By the Grace of God

It has been awhile and life has been an exciting adventure! I was recently married and I have been loving married life. It has just been over a month since our wedding. We are gearing up to getting back into the swing of things. I will be starting my second year of my MSW and internship. My internship will be through an agency contracted to be the county’s mental health program which includes many different services. I didn’t realize it until today that this was the agency that responds to do an assessment for those who may be at risk to harm themselves  etc,  Life has been wonderful and beautiful, but I was brought back in memories to a different time.

Four years ago I went through a very dark place. I discovered that the person who I had been seeing for about 2 years had got a girl pregnant. I crumbled. I had entered the relationship with the idea that this was “finally the good after all the bad”. I  had been a survivor of rape and this was supposed to be good, but that wasn’t how it ended. There was happiness in that period of my life, but nothing could of prepared me for the blow.  My hope was shot. I knew that good things could happen, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to try anymore or put myself at risk for more pain. I began obsessing over updates and whether he loved her or not, and instead of allowing myself to move on  I focused on how I wasn’t good enough. It’s funny how we know the healthy things for our lives to cope, but how often we fail to do it.  I remember was planning on going to a Zumba class, because I knew that it gave me temporary joy, but instead after reading something negative I chose to have a drink instead. I spiraled out of control. I begun to hurt myself and I had to drink more to keep going.  I knew I wanted to die, but I also felt very alone.  The alcohol that I needed to keep going also lowered my inhibitions and I texted people; they began to see that something was very wrong.  Fast forward I ended up going to the ER. I never was admitted and I was able to go home. I stabilized mentally, but the pain was still there. I went to bed very late that night at home knowing that emotional pain of tomorrow would be worse. I knew that moving forward was much more painful.  

It is hard to look back at this time. Part of  me feels shame for being this low, but I know that this part of my story. This story points right back to God’s grace. Our story isn’t always pretty it can get ugly and dark, but we wouldn’t know daylight, hope, beauty and joy if we never experienced the bad. I know that I’m not alone and that others have been down to the bottom.  I’m not entirely sure that I would of completed it or if that was even my intention. The reality was my pain and how much it hurt to breathe; and the idea of the future hurt, but I’m grateful to God. I never could of imagined my life or future to be where it is.  I knew that there would be happiness again, but God gave me so much more than I ever could of imagined. God has given me a future and the ability to love and impact other people!.

The following is a poem that I wrote during that time.

Once Upon A December

It’s hard to believe that three years has passed

Since thought of suicide help me cope

With the horror occurring to me.

An all too familiar feeling has crept into

Another December.

After one of Bitterness and indifference

And one of a Rare Joy and Happiness

Back to Despair and loneliness

Craving what was lost

How can one stop the life of an undying love?

After three years was any of it worth it?

What if my decision had been different?

Has hope led me to greater loss?

Is my Hopeless Romanticism my ruin?

As much I try to kill them

My dreams float from the depths

Like a cork in the sea

Shall I pour the gasoline and ignite the flames?

Shut the door and accept the truth of solitude?

The temptations linger

After seeing the failure of Great Love

A battered heart needing to find rest

In a quaint harbor from the storm-stricken seas

Or do I let the lingering pain intensify

Through dreams and the faint possibilities of happiness

I had all I ever wanted and it is gone

There is no hope in this world

The promises are for eternity and that all will be repaid.

So why hope for joy and love in this world

When it was never promised.

Once upon a December

I chose hope and dreams

What this December brings I have yet to decide.

One Foggy Evening

In the midst of the final weeks of my first semester for my Masters of Social Work I have plenty of reasons why I don’t have time to write. There are papers to write, reading to complete and process recordings to be done, but I secretly long and crave to write FOR ME. Among the busyness and stress of life I find the inability to remember my feelings and thought processes. Writing helps me do it. Writing for myself is a treat. I sometimes wish it was more of a staple in my diet.

In the past 8 months or so my life has been through significant changes. Good changes, but foggy nights like tonight remind me how far I have really come and how powerful a memory can really be. Leaving my internship tonight the fog triggered thoughts and feelings of almost 6 years ago when I was raped. As time goes on and changes for the good occur it is easy for me to push against these thoughts. I realize that my brain doesn’t want to let me do it and nor do I think in the long term I should. I certainly don’t want to dwell on what happened, but if emotions come to the surface I need to accept them for what they are. It’s a bit of what mindfulness teaches us; not to try to stop negative feelings, but rather become aware of them.`I believe that these things come out for a reason; as an opportunity to process and feel what I may not have been able to feel previously.

Accepting the thoughts and feelings associated with my rape seems to push against rational thought. There is much joy and childlike anticipation in my life right now and my past self would say that I’m finally “going somewhere”, but my past self would try to ignore the past. I’ve seen myself do it before when life is good to try to “leave behind” my past, because who wants that crap among the beauty. The still small voice inside of me say “I do”. I’m not a separate entity from my past, but living art. My life isn’t broken up into different paintings. The rape isn’t an “ugly” painting that I get to throw out, but rather different strokes in one painting to create something magnificent. If you think about it aren’t the greatest artists the ones who can take a mistake or a flaw and use it in their art. If we kept throwing out the ugly, hurtful and dark parts of our lives we would never get anywhere. If we instead accept them as part of who we’ve become how much more grace and beauty will be evident in our lives?

Beauty isn’t having it all together, but rather accepting all our brokenness in order to create beauty in the world around us.

Memoir to My Grandpa

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Guess What? …….I love you! These were the words that would hear from Grandpa almost every time I saw him. As a kid instead of answering with “What” I would already know and say “I know I know you love me!”. There was never a moment as grandchildren that we didn’t know we were loved. If it wasn’t through words it was through actions. Christine, Adam and I have many fond memories of outings with Grandpa. From trips to the movies, playing on the swings, the hammock at the house, and wonderful memories made in Williamsburg Virginia. Speaking of swings I remember I was about 3 years old and I knew Grandpa would come push me if I had asked. So I wandered over to a neighbor’s yard (where there swing set look so wonderful) and proceeded to sit on a swing and shout “Grandpa come push me”. In no time Grandpa came not to push me , but to escort me out of the neighbor’s yard! I had yet to understand that I couldn’t swing wherever I wanted!

Grandpa’s booming voice in the typical “Tomlinson fashion” was a source of Joy and smiles. You could always hear the joy that radiated from within in his voice! It was through him I began to understand the real meaning of my middle name “Joy” . It didn’t mean everything was perfect, but instead it rested in the hope that is in Jesus Christ, and for that we have Joy. Grandpa always demonstrated that truth!!

I’m blessed and proud to say that I was able to share the title of U.S Marine with Grandpa. Right before I went off to boot camp he gave me his Eagle Globe and Anchor Emblem from his time in service. I will always hold this dear. He shared with me his book of his time in service in the 3rd Marine Division. I was honored for him to have such pride and joy in my service. I can hear him singing the Marine Corps Hymn to me as I remember him. He made sure he knew what PFC stood for which was “Praying for Corporal”. I prayed and prayed and I reached Corporal! And shared the rank of Corporal with him as well!

I’m grateful for each moment that I had here with him and I rest assured that he with my Savior! As the Marine Corps Hymn says I’m sure he is walking Heaven’s Scene as a United States Marine, because once a Marine Always a Marine!

Love and Cinnamon

Just reflecting on the beginning of my relationship that started in the Spring and how thankful I am for it!

Here is a picture of my boyfriend when he is 1 years old. He just recently celebrated his 29th birthday! I’m so grateful for Him

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Heart Races, Silent Prayers

Last minute Texts

My eyes smile as I

Watch him walk over

Never once have I been Pursued

In this Way, Pure, Honorable

Wafts of Coffee, fills the air

Love brews, joy begins

All over a cinnamon dolce latte

Time flies, Conversation spurs

Shared smiles, Excitement

Disregard to the world

Almost closing time, cups are empty

But it has only just begun

Delayed goodbyes and side hugs

This is how love grew.

Strength Based Practice

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I’m nearing the end of my first two courses in my Masters of Social Work, and things have been crazy. I expected this, but my schedule did not build in the buffer of “life happens”. I’m in thick of work, school and interning at the Children’s Hospital and it can be incredibly draining. Interning at the Children’s Hospital has definitely been an amazing experience, but definitely difficult at times. Since the beginning of September there has already been 2 patients that have passed and one who is not expected to make it till next year. I appear to be holding up well emotionally, but giving of myself all day definitely has shown me the need to decompress. Thankfully I have an hour car ride home that allows me that time, but it is up to me to make use of it.
This past week I quickly saw how small blips or problems could quickly throw off my steady pace. All it took was a glitchy phone and a misplaced driver’s license and I was in tears at lunch time in my car. I felt like the two added tasks would take away all the needed time (when reality it wouldn’t). All I could think of was the papers I had to write and preparing to teach a class at my job. I was extremely thankful for Dave’s steadiness, because although there was not much that could be fixed, at the current moment I needed some rationality and stability.
This brings me to my title of strength based practice. In my studies in social work we are told to utilize strength based practice which focuses on what strengths the client has and forming positive goals (i.e. spend an hour a day with family as opposed to decreasing time on computer). The idea behind this is to develop confidence and esteem in areas that exist in order for a client to feel able to make changes in other areas. The application of this is necessary in my own life and I was extremely blessed to have Dave point out some of the positive side, when I was being irrational. It reminds me of what kind of positive goals can reinstate or add to my life (that are not too lofty!!!)

Although I wanted to do weekly yoga in class I realized that isn’t always feasible with my schedule; based on this realization here are my new goals:

1. Exercising 3-5x a week with one session being a yoga video. ( I would love this to be everyday but due to my schedule this makes me prone to failure and being self-defeating)
2. Set aside a day for school work and house chores (Tuesday) Unless I completed a majority of work on another day I need to use this as a dedicated day of work (this might help my sanity).
3. Adding mindfulness meditation to the start of my day (I’ve been telling myself this for months! Funny how one can neglect to do something so beneficial)
4. Utilize other people to help me see the positive in the situations and asking for help when I need it!
5. Blogging Bi-weekly (this might be lofty for me, but I enjoy and I definitely missed doing it!)

Progressing through Life

In the flash of an eye or the sound of the word memories can come flooding in. No matter how distant a trauma is or how far away it is in your conscious thought; it only takes a tiny thing for the mind to remember. I have had several of these moments lately. One was where I was sitting in my car and I saw someone who looked almost exactly like my 3rd rapist. Part of me was convinced and then I looked closer to realize it wasn’t. In that instance my mind was racing. It wasn’t the first time my mind had gone to those moments. In church the series has been about hope and made me remember some of my darkest moments. I started thinking of myself in the car right after it happened in complete despair believing this is all my life would ever be and wanting it all to end.
The mind is an extremely powerful thing, and learning to become mindful and connected is imperative. In these particular situations there were definitely more relative things that triggered me, but other times not so much. I would say one of my biggest struggles would be connecting emotions and feelings to the actual incident. It is one thing to tell the story and process it verbally, but it’s a whole different ballgame to have those emotions connected while it is being told. I do believe that accomplishing this is extremely important, because without the integrity between the incident and the emotion; emotions will come out sideways. Emotions will come out regardless it just a matter of where and when it does. It definitely is a goal of mine to better connect the two.
On another note I have made positive progress in regards to yoga which was one of the goals that I had mentioned in a previous blog post. I have been going to yoga once a week and it has definitely been good for me mentally and physically. Not to mention it is also been a way for me to bond with my boyfriend; since I dragged him along :-). One of the key things it teaches is how much strength mentally and physically can be built by being still. So often life tells us that in order for us to become stronger and grow we have to move constantly (whether it be physical exercise or mental activity), but it is that constant busyness that can start to actually make us weaker. Failure to give the mind and body a break can end up having negative effects in all aspects of a person’s life.
Yoga reminds me of the lesson that God tries to teach us “Be still and know that I am God”. Today I will take steps to be still and rest in God’s overwhelming grace.

Consistency to find the road to positive habits

This coming August I will be starting my Master’s in Social Work and along with working will be interning 16 hours a week. I know now more than ever that I need to develop and fine tune positive habits in my life. I haven’t written in a while which has saddened me, because I know that writing is cathartic for me and it also holds me accountable. I know for sure that as busy that I might be I still need to make time to write. One of the biggest factors in developing good habits is that my internship will be at Valley Children’s Hospital. I was forewarned that it is tough and emotionally draining. I could end up assisting in grief counseling (for parents who just lost a child), families that have domestic violence, seeing extreme child abuse, and the reality of being around sick children when they pass away. I know that this experience will be amazing and will be extremely relevant to my future career path, but I know that self-care is imperative. In order to better track and hold myself accountable these are the following habits that I will plan to develop:

1. Mindful Breathing 3 minutes at least 2 times a day. This will probably be easiest to implement right when I wake up and during my lunch break. The hope of this behavior is to help maintain clarity throughout the day and to be able to stay emotionally leveled.
2. Yoga once a week. With my new gym membership that actually has yoga classes this should be easier to achieve. My options are either Monday evening or Saturday morning. Yoga will not only allow me to reap emotional benefits, but it will help my body repair from the other workouts I complete during the week.
3. Establishing and Keeping a bed time. Sleep is so imnportant to a healthy mind and body. The rest of these goals will quickly fall through if I’m not getting enough sleep. In order for me to get a decent amount of sleep I need to be in bed no later then 11pm on a weekday.
4. Drink at a minimum of 10 glasses of water a day. If my days are busy it can definitely become more challenging stay hydrated. I need to make sure I carry enough water with me to make sure that I can continiously hydrate.
5. Bring lunch and snack into work- As of lately I have failed in meal prep and I end up throwing food together and it isn’t sufficient or I go out to eat more than I should. Both of these things are not great keeping body in relative homeostasis.
6. Lastly MOVEMENT- This generally is exercise but it doesn’t have to be so formal. The key factor is finding a time to MOVE throughout the day. Whether it be running, the gym, playing basketball, walking, yoga etc.. the important part is that I’m moving

The above are the goals I would like to begin to work on and now is the time to take this one small sustainable step at a time.