I don’t even know where to begin. My mind is swimming with various thoughts, processing emotions, swirling with incoming truths to counteract the negative self talk. I am having trouble putting all the thoughts into a coherent structure; of making sense of what I am feeling and thinking. I am having trouble fully believing the truths being spoken into me, but instead finding it easier to believe the negative self talk.
Why is it that I can know what I deserve? Why is it that I can confidently say that I deserve someone in my life who is honest, truthful, loyal, a man of strong character, a man who finds me beautiful, a man who desires to get to know me and look beyond my past and instead at who I am right now, to see me as I am and see my journey as simply a piece of what has made me who I am? I know I deserve all this. The difficult part is accepting it. Why is it that I am having trouble with the concept of accepting this? I have met someone who finally encompasses all this. Someone who doesn’t see my past as something horrible, who doesn’t look at me and see “a car to test drive”, who sees me as a person, as a beautiful woman, as an incredible mom. Someone who makes me laugh, encourages me, desires to spend time with me, who wants the same things I want in a relationship. He is a man who is honest, truthful, loyal and of strong character. Sounds perfect, huh?
It is here, though, where I struggle. Here where I find my doubt. My doubt isn’t in him. My doubt isn’t that he is not who he presents himself to be. He possesses qualities he just couldn’t fake; I believe he is everything I am getting to know; that what I see is who he truly is. Instead my doubt is in that fact of if I deserve this. How can I truly have someone who sees me the way he sees me? Intellectually I know I deserve this, every piece of this relationship, every lovely moment, every lovely word, every lovely touch. I simply need to accept it. I need to accept the beautiful words he says to me, the heartful words he texts to me. I need to accept how he sees me and the tender way he touches me. I need to learn to accept that he chooses to care for me, he is choosing to get to know me, to encourage me in my dream of writing, to know what makes me who I am. I need to accept that he looks beyond my past and instead at me; at who I am right here, right now. I need to accept that he sees my past as a part of my journey, and doesn’t judge me by my choices. I need to accept that there truly are men out there like him; men who have no hidden agenda. I also need to accept that I want to spend time with him, that I want to encourage him, care for him and continue to get to know him, to know his dreams, his fears, his goals, his successes - that I want to know him for who he is.
Not only do I need to learn to accept the long list of items stated above, but I need to let go of my fears. I am not only struggling with accepting the beauty of this relationship, the real authenticity of this amazing man, but I am struggling with fear. Fear that I will get hurt. Fear that he will change his mind and decide that my past choices are too much. Fear that he will see that I don’t deserve what he has to offer me. Fear that who I am is not enough. Intellectually I know these fears are irrational; it’s in my emotions the fears feel rational. I understand these fears come from the past; they are a part of the hurt, the lies and the betrayal I have experienced. I am learning these fears come as I get to know him more, as I begin to care about him, as feeling begin to grow. These fears come as my feelings begin to grow and I become vulnerable, because it’s in being vulnerable and sharing one’s heart where relationships take root, but hurt can occur.
Over the last year I have done a lot of healing. It’s now as I enter into this lovely, heart warming relationship that I realize there is another level of healing to take place. I need to heal the areas that cause me to doubt myself, that cause me to question if I truly deserve this. I need to embrace what He has placed in front of me; I need to embrace my answer to prayer and simply enjoy. I need to be in the moment. I need to enjoy the beginning. I need to enjoy all of this, but more than just enjoy it, I need to cherish it, treasure it and know without a doubt that I deserve each and every moment of this relationship. It’s here where I will listen and choose to believe the truths a dear friend recently spoke to me:
I deserve this
I am worthy of this level of attention.
I am valuable.
It’s okay to be told I am beautiful on a daily basis.
I don’t have to be alone.
I don’t have to lower my standards
I don’t have to take whatever scraps some dog tosses me… I can have the whole buffet!
Lately I have been reflecting on the beauty of friendship. I have been blessed with incredible friends. I may not have a ton, but the ones whom I have been able to share life with are true, real, authentic friends; they are friendships with depth, with roots, with a foundation. Growing up friendships were hard for me. I related better to boys as I was raised with three older brothers; relating to girls was difficult for me. I struggled to have friendships with girls, and the friendships I did have with girls, were less than ideal. I spent most of my younger years in a circle of friends who made enemies seem more pleasant than friendship.
Looking back though, I see how God set the right people in my life at the right moments. Although elementary and middle school was extremely rough with friendships, high school opened doors to a friendship that has lasted a lifetime. This particular friendship is dearest to me, most meaningful, has the most depth and greatest story of restoration. It began 20 years ago when I was a freshman in high school (which I find hard to believe was that long ago). It was summer going into my freshman year, Courtney and I met at soccer tryouts. We had freshman English together as well, and just became best friends. Our friendship struggled throughout the next three years of high school due to us making other friends, taking different directions in athletics, boyfriends, etc. We stopped talking altogether following high school, for reasons I don’t even recall. The moment I hold dearest, the moment that is a reflection of the roots our friendship had developed despite the ups and down through school occurred when I was 19. She called me because she heard a few months back that I had a baby (at this time Zion was 6 months old). This call was out of the blue for me, for we had not spoken for over a year; she was asking if she could come by to visit me and meet Zion. When she arrived, she held Zion, then looked at me with tears saying “Tiani, I am so sorry. I don’t know what happened, but I know that I should have been there for you during your pregnancy and delivery. I was not a good friend, but I am asking that you forgive me and I can be there for you now.” From that moment on, we have walked our journeys of life together. We have laughed, cried, mourned losses, celebrated marriages, grieved divorces, celebrated births of my other who kids and recently of her beautiful son. We share our hopes, our dreams, our fears; we encourage each other; she is like a sister to me, she is my best friend and Auntie Coco to my kids. She knows me – all of me, the good, the bad, the ugly and I know all this of her.
The beauty in this friendship, is the forgiveness we have given each other, the laughter, the support, the encouragement and most of all the years of memories. I am thankful that my life was blessed with Courtney; that I have gotten to learn how to forgive and be forgiven through her friendship. I thankful that I have been blessed with a friend who loves unconditionally and I in return can love her the same; I am blessed that I have a friend with 20 years of memories, and many more to come, that we can share with our kids, that we can laugh over and share with those in our lives who matter to us. I am blessed to have this friendship that has deep roots, and has withstood whatever life has thrown at us and it has only made the friendship stronger.
During my three years of living in Montana, I was blessed with a lovely friend, Dori. I met her when working at a physical therapy clinic, as she was the employee to train me in my position. I was six months pregnant with Aysa, and just feeling lost and discouraged. I never had to say a word to her about these feelings, she just knew what I felt. Each day, I would come to work with a beautifully written bible verse on my desk that just ministered right to my heart. Dori is the embodiment of a woman who wears the essence of Jesus. She loves with an abundance, she is graceful, forgiving, encouraging and always clinging to His truth. She took time to love on me; to just remind me who I am; that He loves me even though I made the choices I made to be a single mom of two; that no mistake is too great for Him to love me or forgive me. She encouraged me when I left Montana and was in Oklahoma struggling in my marriage. We don’t see each other much, just once a year when I travel to Missoula for a summer vacation, but every time I see her, it’s like no time has passed. Dori’s friendship is such a reflection of unconditional love and acceptance. I see it in how she loves her family, her husband, her kids and how she reached out, accepting me as a young, lost, pregnant, single mom. She never judged me, instead she embraced me, she poured into me, she ministered to me and chose to be His hands and feet in my life. She chose to show me what it looks like for someone to looks past labels and poor choices, and instead see the heart of a person - that’s what she did with me; she looked past what others saw at face value, and she saw me, the me He made me as, the me I had been hiding from due to shame and guilt. My life has been enriched by Dori. The woman I have become, the mom I have chosen to be, is has been deeply impacted by Dori’s friendship, her wisdom, her grace, her love and her example of what it truly means to love and accept.
It been seven years since I have moved back home to Washington. It’s been these seven years that have been filled with the most healing – it’s here where I have had to pick up the pieces of my life, face my past, embrace my future, heal the hurts, fight through lies replacing them with truths, accept my mistakes, forgive myself, find beauty in the breaking and learn what it means to walk by faith. Sometimes it has felt like a long seven years, and yet it feels like it has flown by. I have been blessed with dear friends during this time. Friends who I never would have imagined would be so connected to me and the kids; friends that I cherish like my own family. I am thankful for how when kids become friends, I get to meet new parents, for it is here where a lovely, maybe unlikely, friendship blossomed. Amy. Dear Amy. I don’t even know if I have words to actually describe what she means to me; how she has helped me over the years. Amy - she is a strong woman, full of laughter and humor. She is filled with love, compassion and kindness. She is the friend I can count on to always be there when life decides to throw me curve balls; she sits in parking lots of stores for hours waiting for Triple A to arrive when my car dies; she meets me at the door of her house with a glass of wine, dinner on the table and kids playing when I feel like my life has fallen apart. Our friendship ebbs and flows; we drive each other crazy with our differences, and yet it’s those differences that connect us; it’s in those differences where our friendship is real, where our friendship has taken root. I value her; I cherish her friendship; I treasure our long talks, our Family Fun Nights. I am blessed that she entered my life; I am blessed my kids reference her as Mama G; I am blessed to share life with her; to celebrate our kids; to celebrate our dreams coming true; to laugh, cry and be silly together.
The most highly unlikely of dear friends in my life is Mattie, but what a dear friend he has been to me. He has become like another brother to me. Through him God showed me what is like to be seen as beautiful as I am; he always speaks truth into me about who I am and what I deserve. It’s one thing to hear this from my girlfriends, but to hear this from a guy friend has been extremely different. Our friendship hasn’t been long, but it has been deep; it has impacted my life in ways he doesn’t even know. I cherish his laughter, his insight, how he cares for my kids, how he encourages me as a fellow single parent, how we can talk for hours about what it’s like to have weeks where we feel as if we are failing at parenting our kids. He reminds me, just by being him, that there are good, honorable men out there; that life is meant to enjoy; and most of all that laughter should be part of daily life.
There are more friends who have impacted my life, but these three have had the most influence in who I was and who I have become. It’s these friendships that wherever life may take me, I will hold with deep fondness in the depths of my heart. It’s in these friendships that I see the workings of God in my life, for it’s in His timing, His perfect timing, that they each entered my life. Each of them adding more color, more love, more laughter, just more to my life, and to the life of my kids.
I have spent many years dating men, or boys rather, who I tried to make fit what I had dreamt of since I was a little girl. Searching for qualities that would make the red flags seem not so negative. Over the years I slowly kept pushing away the desires of my heart for the man I had dreamt of; pushing away the longing that was placed in my heart long ago of the man that I wanted to share my life with. I began to think, almost know, that finding my heart’s desire was just a dream; it wasn’t in the cards for me, it was only what other girls who lived a life with better choices than mine received; it was for the girls who were worthy of a man who would love, honor and cherish them, be trustworthy, loyal, honest, understanding and man of strong character.
Over the years I began to feel the at the boys I dated I deserved. I believed their words about me; I believed the words my first boyfriend told me - that I was fat, ugly and that no one would ever love me. Given this, when a guy would “show” they loved me, I took it, I took the scraps that were thrown at me. I settled for guys who didn’t meet the desires of my heart; I settled for guys who didn’t cherish or honor me, who didn’t guard or protect my heart. I settled for guys who instead lied to me, betrayed me, cheated on me, spoke mean and hurtful words to me and at one point a guy who was physically abusive to me. I felt that if I had made better choices, if I had decided to save myself for marriage, had I not made some of the choices I made, maybe then I would be blessed with a true man, but since I wore several scarlet letters, I was receiving exactly what I deserved. The deception was great; the lies I believed were intense.
The craziest feeling of all was not believing these lies about what I deserved, but the nagging voice in the back of my head telling me “This isn’t what you want your kids to see. This isn’t what you want them to think they deserve. Do the work Tiani. Remove the lies, find the truths, even if it means being alone. Now is the time to cut a path through the blackberry bushes, take all the scratches and cuts, do the work, clear a path of truth for you and your kids.” Finally I listened to this nagging voice, for the reality that I didn’t want my kids to feel they deserved scraps in relationships, I wanted them to know they deserve incredible, and they need to be that incredible partner as well; I wanted them to know that regardless of choices they make, they still deserve to be loved,to be honored, to be cherished, to be fought for, to be seen as worthy. Here began the work, the long, intense road of removing the lies, of replacing them with the truths, of searching my heart for the desires God placed within me when He made me.
I went through counseling, I journaled, I poured out my heart in my journal, to my friends and to my counselor. I dug deep. My heart ached during this process; I prayed and begged God to replaced the lies, to tell me who I really was; to speak truth to me. I didn’t want to believe the lies anymore; I didn’t want to be an example of a weak woman for my kids; I wanted them to see strong, to see whole, to see a fighter, and overcomer, to see God make good from choices that were not great. There were certainly moments when the lies were so intense that I would step into the same patterns. The difference was, each time I would see myself about to enter the old pattern, I could say to myself “I don’t deserve this. I deserve different.” I heard the truths my dear friends has been speaking into me. I did the unthinkable, I spent time alone, no in a relationship, not searching for one. Instead learning to be content in being alone; that being loved and whole didn’t mean I had to be in a relationship; that I didn’t deserve unhealthy, abusive love because after all, that wasn’t love. Yes, I still desired to be in a relationship one day, to have that one person who loves me who looks at me a way no one else ever will because they know all of me, the good the bad, the funny and they adore me because of it all; that person who chooses to love me each day because they want to. I realized that this desire to share life with someone, didn’t make me weak or less of a women. I had this desire since I was young, I dreamt of meeting someone, raising kids, and sharing life… the typical little girl dream, and despite the choices I made along the way, that innate desire never left my heart.
The night of healing, of truth pouring into my heart, I remember with such intensity; the night I finally felt the lies stripped away and the truth of who I was, of what I deserved fill me. I was laying in my walk-in closet (which is my place of solitude), listening to worship music. I had just finished journaling, pouring heart out for the umpteenth time, when the words to a Kelly Minter song spoke directly to my heart, the final place in my heart that needed healing. “Forgiven, Beautiful and Worthy to be Loved.” How those exact words were what I needed to hear at that exact moment. As they were sang, tears streamed down my cheeks and I realized, I am Forgiven, I am Beautiful and I am Worthy to be Loved. The beauty! The Freedom! The Healing in those words!
Daily I remind myself of these words. I remind myself this as I enter into a new season of my life, into dating from a healthy place; as I enter into dating from a place of knowing that I don’t deserve leftovers, but I deserve a man, a man who sees past my past, who looks at me and sees me, who sees that those choices have made me who I am right here and right now. It can be hard to accept someone actually seeing you and liking you anyway - it’s overwhelming. I have found myself in tears wondering if it could actually be real; reminding myself I deserve happy, honest, trustworthy, loyal; I deserve someone who makes me laugh, who tells me I am beautiful and means it; I deserve someone who encourages me; who sees me and still wants to know me more and still finds me amazing. How surreal it feels; how lovely, how amazing, but at the same time so emotional and new.
Forgiven… Beautiful…. and Worthy to be Loved… we all need to remind ourselves of this. We are. Each and everyone of us. The beauty in those words, the freedom and healing, and the doors that open once we know the truth and accept it. For knowing those words, believing them in depth of our heart, allows us to know we deserve our heart’s desire to be loved, to be seen as beautiful; that we don’t have to settle for less… we can be choosey, we can, and should, wait for amazing.
I told myself when I decided to create this blog that I would real, authentic, transparent. I told myself I would write what I felt called to write no matter how difficult, no matter how hard. It’s these very statements that have created the fear in my writing, the fear in being real, authentic, transparent because after all, if I do that, if I truly share, what are people going to think of me? I also promised myself though, that I would be brave. I have said that if my journey could touch one person, minister to just one person, then it was all for a greater purpose. With that said, here goes…
I struggle with body image. I fought an eating disorder in my teen years. I bought into the lies that who I was wasn’t enough; that I wasn’t pretty enough, skinny enough; that if I was skinnier or prettier it meant I would be happier, that I would be more lovable. I tried. I tried to be skinnier, I counted my calories. I took myself down to 1000 a day, but that wasn’t making a difference. I had to reduce my calorie intake to 500, but that wasn’t making me skinny enough either. I was still not pretty enough, still not able to be fully loved. 500 calories a day was hard, I was starving but not losing weight, not to my standards at least. This began the phase of binging and purging. I learned the best ways to vomit, the foods to eat that were brightly colored so I could ensure I had completely emptied my stomach of it’s contents.
I am a tall girl, I am almost 6 feet tall, and during this time I weighed 120 pounds. To the outsider, I was skinny, only to me, I could see every area on my body where I needed to lose weight. I could look in a mirror and see every single imperfection. I thought if I could fix those imperfections that I would be happy; that others would then love me.
The binging and purging, the calorie counting all stopped the moment I found out I was pregnant with Zion. I knew my body was no longer just mine, I was now responsible for the child I carried. I struggled through the pregnancy watching my body change, watching my body gain weight, but I kept pushing through for the sweet baby I carried. I struggled with my body image after I had Zion, after all my body no longer looked like other 19 year girls. I was able to keep the eating disorder healed for some time after Zion’s birth, during my pregnancy with Aysa, after the birth of Aysa and again through my pregnancy with Riah.
After my divorce seven years ago, the body image issues surfaced with great intensity. I was single. I had three kids, therefore my body was not like that of most 28 year olds, and currently not like that of most 34 year olds. I have worked hard to stay healthy, to focus on fitness, on strength, not on being skinny; I have managed to keep the eating disorder aspect healed, but the body image portion surfaces occasionally. I have had to come to a place of realizing that my body is mine; it will never look like the supermodels who are photo shopped, I will always carry the signs of carrying three babies. I will always carry what I call my “baby fat”. The shape of my body, the imperfections, they are mine. I have had to learn that what my body looks like is not what is going to make someone love me, and if that is all someone sees about me, then that’s not where I should be, for true beauty comes from within.
I would be lying if I said I don’t still struggle body image. I struggle as I set out to date. I struggle with the thought of being close to someone and them hating what they see. I know there is so much more to me, I know deep down beauty comes from deep within, not my physical shape. It’s just so difficult to erase the tapes of being told that I am fat, that I could use to lose more weight, that no one will ever love me, that who I am, as I am, is simply enough.
I will fight the lies that try to enter my thoughts. I will fight the lies that who I am is not enough. I will fight against the worlds definition of beauty to have my daughter know that who she is, as she is, is enough; to have her know that she is beautifully and wonderfully made. I will remind her often what my dear friends have reminded me. I will remind her, and myself, that we are perfectly imperfect; that its in our imperfections, where genuine, authentic beauty shines forth. I will remind her, and myself, that He loves us as He made us; and the right person, will love us for our perfectly imperfect selves, as that is how we will love them.
I have spent the last fifteen years as a mom growing in my faith. Its been quite the journey; one filled with more questions than answers, more judgement than acceptance, more hatred than love and more negative labels than positive ones. I have believed by faith, not by experience or concrete knowledge. Instead, I have held onto this knowledge of faith, of relationship not religion. This has been difficult for me as I like tangible; I prefer facts, and concrete. The concept of faith seemed so abstract and foreign to me. Faith is about believing in something I cannot see, feel or touch; at least that is what I thought. This summer though, for the first time, my faith became tangible, I could see and feel all that I have believed, all that I have clung to in hard times, all that I praised when prayers were answered.
As I was leaving work one afternoon, I decided to check my Facebook account via my iPhone. I didn’t even make it my car before I was speechless and fighting back tears. The first item in my newsfeed was a post from the church that Zion was on a mission trip with. It was a picture of Zion that read “Zion 14 years old boldly giving his testimony in front of adult inmates at the Cambodian prison. God worked powerfully through this young man!”
It was here, through this small caption and the amazing picture of my son, that fifteen years of faith fell into place. It was here that He finally became tangible to me; that I saw He was faithful. I knew in this moment, that Zion was experiencing the exact same realization. For the last four years, as he and I walked through some difficult times, I continued to tell him that God would use all this, his anxiety, his being raised by a single mom, all of it for His glory; that God has a bigger purpose in it all. I explained to him, I don’t know what it is, I don’t how it will all be used, but that He will use it in such a way that there would be no denying that every moment of hardship was worth it.
As I stood in my office parking lot, outside my car, staring at my iphone, tears began to stream down my face. I opened my car door, climbed into the driver’s seat, and let the tears freely fall as I realized it was true. God did use Zion’s story; only I had no idea all those times I told him that God would work, that it would happen in a prison in Cambodia. I also didn’t know, that when Zion’s story was used, it would minister to a place deep within me that needed the last bit of reassurance. It was here in this moment, that I saw Him make beauty from my ashes. All the heartache, all the hurt, all the labels that I had worn, they were for a greater purpose. My journey of healing, my journey of judgement, of heartache, of loss, of success, of love and love lost, of raising three kids on my own, of rebuilding a life, of learning who I was all served something greater. Everything I had been learning, everything I had been clinging to over the years, came to light in that moment that I saw the picture of Zion sharing his testimony. I knew when Zion left for Cambodia, he would never be the same young man when he returned. I knew he have experiences that would carve themselves into his heart and soul. What I didn’t expect was that his trip to Cambodia would solidify my walk of faith; that through his mission trip God would prove Himself faithful to me and the kids, that He would become tangible.
Beauty for ashes… beautifully broken… these words echoed through my head that night as I laid in my bed. I have experienced hurt, loss, heartache; I have been judged, criticized, ridiculed; I have called ugly, fat, unlovable, unworthy, unforgivable. Through faith I healed the hurt, loss and heartache; I forgave those who judged, criticized and ridiculed; and I have removed the hurtful labels replacing them with truths - I am beautiful for I am His, I am beautifully and wonderfully made, I am forgiven, loved and made new. I walk by faith, not by sight. I extend grace. I love not hate. I accept not judge. I extend to others what has been given to me - I share the truths with others that my friends shared with me. I look into the face of my son, and now I see a man. A man who extends grace; who loves not hates; who accepts not judges. A man who like his mom, walks by faith not by sight.
It’s here in the quiet of the evening, kids sound alseep, my livingroom lit up by the light of my computer screen, when all the words that I have had running through my head to write today, suddenly escape me. As I sit down to write, all my thoughts get jumbled, nothing sounds quite right, I feel uncertain about what I am writing, I question if I am sharing more than I should in my writing. I become paralyzed and can’t write. I have so much to say, so much I want to share and every thought that could defeat me in my writing is hitting me. Instead of sharing all I had thought of today, I am instead sharing this. My momentary mess. My sudden burst of paralyzing worry when it comes to my writing. My doubt. My feelings of inadequacy in my writing.
I have spent years with writer’s block. I will get moments when I can put words on paper and I am pleased enough with how they sound I will share them. Unfortunately, they never are as good as what I desire them to be; they don’t tell exactly what I hoped to convey. I have allowed fear to keep me from pushing through; I have allowed fear to distract me from my dream. I have allowed fear to keep me from following my heart, my passion. I have allowed fear to keep me from using the gift of words God blessed me with.
No more. It’s here and now that I say no more. I will not allow fear to keep me from not writing. I will not allow fear to tell me my writing sucks. I will not allow fear to allow me to compare my writing others stating that if I can’t write that well, then I shouldn’t be writing. I will not let fear keep me distracted from me dream, from following my heart, my passion. I will not allow fear to keep me from using the gift of words. I will not allow fear to keep me from sharing my story. No my words my not be as eloquent as others, or as I hope they could be, but they will be shared.
It is now that I am determined to be brave. I will be brave and write. I will share my words, my story. I will share the ugly mess, the joyful chaos, the real authentic stories of being a single mom, of raising three kids, of my healing, of living life and being beautifully broken. I will share my stories of love, laughter and life. It is here and now that I kick fear in the face and say “NO MORE!” It is here and now where I choose to be brave and step out in faith, for I know I have not dreamed of writing all my life for no reason. I know without a doubt, He desires to use me, to use my words, my stories and my faith for His purpose. I know now is the time to step back, let go of me and let Him.
Here it goes… my step of faith, my being brave.
I'm a single mom of four radiant kids who believes in relationship with Jesus over religion. I'm trying not to battle with fear anymore - instead I am choosing to follow what God has called me to do. With that you'll find me here, trying to be brave, with the goal of being authentic and honest about God, single parenting and the beauty in the mess of my joyful chaos. It's sure to be a journey... and I am blessed to share it with you!