Into the Vaults: A Burning Season

Originally published 09/29/2006

The light was especially complimentary to her that day. It shone upon her face almost angelically, highlighting the red in her hair that usually went unnoticed by the human eye. All around her the colors of the season turned brilliant, and the vibrancy of the falling leaves ran circles around her feet. For most, the spring was that magical season of love and lust, but all of her enchanting encounters took place in the fall.

The fall was especially hopeful even in its infancy. Still, in the early hours of that first morning, the crisp air whispered promises, and the morning dew dripped of desire leaving her eager and waiting. Romance can be particularly tricky in the summertime. Brief flings and one night stands were the talk of those days, but any seriousness is left for the soothing spirit of autumn.

There was one, though. One that had made his way through her rules of the seasons. The filmstrip of their wondrous hours was stuck on repeat in her mind’s eye, and no matter the effort it refused to release her thoughts to focus on more productive matters of the day. Each moment was relived as though it was new leaving her exasperated, and completely out of breath. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

Out of desperation she broke her own rule. Each push of a button sent a shiver straight from her finger through her backbone, making their way out through the tips of her toes. The ringing was infernal, and with each waiting second her patience with the matter ran more thinly than the second before. No answer. “Damnit,” she thought, far more audibly than she had preferred. Her resilience only goes so far, and she wasn’t prepared for the failure of her first attempt.

“Crap,” escaped her lips in a deep grumble as her phone made its way from her grasp to the rigid edge of her maple headboard. The strength of her persistence was wearing increasingly thin, and her patience was losing its grasp as her fingers once again tapped out the seven excruciating digits. This time she held the phone out in front of her staring it down as if she could will him to answer through her thoughts. No answer.

At this point she’s on her knees, pulling threads from the hand-sewn rug beneath her as the tears flew effortlessly, soaking themselves deep into the pink fibers turning them a deep crimson red. How could this one make it past her defenses, and why did her emotions run so deeply in his regard? She relented. No more tears would fall, and no more reels of film would run through her head. The potential for a lifetime of happiness and passion was just not worth enduring this aching.

Brushing herself off, and reapplying her cried-off waterproof mascara she stood silent on the now red rug. Each moment spent weeping was a moment she regretted already, and the stride that returned itself to her step once again exuded the confidence she had held only hours before. She wrapped her coat warmly around her, and snatched her bag from the kitchen table on her way to the door. It was the first day of fall, and to waste it would be against every fiber of her being. She made her way through the entryway and out into the open expanse of the season, leaving the reels burning behind her.

Broken Wings

I spent 10 long years working through the repercussions of my bad decisions in my youth. Many times I believed that I was completely free of them, and then out of nowhere they reappeared stronger, and more powerful than ever. Thankfully, I’m in a great church that truly cares for full healing and freedom who walked with me to reach just that.

Then, the Ray Rice incident blasted social media and news outlets, and my past was in my face again, but this time it was different. I have always tried to keep a low profile on this topic for reasons that I still don’t really understand. When this came up, I decided quietly to keep silent because it was such a sensitive issue, and I wasn’t prepared for the negativity that is naturally attached. That was until a few weeks ago when I was sitting in a mostly empty restaurant bar with a co-worker while 2 men sat on opposite sides of the bar as the story once again appeared.

“Well, she married him now, so it couldn’t have been that bad,” said Man #1.

“Yeah, you can’t much dumber than that,” scoffed Man #2.

“She probably just did it for the money. Now she can divorce him and get half of what he’s worth,” taunted Man #1.

And so on, and so forth.

My co-worker could tell that I was upset, and initiated our departure. I’ve spent the next few weeks trying to convince myself that I was ok, and that I would not allow that kind of ignorance to fester inside of me, but alas, that didn’t last. I continued to hear both me and women make comments about this woman that have made my blood boil.

“How does such a smart woman make such a stupid decision?”

“Why doesn’t she just leave?”

“Maybe she secretly likes it.”

Bear with me, because this is going to be a bit cathartic.

My first abusive relationship started when I was 17. I didn’t understand exactly what was going on, but I knew that I was so in love, and couldn’t see my life without him. I slowly began to push my family away, I lost nearly all of my friends, and couldn’t see any way out. I wasn’t who I used to be. After I finally left him I hurt even more than I did when we were together. I started skipping class, making excuses to family for staying out, missing work, and failing classes. I started drinking, and starving myself, and even attempted suicide.
All of those things were terrible and self-destructive, but the worst part of it all was that I was alone.

I used sexual promiscuity to try to numb the pain of it all, and in that stage is where I met my now ex-husband, and my 2nd abusive relationship. Without going in to more detail than necessary, I can safely say that it was 200% worse than the first one. Emotionally, physically, mentally; you name it. I was shamed, mistreated , and once again, exiled from family and friends. There were days that were amazing, and when those days happened they justified to me the reason I stayed. Because in my heart I knew that he loved me, and he really didn’t mean it. It was my fault. If I had just been quieter, lost more weight, not burned dinner, put gas in the car, cleaned the house better… Well, you get the gist.

All of those things were terrible and destructive, but the worst part of it all was that I was alone.
At no point did I have anyone standing by me loving me. Everyone seemed to let me drift away, and I could never understand why. No part of me could comprehend why people who knew what was happened did try to help me.

My neighbors who heard the screams.

Our friends who watched it happened.

I was still alone.

When I was out of the relationship was when good-hearted people started saying not-so-good-hearted things. If you’ve never been there, you can’t really understand the heart or mentality of an abused person, so I wanted to help provide you with tools to help.

1. Install value: Simple compliments like “Your hair looks so pretty today,”, or “You’re such an amazing parent,”, or “I’ve never seen anyone do a, b, c as good as you do!” The abuser first tears down their victim by destroying their self-confidence. Kindness combats.

2. Show love : Words can be painful and powerful. They have the ability to completely destroy a person before anyone has laid a hand on them. When we say things like “I don’t understand how you could get yourself in to this. You’re such a smart woman!” we are in essence blaming the abused person for what happened to them. Use love words.

3. Take action: So many times during an incident I just prayed that someone would finally call the police. We were in cheap apartments, and the walls were thin. I knew that the neighbors heard what had happened, and I knew that our friends knew as well. The victim may even be angry with you, but you could be saving their life.

This past year the Lord revealed a piece of my heart that I had not allowed him to heal, and that was forgiving those who did nothing. I had forgiven my ex’s many years ago, but I had never forgiven those who had stood by and didn’t help.

To sum this up: No, she’s not that dumb, no she doesn’t want his money, and don’t ask why she doesn’t just leave unless you’re prepared to help.

Swimsuit Shopping Isn’t Hell. Well, Maybe a Little…

To anyone who’s really known me, they’ve known that weight and self-image has always been a struggle for me. As a teen I saw parts of myself as imperfect and accidental. As a young woman, I believed that my body was for the pleasure of others, and looking good was a means of finding happiness in the physical pleasures.  In this new phase of life (parent of a teenager, an almost-kindergartener, a new grandmother) I’ve found myself in this place where God is being very deliberate in showing me who I really am.

In the past 3 years I’ve gone from losing 50 pounds, to gaining 20 pounds, to losing almost 20 pounds. I’ve spent more time praying about it than I’d care to admit, but I’ll just leave it with there being a ton of scars on my knees. I think that I’ve felt every painful emotion ranging from guilt to shame to regret, and sometimes they all hit at once. Sometimes they hit out of no where, and go flying like a boomerang at my sweet husband. There have been more apologies surrounding emotional, weight-related breakdowns than otherwise.

Last summer I purchased a bathing suit top that I thought would be large enough to be comfortable and flowing and still keep everything hidden. So when lake season reared its ugly head again like it always does, I wasn’t even thinking that I’d have any issues with my existing bath suit.  Until I put it on. And it almost fell down. Amidst the excitement of the weight and inches lost, there was also that gnawing angst of knowing that I’d have to, soon, go swimsuit shopping.

*shudders*

I think most women probably feel me on this. There’s almost nothing worse in life than swim suit shopping. Us gals will always find something in the mirror that we don’t like, no matter how gorgeous everyone else thinks we look. So I make the trek to my favorite store with my lovely 5-year old in tow.  I make my way through the bathing suit section and pick out about 10 different items that I thought might possibly work, and then make my way to my certain demise (queue the funeral procession music).

I know I’m exaggerating. But only a little bit.

Hayden spent the entire time yelling at me through closed eyes about how he doesn’t want to see my giant butt or my boobs, etc. so I made my way through trying on the instruments of torture (again, not totally exaggerating), as quickly as humanly possible, and left empty handed and miserable.

A few weeks later and I’m realizing that the day for the lake visits is approaching rapidly and I needed to figure something out. One more trip had to be made. I warned my husband to be on call for pictures for approvals, and started the death march back to the store.

Another walk through the department of pain and I went back in to the priso…errr..dressing rooms (working on the positivity here). The first one makes its way on, and I tuck in all of the undergarments as best as I can so I can really see what it looks like before turning myself around to the mirror. As I look down at my feet and my eyes make their way up to meet themselves in the mirror the tears began to fall.

And they weren’t tears of hurt or disappointment.

It was like in this moment that God knew that I had already set myself up for failure, He put a little piece of His heart for me in to mine, and this wave of warmth and approval fell over me. I saw, probably for the first time ever, a glimpse of how He sees me. It was like looking through God colored glasses, and I saw this gorgeous woman in front of me and she couldn’t stop smile-crying.

Can I tell you something? Can I share with you a little bit of what I believe that he put in me that day? Can I be vulnerable and real?

Each of us is perfection. We were created by the Master Craftsman, and woven together with intention and purpose. I’m in this beautiful ministry where I get to share the heart of the Father with His girls, and for so long I didn’t believe that those things that He said to them were for me, but I was so wrong. The sooner we, as women, believe this about who we are physically, the sooner we can walk together in to the place that He has planned with us.

Please hear me.

There is NOTHING wrong or imperfect about you, and until you believe that your beauty is so much more than your physical, and believe what God already knows about who you are, there is no amount of physical perfection that will make you happy. Happiness has to be found in Him first. Believing this will break the chains of bondage that keeps us bound to the constant search of something that will never fill us.

You are gorgeous, beautiful, favored, and loved. Be blessed.

In Training

Two years ago had someone told me that I would have healthy, loving relationships with women that didn’t involve lying, guilt trips, grudges, and back-stabbing, I would have called you crazy. In my experience, that’s just what you had to deal with when you chose to be friends with girls, and it’s why I didn’t have any. During that phase of life I found it much easier to just not go there, and convinced myself that I was completely ok with not having girlfriends.

But God…

He had something so different planned for me. And I didn’t go quietly. There was kicking, and screaming.  There were tantrums. There were not-so-nice words. And yes, there were tears. I didn’t want to be hurt again. I didn’t want to dispense that time and energy, all of which were so precious to me because of my work schedule, in to something that would ultimately explode in to a bloody, painful mess.

My husband had been really pushing me to find a life group.  I had a host of excuses; I don’t have time, I don’t have the energy, I don’t want to lose more time with my kids, I don’t want to interact with women. So one night during a heated discussion that involved all of the above excuses, I pulled that whole woman thing where I don’t want to do what my husband thinks I should do so I do the “fine, I’ll go do this, but just so you know, you’re going to be wrong about how this turns out” thing. I pulled out my computer and started looking through the list of life groups on my church’s web site. And I found one. And I kind of cried. So I send the request to join, and really forgot about it, until I received an email from a sweet woman inviting me to a training class.

“Training? Training for what? This is supposed to be a life group!”

But I went.

And I was invited to join.

And I did.

And I served.

And I was taught.

And I learned.

And I loved.

I loved the women I served and served with. And not just the kind of love that we say to people when we don’t really feel it, but feel obligated to say it, but real and true, deep heart, cry-for-you-when-you-hurt love. When I prayed for these women I knew them, and God began to do this work in my heart. And a year later it changed again.

Responsibility.

And more love.

And family.

And spiritual mothers.

And spiritual daughters.

And God.

In the time that I was serving I thought that I was giving something to the women around me.  And I was. But what I didn’t understand at the time that I understand now was that God was giving something to me at the same time. He implanted something inside of me that I never thought in a million years I would have, and that is this beautiful, pure love for the women around me. I was caught in that terrible trap of looking at a woman and seeing her faults, believing her to words to be deceitful and manipulative, and keeping a safe arms-length away from connecting.

So I grieved.

For all of that time that I ignored His tug on my heart, and for all of the relationships that went south because of my preconceived notions about her intentions.

I am a better woman because of these ladies. I am more loved and treasured than I believed that I could be by someone other than my husband. I am continually blessed, and out of that blessing I can continue to bless others by the power of His words. If you’re her, if you’re who I was, I want to encourage you to think differently about your sisters. I want to encourage you to press on with His help, and find those healthy relationships what will make you a better woman.

Thank you to those who invested in me. I don’t know that you will ever know your full impact.

An Open Letter to my Mom on Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

Now that I’m a mom with a little age under my belt, I’ve realized that the dreaded “You’ll understand when you’re a mom” phrase that I hated hearing in my teen years is actually one of the most profound truths that you’ve ever taught me. I’m not sure that there was anything I didn’t want to hear come out of your mouth in response to one of complaints/whines/screams/ of “not fair” more than that. So here I am 20 years later with these beautiful children and it all makes sense.

This unexplainable love that you feel for these tiny little beings who God entrusted you with is beyond any natural thing that exists, but it’s also how I’ve learned more and more about who God is. I want you to know that you taught me that. You showed me every day every time that you said “no” when I wanted to do something I shouldn’t, and every time that you put your foot down and grounded me when I did it anyway; your dedication to teaching me the right thing taught me why boundaries were so important, and the older I get, the more I realize that these are God’s boundaries, too. They aren’t to restrict my joy, or contain my spirit, or squash my dreams, they were there to help me reach them and guide me to my destiny. They were guidance, and love, and they’re part of the reason I am who I am today. No one is a perfect parent. We’ve talked about all of that. But you were as perfect as you could have been, and you were exactly what God intended for my life.

It has been such a joy to me to get to know you in my adult years. When you’re a kid you look at your parent through kid’s eyes, and you rarely see them as their own independent person who has feelings and dreams of their own. I’ll never forget the moment about 5 years ago when God began to reveal to me who you are as a person, and not just as my mom who worries too much. From that moment forward, I have had the distinct honor of getting to know who you are. Who Lorinda is. Not just who “Mom” is. And I want you to know that Lorinda is a beautiful, strong, amazing woman, and I am absolutely honored to call know you.

If you would allow me a moment to speak to you grown up to grown up, and not daughter to mother I have something I want you to know, and something that I believe that our Father wants you to know. You are exactly who He made you to be. Your talents that you sometimes don’t recognize as being good enough ARE good enough. He put them there. They were purposeful and deliberate. You have a gorgeous heart for those you love. When I think about this part of you I always see a momma lioness protecting her cubs. You are mightily protective of those who are yours, and your love for them is just as fierce. You are stunningly beautiful! I know that you don’t always necessarily believe this, but when you’re in a room you make it brighter with your laughter and your smile. You attract people to you because that’s how God made you.

These past 12 years as momma have seen their ups and downs, but as I’m entering this new phase of life called being a grandma I am excited that I have you to look up to as a role model for this new title. You are so amazing and special to me, and I love you more than words.

Happy 31st Mother’s Day, Mommy!

Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him

Christmas morning was short one child this year, but it still managed to be full of anticipation and excitement. Hayden ran out in to the living room, and at the site of the presents under the tree he squealed “Merry Christmas, everybody!” Jeff and I made our way out to the couches and watched, directed, and laughed along with this little wonder in front of us as he politely posed for a picture before destroying the carefully wrapped surprises that lay in front of him. As his parent, I took delight in each smile, giggle, and twinkle of wonder in his eyes. Oh, how the Father must take the same joy in us.

Jeff did an amazing thing yesterday and braved the Christmas Eve shoppers to fetch bacon for our Christmas breakfast (and probably somehow lunch and dinner). Bacon, eggs, and homemade buttermilk biscuits and gravy with fresh coffee and milk made for a lovely finish to the morning, and as I sat there watching my 4-year old inhale his “cheese in the moon” (eggs), I couldn’t help but smile at this unique gift that the Lord had blessed me with, when one of my favorite versus came to mind.

“For you formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” – Psalm 139: 13-14 (NASB)

Today is the celebration of the birth of a baby whose sole purpose of creation was to die for us, but what I had never pondered before was that Jesus, being wholly God and wholly man, was also woven in to His mother’s womb. God the Father was deliberate in the creation of Jesus’ human form, and wove him in Mary’s womb as he did each of us to our own mother’s. How much did He grieve knowing that this body that he is creating with such care and love will be tortured, beaten, and killed. Though He knew this was the only way to pay for our lives, and He gave it to us lovingly and willingly (John 3:16), it still must have been quite bittersweet.

So that’s where my head is today. The sweet creation and birth of the baby who would grow to give everything He had so that we could spend forever with him. Joyful, wonderful, majestic, simplistic, love.

“Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.  While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angle of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” – Luke 2: 1-14 (NASB)

Randomness and Such.

All of these things are rolling through my head today, and they’re having a hard time making their way out in an organized fashion, so this one will be short (or not), and scattered (or not).

I’m so tired of hearing all of the hatred in politics. Don’t try to fool yourself in to thinking that it’s one sided. We’re destroying this country together. Sadly, it’s the only thing we can seem to do successfully together.

My parents left today after being here for about 4 days. We spent the whole time just loving each other, laughing, and eating.  Mom and I spent about 2 days in my tiny kitchen cooking together, and it was wonderful. I forget how much I enjoy her company until I get it again. I’m pretty lucky to have such amazing parents. And to think that it could have turned out so differently had I not let God step in and create a beautiful thing out of the burned bridges that I created.

Hayden turned 4 yesterday. My how time flies. He’s his own little independent person with his own little independent thoughts. Mom couldn’t stop laughing at him all weekend.  A little of that was probably laughing at me.  You know what they say about paybacks.

I’m sitting here at the end of our family get together, weighing 5 pounds heavier than when we started, feeling sorry for myself, and all around disappointed.  This time last year I had lost 50 pounds, and today I’ve officially gained back nearly 20 of those. I’m kicking myself over that extra cupcake, and second helping of mashed potatoes, and feel like a gigantic loser. This is when Daddy chimes in with a huge hug of warmth and love, and reminds me that he is not disappointed in me when I fall.  He takes my hand, helps me back up, and walks with me back to the starting line. No shame, no guilt, and no “I told you so”. He just loves me. And it’s the most romantic moment we’ve shared in a while.

Product Buzz: Hidden Valley Ranch

Good morning, friends!  Time to start your day with a quick and easy way to make your mealtimes better this weekend with Hidden Valley Ranch!  Now, I know what you’re saying.  “Sara, this isn’t a new product.  Why are you Bzz’ing about it?”  Well, I have just the answer.
Because ranch dressing is awesome, and Hidden Valley does it best!

We go through a metric ton of ranch dressing every year, but I have yet to find a brand that is more flavorful than this one, and my entire family loves it. Don’t believe me? Check out one of my favorite recipes made with The Original Ranch: HERE

Come back and tell me what you think!

Interested in trying out great products for free?  Check out BzzAgent and join me!

 

Product Buzz: Glade Air Expressions

Howdy friends!  I’m starting a new type of post here at openexpectancy called Product Buzz. If you follow me on Facebook you know that I’m an avid seeker of all money saving opportunities. In my search for said opportunities I found BzzAgent.com.  BzzAgent is the leading social marketing company that puts new products in the hands of consumers who share their opinions of the product as well as valuable coupons with their friends, co-workers, and family members.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be accepted as a BzzAgent, and to be chosen to review the Glad Air Expressions products (did I mention they give you FREE PRODUCTS?)

Pineapple & Mangosteen

Can I just tell you how in love I am with this scent? My home is full of boys (2 little ones, 1 big one, and 1 puppy), and this scent was light enough to not be obnoxious and overwhelming, but amazing enough to fill the whole house and really cover up any boy-smell one might encounter.  I also tried the apple scent, but this one takes the cake in my humble opinion. Pineapples are one of my favorite fruits, and I mean, really, who doesn’t like mangosteen? Fall is in the air in the Moccardine home!

Being a BzzAgent comes with perks.  One of them is the free product, but the other is the opportunity to share with all of you some amazing high value coupons that make this product ALMOST free!  So if you’re interested, ask and you shall receive (yes, I will mail it to you!) And if you’re interested in an opportunity as a BzzAgent, send me your email address and I’ll send you an invite!

So there you have it folks.  The first Product Buzz session from openexpectancy. Stay tuned for the next session coming soon!

Resting on Living Water

Jeff bought a Texas State Park pass about a month ago, so we’ve been spending a lot of time out at the lake with the boys. You’ve never seen any two boys happier than my two when they’re in the water. I’ve never been much of an outside person, but I’ve been making strides in that arena.  Being married to an adventurer, and being the mother of two little Grizzly Adams I’ve finally given in to the fact that the outdoors needs to be a big part of my world.  Sweating has become not so gross, dirt has become not so obnoxious, and getting tangled in the seaweed is like second nature.  Well, almost.

I took a week of vacation from work this week to unwind, and pull myself back together.  One could call this a staycation, but I’m going to call it more of a stay-at-home sabbatical.  I don’t recall a time in recent history where I’ve taken any time off of work for a purpose other than doing something for someone else, so this was kind of a big deal.  I was doing this just for me, with the rest of the family benefiting from my being home and not in the office.  It has been a truly restful week.

The other day we took a morning trek out to the lake to spend a few hours.  Honestly, I wish we had done this more than we did, but anyway. H is splashing around in his floaty growling at the seaweed and his brother, Jay was in a splash war with Jeff, and I was just laying on my back with my eyes closed soaking in the serenity around me. In my moment of personal escape the Lord broke the silence and reminded me that while I’m laying here enjoying the relaxation and peace in the physical waters that I forget in my daily busy to rest in the Living Water. Whoa.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s Sake.” – Psalm 23:1-3

Ah, rest. Is there anything more that I need than the rest I can only find in Him? The restoration that only comes from a complete surrender of my days, hours, minutes to His purpose? Allowing the cleansing waters to flow over me and fill me to overflowing? Why do I fail this? Why, in all of my human splendor, do I fail to spend this time with Him? Because I’m selfish, and stubborn. Because I place what I think I know is best for me above what He already knows is best. Because I trust what I think over what He thinks. Because I value my plans more than I value His plans. Because I don’t love Him enough to value His sacrifices over my desires.  That’s why. Rest is not so unattainable as I make it out to be.

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