Our Wedding Story, Shame-free

Shedding Shame + Reclaiming Our Story
For the last eight years, our wedding was tainted by shame. Not my own, but rather shame handed to me unwillingly. I'm ready to shed the shame and reclaim our story.

When we found out I was pregnant a few months after we started dating, we hadn't planned to hide it. We were adults--him 23 and me 20. We still had maturity to gain, but we made adult choices in our relationship and we were ready to take ownership of the adult choices to follow. We loved each other and seriously talked marriage before--this simply meant it'd happen sooner than planned.

After a week of telling our families and a couple close friends and processing the news ourselves, we scheduled our first premarital counseling session with our Christian college's counselor. As we talked about the various intricacies of our upcoming wedding, our newly growing family, and juggling finishing college, we also mentioned wanting to be open with our college deans.

Both of our parents lived on opposite coasts and we knew we'd need some positive influence from our older, wiser "mentors" to make it through these big life changes. He agreed, but seemed hesitant as he asked us to hold off on talking to them until he could find out for us anonymously how that news might be taken.

When we met back the next week, he confirmed his suspicions. He suggested we not spread the news just yet. If they found we were expecting while still unmarried, we could likely be asked to leave the college.

I wasn't exactly planning on keeping this to ourselves and it bothered me. Shame forced it's way in and I wasn't liking how it was sitting. But graduating was important to us, so we played our part and kept quiet.

I also met shame in the face at the bridal shop. Asking for a pregnancy pillow to try on wedding dresses was a tad humiliating. It didn't help that nothing looked right over that pillow, and nothing about this experience was going how I had always imagined. I realized shame came in many forms and was likely here to stay.

A few of us RAs got engaged around the same time. The deans joked (or honestly guessed) that with all of these engagements and weddings following shortly, one of them had to be pregnancy-related. I found myself nervously laughing and wishing I could say something. By that point shame started getting comfy in me, silencing me from the truth I desperately wanted to speak.

And the truth was that little fetus that we didn't yet know was a "she" was always a miracle to celebrate, never a mistake to be ashamed of. And our relationship was always rooted in love. That shame that I started owning wasn't really mine, but was given to me from others. And that made me sad for the start of our marriage and for the beginning of our baby's life.

One evening, Daniel met me with a handful of my favorite flowers and took me to the places of some important firsts. First piggie-back-ride on front campus, first kiss under a giant full moon at Holmes Lake, becoming an official couple outside Barnes and Noble.

At the final stop, Pioneers Park where we had said would be a cool place to get married, he got on one knee and said something sweet (that I can't remember) and proposed.

Daniel is my constant. I knew he would be early in our friendship, even while we got to know each other on MSN. Even when I told him we'd never date because his sister was marrying my brother. Even when hugging him at our siblings' wedding or on campus that fall felt like a little piece of home. The cheesiest words I say about our relationship are also the truest: He's my magnet.

Sometime after spring semester and before our late July wedding, we went out to California to visit my parents. I had terrible morning sickness and it was nice to have a little refuge where we didn't have to pretend. Evenings were the worst, and one particularly hard evening, Daniel pointed me into the bathroom which he had prepared with lit candles, a perfect-temperature bath (seriously, he has a gift), a calming iTunes mix, and iced lemonade.

While I relaxed, the lyrics to Book of Love took me over: "The book of love is long and boring... but I love it when you read to me." I knew we were diving straight in to the long and boring--morning sickness and pregnancy exhaustion and depression and anything else we had already endured made sure of that. And somehow I was ready simply because we were diving together.

Our Shame-free Wedding Story

Our Wedding Story, Shame-free
We prayed regularly asking God to lead us. That we'd be suitable parents for this blessing given to our care. That we'd be suitable spouses to support each other in all the directions life would take us. Despite the outside forces of shame, I held to a glimmer of hope that perhaps this all really was a blessing and one day I really could acknowledge it as such beyond our close friends and family.

Over the years, I've struggled wondering at what point was our precious baby a miracle and not a mistake and at what point were our actions finally based in love and not sin?

My answer these several years has been quiet but persistent and countered the shame imposed on me. Our actions were always based on love and our baby was always a miracle. The shame others threw in said I was wrong. It said that such bold statements would only permit others to "live in sin" and excuse "mistakes."

But let me ask shame's promoters this--Was it marriage that fixed everything? Is that when our actions were finally justified and forgiven and when our baby could finally be considered a wanted blessing?

People sure acted like it did. We returned to college that fall married and my belly noticeably inhabited with a tiny being. I'm sure people talked, but overall the attitude seemed to be "well, at least they're married."

It's not our simple wedding and resulting marriage that "fixed" everything.

It was Who we turned to from the beginning. All along the way we took our love and our miracle before God. We asked forgiveness for not waiting on His ideal for us. We asked His blessing, because we knew His history of hijacking people's detours and leading His people somewhere good in spite of ourselves.

Marriage didn't do that. Our college's mandatory counseling when we returned to school didn't do that. A set amount of time or a birth after a wedding or one magical date didn't do that. It was all Jesus.

Life in Jesus has a way of bringing our choices back around to love and miracles if we'll let Him. In that truth I shed the shame so graciously given me now eight years ago. I proudly tell our whole story.

Pointing out there was a 20-week fetus kicking my insides behind that ivory bridesmaid dress as we exchanged vows--and the next week we were excited to find we were having a girl.

Noting that when our officiant (a friend who shame told us not to tell we were expecting) talked about one day sharing our cup with a little one, we smiled at each other knowingly because we were short months away from "one day."

And by being honest about those little joyous additions to our story, shame can't quiet me from also sharing that skipping the honeymoon phase of our marriage, and skipping an actual honeymoon, sucked. That trying on wedding dresses with a pillow strapped to my belly sucked. That hiding my excitement about our news sucked. That so many parts of embracing that love and that miracle, because of our choices to veer from God's plan, sucked.

Yet, our choices aren't enough to erase God's miracles or diminish His love. And by being honest about all of it, we get to celebrate one, while still being honest about the other. We get to celebrate our love for each other while telling the stress of rushing things. We get to celebrate our beautiful now-7-year-old miracle while sharing the juggling act of being college parents. Because it's all our story. And leaving out the hard or vulnerable only dilutes the good.

It took me eight years to formulate words for this stifled peace I've had since the beginning. I'll say now what I wish I was brave enough to say then: Keep your judgments and shame. We've got freedom and forgiveness and life in Jesus.

"It's all our story. And leaving out the hard or vulnerable only dilutes the good."


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When You Need Bread and the Church Says "No"

When You Need Bread and The Church Says No
We decided to break up a 90-plus degree week with a lemonade stand. Instead of making money, the kids are excited to give it away for free--just a refreshing treat for our equally hot neighbors.

Cars drive by, someone walks a dog, a mom and some kids ride their bikes. No one is stopping. My 7-year-old thinks maybe they don't see, because who doesn't want free lemonade? Plus, they're not even looking--all eyes gaze straight ahead as they pass.

I tell her the people see. There's nothing blocking their view--no trees or fence or yard clutter. They've simply already decided they don't want it, so they choose not to look as they pass.

She asks why and as I attempt to explain it, I realize it happens all the time to homeless people. They hold their signs and people don't even want to look them in the eye, because if we look, we might feel obligated to help. We might feel a personal responsibility to do something. And the truth is, we don't want what they're offering--an opportunity to love that comes with the cost of ourselves.

She responds with an empathetic "But that's not nice." So we agree to at least make eye contact and wave or say "hi" when we see someone in need.

Maybe, loving is at least looking. Because "I didn't see him" isn't going to pull one over on Jesus when He asks us "what did you do to help?" And maybe, when we have nothing to give, seeing is enough to love.

Passersby smiling and waving and acknowledging my kids would have been a lot less disheartening than somber faces focused on the road ahead.

And I imagine our heavenly Father saying the same thing. Smiles don't feed bellies, but they sure can give hope to the lost heart. And Jesus was and is all about saving the lost.

I've experienced another type of overlooking. It happens in church. I've shared before the complacency I see filling church pews. Sure, change has to start somewhere so why not with me. It's what I'm told; it's what I believe.

There's a point when we need a little encouragement, a little support, perhaps a smile and a wave, or a little "bread" to keep on the journey. A reminder we're not in this alone.

That's what Gideon and his men needed: Bread. Literally, a little nourishment as he and his tiny troop hunted down the two kings of Midian. A God-given mission with a God-given promise of victory. They were passing through Succoth and he asked for bread for his men.

The leaders at Succoth said, "You're on a wild goose chase; why should we help you on a fool's errand?" (Judges 8:4-6, The Message)

Sound familiar?

That homeless man just wants booze, why should I help him? That desperate woman at Planned Parenthood is a baby-killer, that gay couple has an "agenda," those young people want to change the church until it's not church anymore. Why would we want part in that? We're not entering into that mess.

Face somber, eyes straight ahead on "the mission."

Just as God promised, they caught the two kings of Midian. Gideon went back to the leaders of Succoth: "Here are the men you said I'd never catch."

This wouldn't have gone any other way. Psalm 111 says that God "proved to His people that He could do what He said: hand them the nations on a platter."

Great! We're waiting Lord, hand us our victory.

Then, we see the Israelites being pursued by the Egyptians, Gideon and his men chasing down the Midianite kings without support, a shepherd boy armed with stones standing before a giant, a free-girl meeting resistance when she claims the bus seat that is hers. The list is never-ending.

What happened to the victory God promised? Why these obstacles?

Psalm 111 continues: "The good life begins in the fear of God--Do that and you'll know the blessing of God."

The good comes. God promises it and He's faithful. And it begins in our fear of Him. Standing through the fires, persevering through resistance. Realizing that He gets the glory when we don't have see-able human help--when support is withheld and nothing but God's promise of victory remains.

Will we stand strong in Him or let the real or perceived "leaders" discourage us?

I realize for people "gifted with frustration" in church, for much of my generation, and for those receiving practical eviction notices from their church, this message feels like a broken record: "'Stay in church.' I get it already!"

More than that, know where your bread ultimately comes from. It comes from the Lord. The One who calls you, gives your mission, and promises you victory. How He feeds it to you will vary. Maybe from the mouths of ravens, rained down from Heaven, or offered from a generous boy's own loaves and fish.

The question is: Will we stand strong to the end to find out?

Fear God.... know His blessing.

Experiencing God's blessing firsthand also means meeting resistance, which means a chance to choose who I'll fear--God or man.

When I choose, may I remember the One who calls me, equips me, promises victory, and provides the bread along the way.

I love how The Message shares Paul's words in Colossians 1:26-29: "Christ... That is the substance of our Message... no more, no less. That's what I'm working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me."

It wasn't long before my kids jumped their fruitless lemonade-stand and took a break in the sprinkler. So that's always an option. Hold your cries of "blasphemy" until you hear me out.

I'll spare you the details of my own denomination's recent decisions. What I have to say to my fellow Adventists is relevant for all of us Christians.

To the people frustrated with your church's disheartening declarations: I commiserate with you. I also point you to the above. Our bread, our encouragement, our support, our call, our victory comes from God, not man.

For those giving up, or on the verge of giving up, on your church: In my own way, I get it. It's about so much more than what's on the surface. Your struggles are deeper and not trivial and I see you in that.

I appreciate our local pastors' response to listen and keep the conversation going. I have started to find a little niche of encouragement in this community, and am so grateful.

What's made me pause is the recited responses I keep reading and hearing that we all need to "respect the church's decision," and that with a worldwide church it's hard to please everyone, accommodate all cultures, and keep everyone on the same page.

That page should be Christ: No more, no less. When "the church" (any church, individually or as a denomination) starts imposing decisions that are more or less than that, then I get skeptical.

There's an author that describes Jesus' ongoing struggle against church leadership while He lived on Earth. She writes about His heart for them and how they just weren't getting it, so he "departed from Jerusalem, from the priests, the temple, the religious leaders, the people who had been instructed in the law, and turned to another class to proclaim His message, and to gather out those who should carry the gospel to all nations."

She goes on to write how the light of Christ has been rejected in every generation since. "Often those who follow in the steps of the Reformers are forced to turn away from the churches they love, in order to declare the plain teaching of the Word of God." (The Desire of Ages, p. 232)

More than any one church, I believe in the mission of Christ: No more, no less.

The mission isn't the church, the mission is Christ.

I am sorry for all the times I and the various aspects of the Christian church have not gotten that right.

If our local church isn't going to remember that, then maybe it's up to us--frustrated, overlooked, and unsupported as we are.

Change has to start somewhere--why not with me and you?

Not changing church politics. Even Jesus never made that His mission. But being the change because we are the church. Not because we identify with a certain denomination or attend a specific church building. We are the church when we make Christ's mission our mission--His light, His truth, His love, His glory.

It is reckless to insist "respect the church" is a suitable response to anyone. I don't know other's individual experiences with church, but I know there are plenty of cases of churches and leaders figuratively denying bread against God's calling. And I can't tell you to respect that.

Respect God. Do that and I fully trust He will lead you and me where we need to be to profess the plain teaching of Christ. To remain in His will for our lives--for ourselves, sure, but more for a lost world that He came to save.

Should that land you elsewhere--outside your current church or denominational titles--take the light of Christ with you. Be the church with those around you. Not at the expense of bad-mouthing the ones you leave, but with fear of God. His calling, His mission, His victory.

You're not in this alone.

Remember the One who calls you, equips you, promises victory, and provides the bread along the way.


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Fashion Made Simple for the Non-Fashionista

Simple Capsule Wardrobe for the Non-Fashionista

I feel drawn to share on fashion, not because I'm a fashionista with knowledge to drop on the subject. Quite the opposite actually. I'm a non-fashionista and that's precisely why I'm writing this.

I'm guessing there's others like me that have felt lost in stores, stuck with finds from slim-pickins sales racks, drooling over Pinterest photos while feeling uninspired in our own closets. Seasons of that can come-and-go, for sure. But overall, I'm no longer stuck in that rut.

Over time, I've embraced a simple wardrobe and with that found the joys of owning less.

Finding Joy in a Minimal Wardrobe

Joys of a Simple Wardrobe

Here are some of those joys of a simple wardrobe in case you don't believe me...

1. I wear more of what I own.

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? It works in a lot of scenarios, but in the closet it simply means 80% of the time we wear only 20% of our wardrobe. But choosing clothes sparingly and carefully, I'm finding my percentages are evening out--I wear closer to 80% of my clothes more like 80% of the time.

2. I no longer settle for the clearance rack.

Clothes are expensive. Because of that, I used to be in a habit of buying good-enough clothes off the clearance rack, then struggle figuring out how to make them work in my closet. Now, I have a clearer idea of the specific void I'm seeking to fill in my closet, so I look for that item. And I don't always find it on the clearance rack.

3. I'm freer to splurge.

Ten good-enough items off the clearance rack are not worth even one quality staple item at full price. If I need a quality black cardigan, I'll shop around, sure. But I've also found myself paying close to full price if it's an item that fits me and my need perfectly and will be a go-to staple.

4. I'm more comfortable and confident.

Most of us, especially us non-fashionistas, put high value on comfort for our clothes. By limiting my closet to what I know I like and what I know I'll wear, I'm actually building a wardrobe full of comfortable options. And, no, I don't mean oversized t-shirts and sweats. Slow and careful shopping means I buy only items that fit and flatter lending to better confidence in what I wear and how I present myself.

5. I'm content with simple.

I'm a simple person and as a non-fashionista I'm okay not having a lot of options. As I build a wardrobe with quality staples and add in versatile accent pieces, I'm finding I'm actually content with my closet. There's usually an item or a few on my shopping list because items actually get worn out and I wait to buy what I really want at a price I like. Even with a few items continually on my want/need list, I'm still content with what I wear regularly and no longer feel the need to keep up with fashionistas.

6. No more decision fatigue.

There are scientific perks to wearing a simple wardrobe or "uniform." We've seen it in high execs like Steve Jobs who wore repeats of the same simple outfit. It's less about being boring, and more about focusing limited time and energy on the more important decisions. Simplifying throughout life can benefit in this way, for instance in incorporating a simple go-to meal plan. It's true of our closets, too. We don't have to completely do away with options or variety, but sticking to some go-to wardrobe basics can free our time and energy for more important processing later in the day.

My Go-To Wardrobe Staples

This does not represent everything in my closet, but is rather those go-to staples or "uniform" that I tend to wear on a daily basis. I also have extras like a black blazer, chambray, some dressier pieces, necklaces, and more. The following however currently gets more wear in my day-to-day as a stay-at-home mom.

Minimal Wardrobe | Summer Uniform

Summer (Warm-Weather) Uniform

Tank | cotton neutrals or blousy
Shorts | a grey pair that can look a little dressier or a basic jean cutoff that can be cuffed
Sandals | a neutral pair or a colored pair
Sunglasses | prescription because it makes life easier
Accessories | diamond studs earrings if my hair is up, dangly gold leaf earrings if my hair is down
Bag | neutral to match everything and large to hold essentials--for me, the kids, and even my husband

Simple Fashion | Winter Uniform

Winter (Cool-Weather) Uniform

Tee | cotton neutrals, long- or short-sleeve
Pants | skinny jeans
Cardi | black or colored
Closed-Toed Shoes | brown leather boots or tennies or flats
Glasses | I wear them everyday, so they're part of my outfit
Accessories | cork skinny belt, stud or dangly earrings, pashmina scarf
Bag | ditto above

Capsule Wardrobe Tips for the Non-Fashionista

Capsule Wardrobe Tips for the Non-Fashionista

Whether you call it a uniform, capsule, minimalist, or simple wardrobe doesn't really matter. There are a few things to remember that can help us own less and actually wear what we own.

1. Can't go wrong with neutrals.

Most articles I see about creating a capsule/simple wardrobe mention choosing an accent color. As a non-fashionista and a lover of simple, this kind of paralyzes me. I've found that starting with the basics and neutrals that mix and match easy is totally okay. Blacks, tans, whites, greys. They may seem boring, but they can actually look grown up and sophisticated easily and mix well with a variety of patterns and colors when you do decide to add accessories or a bit of color.

2. Build up staples first.

If you're ready to do some clothes shopping, make sure you're good on staples before adding accessories or colors or occasional use items. How are your everyday shoes? Do you have a couple neutral bottoms (shorts, pants, skirts--whatever is seasonally appropriate for your climate and life) that can be dressed up/dressed down and go with most of your tops? Do you have a few basic tops that can be mix and matched with your bottoms and current accessories?

3. Add interest through the small details.

I'm usually a pretty plain/basic clothing girl. Getting sandals with a simple gold strap doesn't seem like a big deal, but it was a little out of my element and turned out to be just the detail I needed to pep up my otherwise plain/basic outfits. Same with the cotton tank that has a little lace at the top, the black tank that has rouching on the back, the gold leaf earrings that go with everything, the mustard tank with a braided collar. The little details can turn boring into simple beauty.

4. Go with what you love.

Try not to overthink the mixing-and-matching or the choosing of an accent color. Chances are the things you love (not just kind of like or work), will likely end up mixing-and-matching well or be in a few colors. Do you feel good in it? Does it resemble the go-to items in your dresser/closet? Do you love the color? Do you currently have items it could be worn with? Does it make you happy? Then it's likely a good fit for your simple wardrobe.

5. Stick mostly with a uniform.

This tip is specifically for the non-fashionistas. Some people are born with an eye for fashion and a desire to try new trends and experiment. Make peace with the simple if that's not you. It's okay to embrace a few types of clothes that work well for your build, lifestyle, climate, etc. (Tees and skinny jeans are my winter uniform, and tanks and shorts are my summer uniform.) Don't feel like you need to buy trendy wedges if they just won't get worn. Of course, there might be a couple exceptions that you keep on hand for special occasions. But most of us know how we spend our days and can be honest with how often special occasions really come up. Stick with the go-to "uniform" that fits who you are. Include go-to accessories (scarf, belt, earrings) as appropriate.

6. Choose new fashion icons.

Don't be inspired by every fashionable person out there. You'll get overwhelmed and won't be able to keep up. Choose one or no more than a few fashion inspirations. They should be people that consistently wear things you love and you can actually see yourself wearing. My main inspiration is Jennifer Anniston. The main criteria when I'm looking for and Pinning inspiration is simple, easy outfits with lots of versatile neutrals.

7. Get ideas for what you have.

I played around with my striped thrift store dress and found 7 new ways to wear it. I came up with 5 ways to wear my trusty white tee and skinny jeans for fall. And when I can't think of how something could be worn, I look up ideas on Pinterest. Searching something specific like red pants, black blazer, striped maxi, or chambray can help take the guess work out of creating outfits with key pieces you already have. Sometimes you might notice one item that might help pull a couple outfits together. But most often, I realize what I already have works great together.


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