shoulders. Freedom to be generous and thoughtful. Freedom to be loved just as I am. I am so grateful for the encouragement and support I got from the MTH ladies and for the new friends I’ve made. I feel blessed and refreshed these days… and at the front end of an adventurous journey toward a much more meaningful, vibrant life focused on what matters most.