I Survived My 20s – Moving

[Guest Post by Marie Osborne] – I survived my 20s by moving over and over and over again.

In 2004, I was married to my best friend and at an amazing church. We had a fantastic support system of friends and family. The next 3 years, my job just kept getting better, our friendships deeper, our family closer, and our marriage stronger.

Then in 2006, we decided my husband should go back to school. So we moved to Los Angeles for two years as he completed his MBA.

Suddenly, our deep roots were gone, and I didn’t know a soul.

I had worked hard for 6 years to build an impeccable reputation in ministry. But with no college degree, most churches wouldn’t be interested in a stranger. Thus, I started my life in L.A. no friends, having left my ministry career forever.

Two years later, my world was so different.

I had an awesome job at another amazing church. We had another fantastic group of friends, and we were only a couple hours’ drive from family! I prayed that we could stay in L.A., but with his new job came another move, this time to Peoria, Illinois.

Again, I was ripped from a loving community, and this time family and friends weren’t within driving distance.

The pattern repeated. I didn’t know a soul.

I wondered if I would ever work in ministry again.

After nearly 2 years in Peoria, I found myself in an eerily similar situation. Great job. Amazing church. Awesome friends. And now a baby.

That baby made us long for family, so we began discussing another move.

God had it all worked out.

We were back in San Diego in 4 weeks. Thinking about it makes my head spin. I can see His work now, but during each transition, it was just plain hard.

God has changed me through these moves. He’s given me a different approach to happiness.

6 years ago happiness was a reaction to pleasant circumstances. Now, He’s taught me to choose happiness.

When my husband asked how I felt about moving to Illinois, so far away from our family and friends, my response was surprising, especially to me.

“We have two choices: Stay in California and be happy. Or move to Illinois and be happy.”

There was no third option, to move and be miserable. We would bring happiness with us, no matter where we were.

Building friendships takes time and proximity.

My best friend in LA really knew my soul when we left in 2009, and my best friend in Illinois knew me just as well in 2011. In each case it took about a year of almost daily interaction, conversation, authenticity and transparency to get that close.

I have a baby now.

He limits my schedule, so I can’t build that kind of friendship as quickly as I used to. Even though I’m “home,” I still struggle to feel known and grow the roots of my community. I can’t speed up the process. Just water those roots and wait for them to grow.

In the last 6 years, I’ve had to start over 3 times, jumping head first into the work of building friendships and community.

Is it lonely and difficult?

Extremely lonely and excruciatingly difficult.

But I’m better for it.

I’ve learned to quit my yappin’ and make things happen.

Get out there.
Find a church.
Force myself on some friends.
Research good restaurants.
Visit used bookstores, farmers markets, and local festivals.
Lean on my husband.
Make sweet memories, laughing over dinner and falling even more in love with him because we don’t have anywhere else to go.

At the end of my 20s, I’ve started over and over and over.

I’m still in the midst of building a new life, again. But now I know where happiness dwells. Everywhere my Lord is, which is… everywhere. And if I want a good attitude about my circumstances, I need to ask Him to continue to grow self-control in me, so I can choose the right attitude and leave the wrong one in my 20’s.

Marie is a blogger and homemaker, married to her best friend, and mama to an amazing baby boy. She loves bringing children closer to Christ through creative, interactive teaching and worship. She’s passionate about equipping others as leaders and servants for Christ in the church. You can read her thoughts on these topics and more on her blog, Marie Osborne. Most of all, she laughs a lot and rather loudly, mostly at herself.

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What's Your Story – Ashleigh

[Guest post by Ashleigh Slater] – My oldest daughter celebrated her eighth birthday two Saturdays ago.

As she blew out the candles on her “Sew Cute” Lalaloopsy cake, I marveled that I’m “Mom” to a second-grader. Not to mention a first-grader, preschooler, and toddler. Let’s just say, over a decade ago it wasn’t where I’d expected to find myself at 33.

Me, filling sippy cups up with pink milk throughout the day? No.

Me, carrying snack-sized bags of Goldfish and Chex Mix in my purse? Nuh-uh.

Me, making multiple trips to the grocery store for that bottle of ketchup that’s perpetually forgotten? I don’t think so.

I wasn’t attending grad school so I could spend my days buying tomato-based condiments in order to appease sauce-obsessed picky eaters. No, my goals were much bigger. They involved Hollywood – rubbing shoulders with celebrities, changing culture through the big screen.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want the titles of “wife” and “mother.” I did—but later.

After I spent a few years pursuing a producing career in Tinseltown. After I had a few television series under my belt. After I had enough money in my bank account to afford years’ worth of diapers, a new two-wheeler after every growth spurt, and LeapFrog’s latest gadget without having to forego a new pair of jeans, a Starbucks caramel frappucino each day, and that San Francisco vacation in order to afford them.

Turns out, “after” wasn’t part of God’s plan for my life.

I met the man I now call “my husband” in my first year of grad school. Within a year we were married. In our second year of marriage, I became a stay-at-home mom as we welcomed our first baby into the world. Nineteen months later, our second daughter joined the ranks of the Slater family. Now, almost a decade into marriage, I’m the proud mama of four girls.

Sometimes my mind wanders into what I term “dangerous territory.” The land of “what ifs.” 

What if I’d gone to L.A. after graduating? 

What if I’d gotten into television producing?

The answer is always the same. Whatever the reality to those what ifs may have been, they can’t possibly compare to the feeling I get when one of my daughters takes her first step. Or when my husband surprises me with a bag of Askonosie chocolate at the end of a long day.

This Sunday my pastor taught on what it takes to be an awesome mom. He pointed to a woman who embraces what he termed “the overshadowing.” He described this as a mother’s ability to surrender the limelight – to be OK with using her energy and resources to serve and highlight others, namely her children, rather than herself.

While I have much to learn before I deserve the title “awesome mom,” when I let go of my dreams of Hollywood, I slowly – and at times painfully – came to a place where what had been my dreams didn’t matter so much.

I begin to take on new dreams – dreams the great Dreamer was imagining for me.

Motherhood has changed me in ways for which I wouldn’t have volunteered, but that have bettered me. And I’m finding that this story – and not the Hollywood one I was writing for myself – is just what I needed. What’s your story?

Ashleigh Slater is the editor of Ungrind (www.ungrind.org). As a wife and stay-at-home mom, she enjoys moonlighting as a freelance writer, proofreader, and editor. She currently lives in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri with her husband Ted and four daughters. You can follow her on Twitter @ashslater.

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What's Your Story – Jenn

Jenn is my first best friend.

Jenn and I met at North Coast Church’s college group and became best friends. It’s funny how God uses certain people to remind us who we are, and who bring out the best. Jenn is that person to me. I felt bad that I couldn’t be there for her when her story started.

Jenn became a single mom. She went through much criticism by her family, peers, the church—and worst of all herself. As a result of her choices she had a lot of questions to answer. My first question to Jenn was a heavy one, one that I’ve wrestled with myself. Why do you think Christians suffer?” I asked.

She said, “I believe Christians suffer for two reasons: one because of their poor choices, and two because we’re in the world. Sometimes we do get caught in the backwash of other people’s choices. Whether it is the person that ran the red light and hit your car—it wasn’t that you were doing anything wrong, but you were caught in the backwash.”

“How have you suffered?” I asked.

Jenn said, “Physically, I’ve suffered with my knee. Emotionally, with broken relationships because of choices I’ve made. Some of those have caused a little more psychological suffering and how I view the world. I don’t think anyone can escape those. Mine has been, you know, the life and death kind of suffering. When I was in Jr. High I was almost suicidal. That goes back to the emotional and psychological suffering, but even though I really see that as my lowest point emotionally I was able to be at the very bottom and look up at God and say, ‘I can’t take anymore, you gotta start changing this. If I’m at this point where I feel like this is the only option, you gotta start bringing me up.’

 “How did you react when you found out you were pregnant?”

Jenn said, “…I cried and I cried and I cried. I cried because my hopes and dreams of going to my dream college were shattered. I cried because I embarrassed and ashamed my family. I cried because it meant the whole world was going to see what my sins were and that I wasn’t the good little Christian girl I had portrayed I was.

At first I think everyone was shocked, but God has surrounded me with such amazing friends–they think I was going to beat myself up a lot more than any words they could say and they wrapped their arms around me and then encouraged me. I don’t think I could have made it through emotionally sound without the support of my family and friends. For the first two months, I just prayed that God would let me have a miscarriage. How mean is that? It was just a word to me. Finding out on the pregnancy test was just a word: pregnant. It told me my life was flipped upside down and I wanted it go to away. I wanted to sweep everything under the rug. I wanted to hide.”

“How has your view of pro life changed since giving birth?” I asked.

Jenn said, “I am still gung-ho for pro life. I’m a single mom. There are opportunities out there for you to make it, and even if you feel like you cannot physically, financially handle it -there’s adoption. I’m still pro life, and now that doesn’t mean that Satan didn’t tempt me when I first found out I was pregnant. That was the first way he tempted me—just to end it. None of my friends told me about abortion. I didn’t need them to. Satan was already there trying to plant seeds to the point where I looked it up, where I could get it done, how much it would cost, and what the side effects were. What God kept telling me in my head and in my heart was that two wrong’s don’t make a right. I learned that by my parents reciting it to me over and over again. Yes, I sinned and got pregnant, but having an abortion would not make it right.

I asked Jenn in light of her story, “Do you feel you made the right decision to keep your daughter, Elizabeth Evangeline?”

“Oh 100%. God has allowed me to see a different side of Him that I would have never seen without Lizzie in my life. I’ve known the Father God. I have known the pursuer God. I have not known the parent God until I had a child. When Lizzie put her tooth through her lip, I could see the relationship between God and I. I may slip and fall, but God is standing right next to me. He sees it everything. We live in a broken world. We still get hurt. It broke my heart to see my little girl cry so much it ripped me a part. And I can only imagine how God feels. What we go through—how much more does God break for us? Dealing with Lizzie and letting her be her own person and I have to let Lizzie be herself. There are also the non negotiables, you know-the 10 Commandments. I don’t always listen but those are the one He insisted on. He gives me enough freedom and free will to be me.”

I, Renee, remember watching Jenn go through isolation all the way in North Carolina. My heart broke. I couldn’t there for my best friend. She now had a child to take care of, and support. In the midst of all of that it was like I got to witness the most beautiful thing. Jenn transformed into a beautiful butterfly. The one I knew was always inside her. North Carolina was her cocoon and the more time she spent with God, all the suffering, brokenness, guilt, and shame was removed. She was even more beautiful to me. What’s your story?

To listen to Jenn’s story please click here or watch the video below.

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What's Your Story – Ashley

[Guest Post by Ashley] I always had a close relationship with God, and felt I could always lean on Him.

In high school, I got a job at a leather store in the mall. I was a trainer on the football team and fell head over heels for popular guy on the team. I had my whole life planned out. I wanted to be a stay at home mom and be an active part of a church.

I knew I wanted to save myself for marriage, but I started to drift from God. He wasn’t into going to church or praying. I ended up dating him and we had a child born out of wedlock. We were engaged for about three years.

I wanted to join a church that I had been visiting, so I went down to the altar and spoke with a deacon. A few days later, I got a call from the membership Pastor at the church. He invited us into his office for a meeting. He advised that the church wouldn’t allow me to become a member unless we were married. I was embarrassed and ashamed.

I didn’t go back to church for almost 2 months when I finally talked him into getting married so I could be a part of that church.  

We got married, and things were already headed down hill. I had been a stay at home mom and recently had a got a part time job at a local retail store. He had started gambling and taking pain pills on top of his marijuana addiction. His six figure income supported his habits. The days continued to get worse.

He would come home late at night drunk and had been spending time after work at bars and strip clubs. I became depressed. I felt ugly on the inside and the outside.

Why wasn’t I beautiful anymore?  

Why didn’t he want to spend time with me?  

One night in our kitchen, I prayed over him as he was trying to crush a pill to snort. He was so angry that I put my hand over a line of pills that he had crushed, then he put me in a headlock that took me to the floor. I pleaded for him to let me go…He snorted the pill in front of me off the kitchen counter.

I was devastated.  

He took off to the bedroom and said he was leaving. I begged him to stay and talk.

He pulled out a gun and put it to my head and pushed me to the floor.

He yelled some profanities and took off out the door. I opened the door and yelled that I was calling the police. He came back up the steps with the gun and told me he was going to kill me. I kept locking the door as he was unlocking with his key. I prayed for God to please let me survive. I made it, and so did my son. It was a miracle that he slept through all the commotion.

I didn’t leave the marriage.

I thought I was doing the right thing. He would tell me that I had broken my vows because I was trying to leave him while he was sick (drugs were making him sick), and that I had promised to love him in sickness and in health.

At this point, I had taken on a job with a good company and could support myself and my son. My brother was very close to me, and he had been staying the night with us a lot and he could keep the arguments down at the house. I never told him about what he had done to me, but he knew something was up.

A few months after the gun incident, we took my son to a baseball game and came home to find my brother had passed away in his sleep on my couch.  

My three year old son and I had found him. This was the most devastating thing that has ever happened to me.

I wanted to know where God was and why was He letting this happen to me?

I tried counseling and buying books on how to save your marriage. It was the end.

He didn’t want to be a part of our lives.  

Drugs was his life.  

I had been reading in Job and all the trials he experienced. This is where I gained my strength and renewed my trust in the Lord. I attended Celebrate Recovery at my church, where I learned how to deal with my codependent nature. God had given me little signs in the form of hearts, that made me realize that He was beside me each step of the way.

I decided I needed to divorce.

My son and I had moved in with my parents. I reconnected with my boss from the leather store, and we began dating. We both were single parents with ex spouses who didn’t seem to care about anyone but themselves. We both had a strong Christian background. He proposed to me last year and we ended up marrying a few months later. May 14th is our one year anniversary!!

I can say that I am thankful for the trials that I went through to make it where I am today.

I have a wonderful, loving husband that prays with me and keeps me positive. He is a great father figure to my son. He works hard every day to provide for all of us. I stayed true to God during all my sufferings, and He comforted me. He blessed me with the greatest husband ever. I cannot wait to bow at His feet and thank Him for the many blessings He has bestowed upon me.  My best advice is to keep holding onto your faith when everything else is falling apart. What’s your story?

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

Ashley is a 28 year old mom of an 8 year old, and a step mom to a 15 year old. I enjoy Bible study and love spending an immense amount of time with my husband and kids. Over the past year, I have learned a lot about marriage. I now understand why it is important to be married to someone with the same beliefs. It is also an amazing feeling when you spouse prays for you. Connect with Ashley on Twitter.

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