On this day last July, I loaded up my entire life into a moving truck, turned in my apartment keys, and drove away in my grey Honda Civic, tears rolling uncontrollably down my ruddy cheeks for the first 50 miles. They say “you don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone,” and that may be a little true, but mostly? Mostly I knew that I was closing a really beautiful chapter of my life. And that closure felt premature to me, and that was really, really hard.
I loved living in Austin. I loved my friends, I loved my neighborhood, I loved the city itself. I loved the way jeans were appropriate for every occasion and how easy it was to try a new restaurant every weekend. I loved my job and my co-workers. For the first time, I felt known and loved–completely. There were no pretenses. My friends became my family and they knew my strengths and weaknesses and they loved me wildly anyway. Austin was home to me in way that can’t be described with words because it’s only a gut feeling; living there, I was at home.
But then, of course, the story goes on. I met Riley, and I loved him so fiercely that it took me aback. And there wasn’t a place where I felt more myself than with him, but he was four hours away. After we got engaged, we talked and prayed for months–and finally, it was decided. I would move to marry him and start our life together. The implications of that last sentence, of that decision, were vast and intimidating. But, I knew I was walking in God’s will, regardless of my conflicting emotions, so I moved forward.
Moving to a new place is one transition. Marriage is another. Moving in together another. Starting down a new entrepreneurial career path, that’s another. I don’t know how I thought I’d handle these transitions, but I know for sure that how I actually handled them was a lot harder, a lot messier, and a lot less pretty than I’d imagined. I had images of prayerfully moving through each day, full of grace, with a positive and uplifted spirit and just a pinch of struggle from time to time. Flip that fantasy on its head and you’ll find the reality of the situation.
The first few months, from August through October, were so new and exciting that I breezed through each day. Then, the reality hit. These transitions all together were hard, hard, hard. There was little that was prayerful, graceful, positive, or uplifted. The pinch of struggle I’d imagined was more like four heaping cups. Some of my hardest days ever were in this past year. It has been messy, it has been frustrating, it has produced gritty doubt and fiery anger at God. My selfish soul has cried out often and I’ve found myself drowning in what-ifs. There were days when I felt like a shell of a person, going through the motions, but feeling empty and desolate inside.
This lack of contentment wreaked havoc on my mind and soul, it strained my marriage, it made me feel distant from God. There were lots of days where I felt like a stubborn child in a temper tantrum stand-off with the Lord; Him gently revealing His plan for me in this new season, me refusing joy and shaking an angry fist back at Him.
How do you reconcile the intimate beauty inherent to marriage with the feeling of wanting to be anywhere else? How do you stop yourself from comparing your last chapter to your current one? How do you keep from playing The Blame Game?
My best friends can tell you that my relatively chipper and positive outlook was drowned out with frustration and fear for large portions of the past year. Many of my precious Austin people wanted me to come visit them, but I couldn’t make the trip; I knew I would fall apart when I had to pack up and drive back home. I was afraid of already-raw feelings becoming more raw and painful if I returned too soon and I wanted to protect my heart. Honestly, still my heart aches a little with nostalgia when I think of Austin.
There were many sleepless nights when I leaned into Riley’s chest and wept. He felt helpless and responsible, and I felt discontent and unhappy. These episodes have been ugly to walk through but beautiful to look back on–the vulnerability and constant support of marriage are blessings more precious than I could have ever known. Through these dark valleys, I’ve grown an attachment to my husband that could only be forged through hardship. His faith has been my crutch on days when my own felt shattered.
My experience with my past year of life has been multi-faceted to say the least. The joy of marriage has carried me through, but our struggle to find a home, a church, or a community fractured my heart many times over. Countless times I wondered why nothing was falling into place, despite our endless prayers and best efforts. I wouldn’t like to relive this year, and I don’t know that I’ll ever understand why this depth of struggle was necessary amidst so many already-challenging transitions, but this is how it’s been.
Riley has whispered it into my tear-soaked cheeks so many times: you can have joy and contentment in all circumstances. When I play the what-if game and start down the well-oiled track of doubt and fear, he consistently redirects my thoughts and reminds me that God’s goodness stands apart from my fickle emotions. And that He called us here, to this place, whether it feels good or not.
All that said, nothing lasts forever (thank God) and my hard heart softened gradually over the course of this year. Spring brought with it renewal and hope, and some of our pleaded prayers were answered, finally. We found a beautiful home after nearly two years of house-hunting. We found a wonderful church after visiting one after the other and feeling uncomfortable and disappointed each time. We’ve met new friends and built relationships with people in our community. Riley’s business has soared and become something he both deeply enjoys and is truly proud of. My blog and surrounding activities have grown significantly and I’ve been continually blown away by God’s faithfulness to bless each new venture. Our marriage has become more solidified and intimate as we’ve fought through the mess together.
Of course, not every moment of the past year has been horrific and terrible and miserable. There has been genuine laughter and joy, and these things have carried me straight through. But honestly? I won’t look back on this period of time with a heart bursting of fondness; I will look back on this time as a hard trial that met redemption. Redemption always wins.
Something changed in my heart earlier this year. For the first time, I felt the true weight of the heaviness that I was carrying around. It was heavy, but it was familiar and comfortable–and it takes bravery to face hard feelings, I know that all too well. I started to actually face the heaviness instead of wrapping myself up in it. It was a process, it is a process, but there’s forward motion. Little by little, I’m learning to embrace what God has for me in my current season instead of living in frustration and anger. And though I’ve turned over a new leaf, the struggle remains; emotions aren’t on light switches, as much as I often wish they were.
I struggled to write this post because it felt impossible to accurately describe and explain a period of time that’s been so complicated and layered. I have genuinely loved being married, and I’ve loved pursing my entrepreneurial goals/dreams, but I’ve also deeply struggled with living in this new place. Nothing is ever one-dimensional or flat; there are always layers. And while some of the past year’s layers have been overwhelmingly joyful, many, if I’m being honest, have been deeply difficult. But there’s been good and bad, together, at the same time. Am I making sense?
Nothing about this past year feels short. I’m waiting for our anniversary at the end of this month, when so many people will remark how they can’t believe it’s been a year since our wedding day. And while it’s hard to believe that I’ve been married for a year, the journey from our wedding day until now has been so long-winded that in many ways it feels like I put on my white dress decades ago.
I say all this because I highly value honesty and authenticity; to celebrate the anniversary of moving without sharing what that’s really meant in my life would be fake and shallow. I say this because if you’re stumbling through your current season, you’re not alone. And because moving my belongings from A to B was uncomplicated and easy, but moving my heart has been challenging and painful.
I believe that God has a plan for my life and is leading me according to His will and purpose. I believe also that while following His calling is incredibly worthwhile and significant, it is often very, very difficult. To sugarcoat the struggle would be to undermine His grace. He is with me, He is for me, He is leading me.
// Have you ever walked through a particularly difficult season of life?
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