Lovely Letters: This Burden Will Be a Blessing

They’re back! Here’s the newest Lovely Letter!

I broke up with my fiance. We’ve been together for almost 5 years and were planning to get married this coming December. I feel so empty, I’ve just tried to keep myself busy.

 

-L

Dear L,

Sometimes, choosing the hard thing can result in our biggest blessings, but before that it often feels like our heaviest burden.

You want to feel loved. You want to be respected. You want someone who fights as much for your heart as you fight for his. I think, at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all really hoping for.

Your heart wanted something different and it took letting go of something you thought you could learn to be content with, in order to open your hands for what’s better.

You made a decision and it was a hard one. You decided that even though you invested so much time, energy, laughter, memories, and heart with one person, that you wanted something different than what you were holding. That’s brave, but it’s painful and heart-wrenching. It’s going to take time for that one to heal, L. You cut out a big piece of your world and the sting can stay around for quite some time.

I know you feel empty, that you’re trying to fill that with work and hobbies. My best advice, the thing I can tell you will help the most, is to fill up your time with people.

Choose to let others see your heart during this time. Yes, I realize it’s bruised and broken. You may cry, or scream, or feel completely depressed, but whatever you do, don’t let yourself believe that you are alone.

We’ve all been there, in some way or another. Your situation is different than any I’ve had, but I know the pain of walking away from something that became a part of who you are and the future you saw for yourself. I know the weight of that stone that sits on your chest when you wake up and realize that this isn’t where you thought you’d end up.

But it’s a blessing, L. Right now, it feels like you’re being torn beyond repair, but I promise that it’s better to feel this pain now than to wake up in ten years and wish you had walked away.

You already know what your life would have been if you would have married him. You spent five years learning what your world wrapped around him would turn out to be. You realized it wasn’t the world you wanted, don’t waste another second wondering if you should regret desiring something different for your life.

You know what I think? Sometimes, we willingly choose the hard things because we can’t stand the idea of things staying the way they are. And you know what? Sometimes, doing those things that scare you, that seem to leave you empty handed, lead to the best surprises.

So, you have no idea what your life is going to look like without him. I get that, L. I know that you’re not only walking through the sadness of losing something you loved, but you’re now stuck in the worry of wondering if the future before you is really going to be better than what you had.

So, are you willing to walk away from a life you thought you wanted, in order to see something amazing happen? 

You said yes to that question; now things can change and I think they will.

You knew in your heart that it wasn’t right, and you chose to follow that despite how much it hurts. That’s pretty amazing, if you ask me.

This is your life, L. This is your shot and it’s your choice who walks next to you along this crazy journey you’re living. You chose to unlace your fingers with someone who wasn’t right for you. I’m proud of you, for all the times you forgave him, for all the times you apologized, for all the times you were willing to try and work it out. But mostly, I’m just proud of you for realizing that it’s not your responsibility to change someone, and that as much as you wanted to make things work, the only choices you can make are for yourself.

Just breathe, sweet friend. Know that you are not alone, surround yourself with people who will soothe your heart during this seemingly unbearable time. Be grateful that you had the strength to take a stand and that you realized the choice is yours. What now seems like a burden, you will one day see as the biggest blessing. Take a breath of relief that you were finally able to let go of what you were gripping so tightly, and that you now know it was never really yours to hold.

Ashlin

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday (well, at least once a week)! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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Lovely Letters: You and Your Baggage

I don’t want to live in the haunting memories. I can’t figure out if I will ever move on.  Why do we carry around this baggage?

-M

 

M,

Yesterday consisted of sifting and sorting through my inbox. Letters from others like you, filled with words of joy, pain, confusion, excitement, thankfulness, uncertainty.

While replying to some of them, I moved from the couch, to an adirondack chair, to a comfy leather chair, to a bean bag, to a lawn chair.  I kept trying all day to fill blank boxes with words. I kept hoping I could say something to load others up with something that will pour hope back into their bones. But no matter how many times I changed location or position, I couldn’t get comfortable with all the words on my screen. They were just plain heavy.

That being said, there’s one thing I learned while letting my eyes pour over all the things tossed into my mailbox.

We’ve all got some baggage.

I mean, really, we’re all lugging around clunky and bulky suitcases. Some are filled with words, some are filled with dark memories, some filled with disappointed hopes. Here we are, broken and at the core, all the same.

But just a few days ago, crying on the murky green carpet of my little house in Georgia, I learned something about traveling lighter.

When we carry around the pain, the hurt, the stings of the past as our baggage, we give ourselves all the reasons not to try again. We create walls to make us safe. But the reality is, after lugging those bags around for a while, you start realize that hurt is a lot easier to heal from than those bags are to carry.

We carry our bags to remind ourselves that people will break your heart. We keep them close and whenever we think we’re in the slightest bit of danger, we start stacking them like a fort around us. Not again, I’m never going there again. This is often the anthem of humanity.

We had some visitors in our home this week and one of them didn’t bring any clothes (seriously, this person packed almost nothing). The other two brought so little that they could easily fit it all in their arms.

It’s easier to travel without all that weight.” 

That was their motto, their anthem, their reason for walking around in the same clothes and worn out shoes. It was easier to travel that way, and that was all the reason they needed to leave their bags behind.

Because they’d rather live lightly than carry around the heavy weight of what makes them feel safe or comfortable.

They may appear poor to the rest of the world, they may appear unprepared and unwise. The reality is, they’re some of the happiest people I’ve ever known. They have a posture, a strength, a fierce confidence that I’ve never seen before now. They live lightly and loudly. They climb trees, run mountains, jump cliffs and get covered in mud and dirt over and over again. They do it all, knowing they have no change of clothes, that they may have to sleep covered in today’s dust. But they’re living, and it’s a lot easier to do and a lot more fun when you’re not trying to figure where to keep all your bags.

Rip the tag off, M. Take one last look at that frumpy set of luggage that you’ve grown to know so well.  Leave them all where they are and choose to pack light. Choose to let go of whatever it is that’s weighing your heart down, whatever suitcases are packed with things that keep you from laughing loudly and playing in the mud.

Let this be the spark that starts the kind of fire it takes to be brave, to do something that absolutely terrifies you. To live in a way that makes you laugh in the mud instead of living in fear of it.

We’ve all got it, M. We are all carrying stuff around, but I’m trying to figure out how to throw things off along the way. Sometimes, I just have to muster just enough strength to drop what it will take to climb that staircase, or to get in my car, to say something scary or to do something that makes people think I’ve lost my mind.

Today, that’s enough. Tomorrow, I’ll have to throw off a little more.

There’s a reason that airlines charge extra for the more bags you bring. Oh, and the heavier they are, the higher the cost. Isn’t that just how pulling them around yourself seems to feel? Trust me, M, you don’t want to exchange your future or your joy for the currency it takes to pay the charge for lugging around the past.

It’s all a choice, M. You get to choose what you carry. I hope you’ll leave your bags behind. If you do, I think you’ll find that you’ve got what it takes to make it, even if you go with nothing more than the clothes on your back.

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday (well, at least once a week)! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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Lovely Letters: When Your Plans Are Wrecked (& You Can’t Find a Map)

Happy Wednesday! Here’s a new Lovely Letter and a challenge. After reading this, leave a comment for the girl who sent in this e-mail with a simple sentence of advice/encouragement about what you know when it comes to plans failing and life changing.

“And while my heart has been changed to accept that the life I once planned won’t happen, it’s still hard. I appreciate this stage of growth in my life, but I also really wish I could have gotten this lesson without so much heartbreak. ”

-O

Dear O,

Something happened inside of me when I heard her say these words:

“I just feel connected to you.”

A complete stranger, working at a kiosk in the middle of the mall just stood with her dark eyes looking up at me. She leaned her head on my shoulder and it felt like a bandaid was being placed across my world.

All because I stopped (and I never ever, under any circumstance, stop at a kiosk in the mall). I am the rude person who will not even glance over at them, because I know that they’re going to harass me in attempts to sell me what is probably the last thing I’ll ever need.

But this time was very different and there was something about the way her voice sounded when she called out to me. It was like the voice of an old friend, it was as though we had been on a thousand coffee dates and grew up having movie & ice cream nights together. I knew her, I just did. Though I had never seen her face before, I knew her.

So, I just stopped.

It was never a conscious choice, I had no interest in the product she was selling, but I just stopped. I can’t even explain the reason, other than it’s just what you do when you see a familiar face, you don’t question it; you just stop to say hello.

And with an ease we just meshed into conversation. We talked about how she was from Israel, about my trip there three years ago. It was like we’d been there together. We talked about the food, the nightlife, the way people greet you on the street. We laughed, as though together, we had shared memories and jokes during our desert days.

I ended up buying something, she ended up asking for my contact information and she told me to come back. She invited me to stop by again and see her. She asked to be friends.

And in that moment, I learned something I thought I already knew.

The best things in your life are the things you didn’t plan on, the moments you can’t make sense of, the moments that simply had to be pure fate because they weren’t on the map, but they somehow changed your entire direction.

I wish I had known a year ago, that some of the best things in my life would happen in the middle of the mall or walking down hallways.

Not yet arrived to the place I’m trying to get to, I’ve stumbled into some pretty incredible moments along the way. Usually, it’s just when I’ve left a room of heartbreak and I’m trying to get to whatever room holds the next big thing. Usually, I’m in search of some kind of map while I’m in these hallways, I’m looking for some kind of sign to show me which door to walk in next.

Almost always, that’s when I collide with something that grabs at my heartstrings, something worth stopping for and suddenly, I begin to panic. In those moments, I refuse to even focus on the beautiful surprise, and rather start frantically searching for a compass, something to get me where I was supposed to go.  I tell myself, “Don’t stop for this, it’s just a distraction. You don’t have time for this. You’ve got places you need to be, more important things to do.”

I wish I had known earlier how to enjoy the hallways; the people you meet, the paintings on the wall, the things that may just look like common decor, or that may seem unimportant. Usually, these are things worth giving a second glance.

You know, O,  I don’t always want to be in a hurry to find what’s next.  Sometimes, I just want to love what is.

Rather than searching for a map, I wish I had met & asked strangers for some directions along the way. I wish I had met more of the people coming in and out of the rooms around me. I wish I had known that it’s okay to walk alongside some people and go wherever they’re going. It’s not always a bad thing, you know; to trust someone new.  Even though that’s gotten you heartbroken in the past, there’s no  time limit or safety guarantee on how many people you should pass by or how long you should walk until  it’s an “appropriate time” to walk beside someone else again. Yes, they start as strangers, but seconds later they might just change your life.

That’s a lesson you can put in your back pocket today, O. Don’t let fear keep you from trying again, from making new plans, from turning the corner and starting down an entirely new hallway with a whole different set of doors. Don’t let it keep you from stopping when someone stands with their hand extended, waiting to meet you.

I know what it’s like to let go of the life you planned, the uncertainty of beginning again, or trying to figure out which direction to head in. I know what it feels like when dreams die and everything you thought you wanted starts to look colorless.

It’s okay to want new things. It’s okay to change your mind, to explore possibilities, to give yourself some room to make mistakes. Sometimes you’ll open the wrong door. Sometimes you’ll linger in the hallway too long. 

But sometimes, you’ll leave the wrong room and just realize that you’re grateful you didn’t get stuck where you weren’t ever meant to stay.

I just want you to know that you don’t have to keep waiting for the next thing. Sometimes, you can find the best things right where you’re standing, right in the middle of the uncertain hallway, where you never expected to meet someone who could make you laugh. Sometimes, you find people that change your life in the middle of the mall and you get to be enchanted by the mystery of not even knowing what made you stop.

Life is funny that way, O. You spend your days trying to find a room filled with your destiny, and most of the time you end up tripping over it in the hallway.

It never looks like you expect, but that’s the wonderful thing about surprises; they’re often much better than the things your mind could have imagined.

Life has some surprises for you, O. They may scare you, they can sometimes seem like hurdles and messes that cause a detour from the path you thought you were supposed to take.

But they’re there for you, they’re gifts if you open your heart. O, you’re going to get to where you’re supposed to go. But I don’t want you to end up there alone, exhausted, discouraged. Choose to enjoy the artwork, to peek in on others’ rooms, stop and make some friends; I promise you when you arrive at that place you’re wanting to be it will seem so much sweeter.

You’re going to get there, as will I. It may not be where we expected, the route may look nothing like we imagined. It may take longer than we thought, but we’re going to get there (whatever there looks like for our lives).

Don’t stress out about maps or compasses. Just keep walking. You are meant enjoy the walk, the process it takes for you to end up stumbling through the door of where you were always meant to be. 

You’ll get there, O; you couldn’t miss it, even if you tried.

 

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday (well, at least once a week)! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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Lovely Letters: Jesus is enough, BUT…

This Lovely Letter is coming at you early! I just needed this to be out of my hands today. It’s longer than usual, and it’s quite bold. I know that some of my readers don’t have a religion or belief in God or whatever you want to call it—I do. Whatever you believe, I still want you to read it.

“Everyone always says that loneliness is an opportunity to get closer to God—-I’m failing to see it now. Does that sound like Jesus isn’t enough? Because I know He is, but He can’t go to the beach with me.”

-S

S,

I can already say that this will be one of the toughest things I’ve ever written.  I read that line in your e-mail, but He can’t go to the beach with me. One after another, tears slid down my cheeks and I just sat slowly nodding my head because it was so in sync with the ache in my heart. He’s enough, but He can’t go to the beach with me.

He also can’t go to the doctor with me.

Today, I just sat there on that tacky mauve-colored exam table and stared at the wood paneling on the walls. When those appointments first began, I used to talk to Him. I used to have little conversations and ask Him questions while I waited for the doctor to lightly tap on the door and make an entrance.

But today I just sat there and I waited. I looked at my phone, I read a poster on the wall, I picked at the threads hanging from my shirt. I waited. 

Mostly because that’s all God has been asking me to do lately, and so I didn’t expect anything else from Him.

Then I thought about that Facebook status I posted the other week. “When you’re single, people always say “You should just let Jesus meet every need” while I know what they mean, I wish those people had been here for the last fifteen minutes I just spent praying that He would open the world’s most difficult jar of pickles.”

A lot of people liked it, a lot of people laughed. I knew they would and I meant for them to. But even though I intended to be funny, there was still a raw truth lying in those words. He is enough, but He can’t open a jar of pickles for me.

Sometimes, that makes me cry. Because I’m spending weekends at baby showers and getting bridesmaids dresses altered and beating pickle jars with knives hoping that if I just grip tighter and turn it harder it will finally open.

But sometimes the pickle jar doesn’t open.

Sometimes you go to the beach alone.

Sometimes you go to the doctor alone.

I’m not going to tell you the annoying truth (and yes, it is true) that Jesus is there even though you can’t see Him. I’m not going to throw a Psalm at you and I’m most definitely not going to tell you that you’re a bad Christian.

I’m going to just simply say that today I felt alone.

So, when the appointment was over and I got into my car, I just kind of sat looking at the passenger seat and I felt an incomparable pain at the sight of it being empty.

People offered to come to my appointment with me, and I was the one who declined. But S, even though there may have been ten people I could have called and asked to go to my appointment with me, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that none of them are who I really wanted sitting next to me.

Because when I’m sitting in an office where women are smiling with their protruding little baby bumps and their endearing husbands sitting next to them as they wait for an ultrasound, I didn’t want to be sitting there with a random friend or family member. I didn’t want to be that pathetic girl. Maybe that’s prideful, but the reality is, I would have felt just as alone if any of those people had been next to me.

So many people tell me to let Jesus “be my husband through my singleness”. He might have been sitting there, but I couldn’t see Him and He couldn’t put His hand on my back and tell me I’d be okay. S, if I’m being honest with you, in that moment, I wanted to smack those fluffy-talking Jesus nuts in the back of the head. I wanted to take all those married people (who have lost touch with the loneliness of the single life) and who have fed that line to me and give them a not-so-pretty piece of my mind.

And I don’t think Jesus was angry at me or disappointed in the fact that I just wanted a a husband next to me today.

Last I checked, Adam was only alone on this planet for about 2 seconds before God was like “Hey, no, wait a second! It isn’t good for this guy to be alone!”

S, God’s not sitting up there crafting this hard road of loneliness for you. He’s not trying to make you miserable.

Honestly, I don’t know why you’re in the state you’re in. I don’t know why it seems like He’s not helping you out with this. Because He did make us for companionship and community. I don’t know why you don’t have it. I know you’re trying and there’s not a thing in this world wrong with you. You’re worthy of love and friendship, affection at the greatest magnitude. But today you feel alone, and there’s just no good reason for it.

I’m not going to try and write this big long speech about community or the value of finding a small group or Bible Study of people to invest in. I’m just going to tell you that I felt the same thing today. That I don’t know why. Sometimes God doesn’t make sense. My heart will always know that He is good, but sometimes this human flesh of mine just isn’t going to always have a grasp on Him and why He lets us go to the beach alone.

But I can tell you that He’s not happy about it. I don’t know why He allows it, S. But it doesn’t bring God joy to watch you sit on the shore with no one to share that view with.

He is not selfish. I know that much and I am certain that He is not threatened. I don’t care what the church told you, He is not sitting up there biting His nails, worried that if you get a husband that you’ll lose focus on Him. God is not in a competition with your future spouse.

And I know that fifteen people will probably e-mail me with scripture about how God is jealous. I’ll probably delete them. Because I know that He wants my heart and my affection. I know that He wants all of me. But I also know that Adam walked in perfect unity with God and God still saw that He needed someone else.

So, let’s get real here, God’s not making you be alone because He thinks you are so immature that you will abandon Him for a spouse. His jealousy for you and me isn’t rooted in fear. Jesus isn’t intimidated when someone takes you out on a date. He doesn’t go into strategic counter mission planning. Jesus isn’t threatened by marriage, or dating, or friendships.  He can sustain his pursuit of you no matter what stage of life you are in. So, if someone made you think that He says it’s good for you to be alone, they’re preaching from the wrong Bible.

I’m not going to give you a theology about “the one” or about “true love waits” or whatever other wagons there are to jump on when we need a theology to defend his goodness in regards to our loneliness. I’m just going to tell you that it is hard, that there are no clear answers. That God didn’t have Paul write a book about dating and finding Mr. Right (though I think that may have saved God a lot of time listening to all of us whine).

He knows when you feel alone. He knows when I’m being stubborn in my silence at the doctors’ office. He knows when my flesh and faith are failing. He is not unmoved by my pain, but nor is he unnerved by my doubt. He is still there, whether I feel Him or not. Even if He isn’t physically here to take me for a milkshake and pull the car up to the door for me when it’s raining.

S, it’s hard. I wish I could come to where you are, sit on that beach with you. I wish I could wrap you up in a good conversation. I wish that I could make this all a little easier somehow. So, if I, a complete stranger, could want to do those things for you; I’m certain that a God of love longs to do them more.

That’s why He came, that’s why He isn’t finished here. Because He hates our loneliness, our lack, our pain far more than we do.

I think that’s why He told Thomas, “Blessed are those who believe and have not seen. That’s my proof that Jesus knew it would hurt. He knew I would cry at the frustration of not being able to have him physically hold my hand. He knows the weight of that pain. He feels it and he cares.

But there’s a timing, and a reason, and a purpose. It’s all for my good and somehow in the grand scheme of everything, it makes sense. And even though He knows the end and all the reasons, He still hates the incomplete things in our lives, the things that are not yet made right.

But they will be and He is working on it. He’s got you, in your uncertainty and in your blindness, He’s got you, S. 

You don’t have to figure it all out. You don’t have to come up with a list of ways you plan to change your loneliness. You just have to know that though I sit in my corner of the world, uncertain of how far that is from you, that I feel it too.  So let the words on your screen be tangible proof that despite it all… He’s got you. 

I may not be there to hug you, S. I can’t buy you a coffee right now. I can’t watch a good movie with you and laugh over a big bowl of popcorn…but it doesn’t mean I’m not with you.

That’s what I’m saying, and I’m pretty sure that’s what He’s saying too.

 

 Love,

Ashlin

P.S. I hope it makes you laugh that I’m adding the disclaimer that despite the fact that there were a lot of pregnant women there, my appointment was not because I’m pregnant.

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday (and apparently, on the occasional Monday)! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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Lovely Letters: When Hate Walks In

Of all the e-mails I’ve ever received, I haven’t had one hit me quite the way this one did. I’m grateful to be able to receive words like these and to have an open invitation to share my thoughts about them on this blog. Thanks to all my readers who are being so open and vulnerable. Your words change me in ways I can’t explain.

Somehow, it took a turn for the worst and he was yelling things at me that no one should hear. “You aren’t worth my time / I’m so stupid for being here / You aren’t worth anything / Just stop talking”   I had never felt so unsafe and violated as I did that night…. I ended the relationship and friendship all in one. It’s never easy walking away from someone you’ve known for a long time, but I had to do it.

 -Ann

Darling Ann,

Your words took me back to a day in my parents’ living room. Scrolling through e-mails, I opened one that I had been anxiously waiting for. And there, in Times New Roman font, sat three words that I never thought anyone (especially not someone who had been so close to me) would ever say.

…go to hell…

As plain as day, in black and white… those words just sat there sandwiched between a few other words and sentences that were equally as blunt and painful. Granted, people have said worse, but when words like that come out of a clear blue sky, it’s quite a kick to the gut.

The truth is, I don’t know much about what you believe about God or about His voice, but I heard Him speak clearly to me in that moment. Despite what you may think, I think the words I heard Him say are just as much for you as they were for me.

“It’s not your fault.”

Let that sink in. It’s not your fault. Nothing you said, or did, or didn’t do, could ever merit someone saying those words to you. I don’t care how much blame they can stack on your shoulders, it will never justify being told that you have no worth.

Darling Ann, I’m sorry he was that cold. I know how that in that moment you didn’t recognize his face and that his voice must have sounded like a stranger. I know that feeling all to well, and I know that the way it leaves you limping.

You might need a crutch for a few weeks or months. You may need some shoulders to lean on. But don’t lay down in it, love; don’t you dare lay down in those words. Because you are made to lean into words like “you’ve always been enough / you are worth my affection / i’ll always come running / time with you is never wasted” 

You did exactly what you should have: you walked away. I did the same thing, once upon a time, on a rainy night at Starbucks. It started with some yelling, it ended with my eyes closed and the words “it’s okay and I forgive you” tumbling out of my mouth.

Truly, I did forgive him. And somehow, after that, I knew I’d never again carry the weight of those words he tried to paint me with. Since that day, I haven’t been angry or bitter. I haven’t carted around loads of underlying rage. Honestly, I haven’t thought of him much at all. Since that day, we haven’t spoken and most likely, we never will. Because he is just a person I used to know, who said some things that, for about five minutes, actually mattered. If I saw him at the grocery store tomorrow, I’d smile at him (like I do every passing stranger) and I would keep looking at the cereals or yogurt and that would be that.

Don’t get me wrong, we had some good times. We had some fun car rides, laughter that would make your belly hurt. He wasn’t always so cruel, we had some golden days. But I let all of that go, soon after I read those three words in that e-mail. Not because I didn’t value the good times we had, but because they became only stories when he brought hate to the party.

And I’m not willing to sit next to hate for a few good stories and some sweeter e-mails I saved in their own little folder.

Love and I just kindly smiled to one another and decided to get our groove on elsewhere.  I think that’s what you’re needing too. It’s okay to decide to leave the party and head back home. Have a few nights spent wrapped in a big comfy sweater, buy yourself some yellow tulips, sit down with a mug of Tazo Zen tea (that’s the best kind), and soak in some peace and quiet. It’s okay to take some time for yourself. Take some time, Darling Ann, because you’ve just been through a battle. You’re coming out swinging, and you my dear, are looking mighty fine with your arms raised in victory. But even so, I want you to sit and take a breath. Steep in the truth of who you are and who you’ll always be.

You’ll always be the girl who is worth good words, and the love of a steady man who doesn’t kick you after backing you into a corner.

I’m proud of you for knowing that you had to walk away, for being strong enough to actually do it, and not just sitting around wishing you could. You, precious girl, are the envy of many women who have walked in your shoes. There have been countless women who have prayed for the strength to get up off the ground, slam the door and start over again.

You’re doing it, you are plowing new fields, finding new skies, and I’m so proud of you that I could burst. You make that eighteen-year old version of me cheer loudly because me and you, we are a force and we are fierce and we are not going to be made small. 

You remind me, even years later, that a girl has got to fight for her right to leave the dang party.

You and I, we left the party when hate came in the room and that’s more than most people ever dream of doing. While they sit quietly, afraid to make a move (afraid of what they’ll do next if they lose something or someone) we are dancing, jiving, moonwalking out that door and it’s a beautiful sight.

The ones who know when it’s time to go home and to get the heck out of here… they are the ones who keep the light in their eyes.

So while you’re dancing home tonight, know that you’re shining brighter than the street lights hanging above you. You are absolutely stunning, Darling Ann, with the way that you’re twirling in that dress and waltzing with the moon.

I’m proud of you. Not just for the way you walked away, but for knowing that you’re better because of it. You are my brand of brave, you’re pure gold, you are a girl after my own heart. You never even needed any of these words to know that you’re going to be just fine, but nonetheless they are yours.

Here’s to you, and to me, and to my absolute certainty that the girls like us will always keep dancing in the street!

Love, Ashlin

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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Lovely Letters: You Can Draw Lines

Let’s do this! Round of 2 of Lovely Letters is here!

The balance between wanting to completely shut down and let it all in is really really hard. How do I “guard” my heart without shutting it off completely?

                                                                         -A

Dear A,

It’s funny, just the other day I was talking about the very same thing in a little diner near my hometown. My best friend and I were about three hours deep in a long conversation and were sipping our coffee, trying to answer that very question.

Somewhere in between sips and the last few bites of omelette, I just shrugged. “Draw a line, don’t build a wall.”

I saw something in her eyes light up and I immediately knew that she understood exactly what I meant.

Don’t let your life be something that others cannot see, don’t make yourself closed off and untouchable. Put away the bricks and mortar, take a breath.

Take a look down at your feet, all around them there is sand. The reality is, this life is sand. Our moments here in this beautiful, crazy, messy world are sitting on those shifting grains. The things you’re surrounded by now will eventually wash out to shore and you’ll have to re-evaluate the world all over again. Nothing on this earth is solid, stable, certain. It all shifts…over and over again. 

The reality is, you can’t build walls on sand. They won’t stand on that kind of foundation. And unfortunately, when you build walls around yourself on sand, they always coming crashing down and usually it’s on you, not whoever you’re trying to keep yourself safe from.

But you can draw lines. You can draw them as close or as far away from yourself as you need to. And the beautiful thing about lines in the sand is that they can be erased and redrawn. There’s room for growth, change, mistakes when you draw lines in the sand. You can decide that you need a little more space and draw it a little further out, you can decide that there’s someone you’re willing to let closer and you can bring them further in.

They’re yours to draw, A. You can draw them wherever your heart needs to. Don’t be the girl who uses her pain to lock herself away, don’t become cold and unapproachable. Don’t let love leave your limbs and ligaments, hold on to every bit of affection and enchantment you have inside of you. Don’t let anything or anybody steal that from you.

You let someone too close; trust me, I’ve been there. Forget lines or walls, I made everything in my life free admission for a select group of people, and they left some serious garbage and stains, they broke a lot of what they touched. But I learned to let go of the pain and anger because the fact was, I gave them access. 

And I chose not to regret it, not to call myself a fool; because the reality is that I did it because I knew love was worth the risk. Even in my deepest hurt, I still believe it was always worth it. But I’m not saying I would do it all over again, A.  I’m saying that now I know about lines in the sand, and I’ll know how to wait, watch, wage whether or not I really should move that line to let someone have full access.  I’ve learned to be careful with this fragile, but stunning thing that beats inside my chest.

You can’t hide behind lines. People will still see you, so there’s no opportunity for you to lie about who you are or what you’re going through. Lines aren’t for people who choose to be fake. But you, Sweet Thing, are not made for being fake and that is one of your greatest qualities. You wear your heart on your sleeve, your hurts on your face… you’ll be good at drawing lines. You can let them know you’re hurt, you can cry if you need to. A, if you need to sit down at their feet and sob on the floor; don’t you for one second be ashamed of that. You are human, imperfect, breakable… but you are also fierce and powerful. Tears and pain do not make you weak. 

But what makes you relentless, strong, and a force to be reckoned with is the fact that you’re able to get up, wipe your face and even in your pain, you can draw a line. They will see your struggles, your pain, your heartbreak; but what they have to say or think about it can’t cross your lines. Your line is for you; not for them. Draw that line, but not to keep yourself from loving others, rather to guard what you let in.

Don’t shut yourself off from people, A. You’re far too exquisite to be locked away somewhere; the world needs to see all that you bring. The people that have tried to break you, they need to see you too. They need to see what it looks like for someone to draw their line on the opposite side of  what they threw their way.. Draw a line where their mistakes, jabs, lies, and problems no longer affect you. What they think about you, say to you, try to take from you can only go as far as you let it. 

You’re going to be okay, A. I don’t know if anyone has said that to you yet, but you’re going to be okay. You are going to be a pro at drawing lines and breaking down walls. Today might be difficult, you might draw a few lines in the wrong places, erase and start again. But as hard as this life surrounded by sand is, there’s always room for change.

If you’ll go back and read, you’ll see that I said you’re surrounded by sand. But you, darling, are made for standing on a rock. You can’t control the fact that everything around you is sand, but you can choose what you yourself stand on. The things around you are always going to be changing, you’re always going to have to draw lines and choose not to build walls. But who you are, what you know, what you believe… those things are made for standing on the rock. Don’t let them be something that moves and shifts with the sand.

Stand firm and steady, A. People that truly love you, they’ll wait patiently for you to erase the lines you draw. When you finally do let them come close, they’ll come stand on The Rock next to you, they’ll know about standing on things like love, honor, grace, humility. Keep holding on… and know that even though it feels like it sometimes, you’re not standing here on your own.

Standing with you,

Ashlin

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a new series I’m starting that will happen every Wednesday! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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Lovely Letters: I Hate Vacations

A few weeks ago, I found this little line sandwiched in my e-mail. 

I hate to say that I’ve given up on love, but I’m getting close to throwing in the towel. I just don’t know what to do.
 -B

Dear Sweet B,

I hate vacations.

I don’t really know any other person on the planet that can say that. The few people who have actually heard me say these words out loud can’t ever seem to keep their jaw from hitting the floor.

But I do, I hate vacations.

There’s something about them that haunts me. Leaving my life behind—-the thing I’m working so hard at, the people I’m investing so much in. It’s like for a week (or however long I’m supposed to lay on a beach somewhere) I’m telling them that just for the next little bit, I need a break from them.

I hate that. I hate indirectly telling everything in my life that it’s just a little too much for me to handle right now.

I hate it, but just recently, I took a different kind of vacation. I tried to take a little time away from love and from my emotions.

They told me they were weakness, they told me to get a grip. People told me that to feel is to be fractured. Love comes with a whole lot of feelings, B. Sometimes, you choose it despite your feelings, but there are feelings involved just the same. Sometimes they’re wonderful, exciting or precious, other times they are painful and costly.

But you know what I discovered? It’s better to feel everything, to know the good, scary, sadness, messiness than to feel nothing. Whatever you do, whatever your situation becomes, B… don’t ever choose to be numb.

Trust me on this, take these words and pin them somewhere in your heart. If you choose to be numb, you’ll spend days and hours and weeks of your life wishing that you could get back to the pain and to the frustration because at least you felt SOMETHING.

I know because for a long time, I chose to be numb. I threw in the towel and I threw it hard. I walked away and just like the country song I said, “I’m giving up on love, ’cause love’s given up on me.”

It was the worst decision I’ve ever made. Above all the dorky moments, screw-ups, saying things I wish I could take back, hurting others, the thing I regret most was the day I chose to stop feeling it. I let my heart become a switch and I became the master at turning it off. 

Imagine being twenty-two years old and unaffected by the world around you; a beautiful sunset, a hug, Christmas morning. Things that used to make me come alive had become like the credits at the end of the movie. They exist, but don’t grab my attention; they just pass right in front of my eyes, unappreciated and downright boring.

Whatever you do, don’t stop having a sense of wonder, a heart of hope. Don’t take a vacation from love. Don’t go pitch your umbrella in a place of solitude and tell her that she is just too much to handle.

Choose to stay with love, whatever that takes. Whatever it costs you, don’t walk away.

Love hasn’t given up on you, I’m quite certain of that. If you were here in this little cafe, I would just sigh and watch the way the light floods the booth we’d be here sitting in.

I would tell you that you are stronger than giving up.

If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have stayed, you wouldn’t have chosen to love as long as you have. The cowards, the weak, they never even give love a try. You are better than sitting down in your pain and choosing to never get back up.

The truth is, when it comes to love, you can’t ever really take a “vacation”. Once you do, you almost entirely forget how to come back to her again. It gets so easy to sit in your little chair by the water of apathy and self-preservation. You will continuously decide it’s not worth coming home to, you’d rather just choose what seems the easier life to lead.

But then will come a day when the chair makes you stiff, the winds get a little too cold. You will vaguely remember that there used to be a rhythm inside of your chest. You’ll miss all the times you danced to it, all the ways it brought you joy. Then you will try to pack up your little chair and go home to it again.

And you can, it’s not impossible, but it’s a long journey. It’s a hard one, it’s like learning to walk all over again. It’s like trying to remember 9th grade Algebra years after graduation.

There will be a moment when you’ll walk in the door and realize that the lights were turned off, the water doesn’t run and you have nothing in the fridge. It will be a process of having to pay what is long overdue, of having to restock the fridge. Love is still there, and she waited for you, but you didn’t take care of her while you were gone. It will take you making some steps to getting things back to where they were (and hopefully even better).

It can be done, B; but I don’t want you to leave her. Don’t run away in your little car and hope that if and when you decide to come back, you’ll pick up where you left off. She will always wait for you, but she may not be so easy to embrace when you walk back through those doors. The ruins of selfishness will be painful to look upon.

Sometimes, you’ll need a vacation, but take her with you, Sweet B. Let her heal the pain, the wounds, the scars that come from the broken trust or disappointed hopes.

B, love is your greatest friend, your most trustworthy partner. Sometimes we all need some time away, but please don’t leave love behind.

There’s not a day in your life that will be worth living without her.

Ashlin

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a new series I’m starting that will happen every Wednesday! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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