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. ‚ÄúYou aren‚Äôt worth my time / I‚Äôm so stupid for being here / You aren‚Äôt 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‚Äôs never easy walking away from someone you‚Äôve 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

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Twenty-one and strong as I can be–I know what freedom means to me.”

In one week I will turn twenty-two. I don’t really know how to feel about that.

Sometimes I wish I could write a letter to myself last year at this time. I wish I could tell newly twenty-one year old Ashlin what to expect in the year ahead. If I could buy her a latte, I would have a lot of words to wrap up for her. I would load her up with suitcases of advice for the journey of being twenty-one.

First of all– I would tell her that it will be a mistake to buy a million lotions on Black Friday. No one needs that much lotion and you don’t have enough friends to share it with. Just put the bag full of them back. Seriously, step away from the warm vanilla sugar; there’s not going to be a shortage any time soon.

Then I would tell her to be prepared to use her weep towel for the first six months of being twenty-one. Babygirl, you are going to cry all the time. Invest in some big sunglasses and a good under-eye concealer, because you are going to fill buckets with your waterworks.¬†Then I would mention that she can throw it away after that, because the crying is over–the fat lady sings and the pity parties finally end.

I would tell her that she’s going to lose some people and things this year. There’s going to be a lot of loss, a lot of questions, a lot of darkness. I would hug her for a minute and tell her to¬†hold tight to the still small voice. I would tell her to take more road trips, get lost in the trees and to really enjoy when the shades of orange bleed into the horizon. I would tell her that these are the things that will keep her sane in the middle of absolute uncertainty and unimaginable loss.

Then, I would tell her that she’s going to laugh more in the year of being twenty-one than all the others combined.¬†There will be incomparable joy that will leak from unexpected places and will heal some of that pain. It’s still going to hurt, but that laughter is a medicine that Walgreens doesn’t have in stock.

I would tell her not to be afraid of anger. It’s not going to destroy you. It matters what you do with it, but it’s not wrong to have it. Be angry. Slam your fists when you’re alone and let out a yell that rattles your bones. Let it out. You’ve got reasons to be angry and God doesn’t fault you for it, in fact, sometimes He gets angry with you.

I would tell her that staying out until 3 AM on summer nights and weekends is¬†brilliant and worth it—because staying up late with friends and laughing until your stomach hurts, sitting in diners, crying about heartache, talking about Jesus… those are things worth staying up for.

I would grab her by the face with my palms and say,¬†You’re gonna run away sometimes and it’s perfectly alright. Do not let it gut you. You don’t have to be perfect!¬†She really needs to hear this one, because she spent the prior twenty-years trying to be superhuman and do everything right. It’s time she learn that¬†she’s beautifully and hilariously flawed.

Oh, then I would probably smack her and tell her to stop looking at people in the car next to her when at a stoplight.¬†Because you know what happens when you do, and screaming “EW!” and driving off is not very Jesus-like. Even if they are creepy, that’s still not nice.¬†Then, I would just throw out there that she needs to stop tempting her gas light. It does eventually run out–and when it does, it’s in the middle of five o’clock rush-hour traffic on the busiest road around. JUST GO GET GAS!

I would tell her that even though it’s going to be a hard year¬†(a really hard one),¬†that she’s going to write some of the best things she’s ever written. I would probably start to cry at this point; when I tell her that her inbox will be flooded with people who tell her that her words are changing their lives.¬†I would tell her that it’s proof that God doesn’t waste the pain.

I would tell her that she’s going to taste fear in a way she never imagined.¬†But I would promise her that it gets better.¬†You won’t wake up in a cold sweat every single morning—nightmares will come and go, but you’ll push through and you’ll find a way to feel okay again. I’d comfort her by saying that there are explanations and reasons for why it’s happening—I’d tell her she’s not crazy, she hasn’t failed God, and it isn’t at all what she thinks it is.

Or maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I wouldn’t tell her any of this—because maybe I can somehow see how I needed to learn this. I needed to navigate the unknown territory without a map; because it would make me grow and it would push me to do bigger and better than I ever thought I could.¬†Maybe I wouldn’t tell her because I wouldn’t want her to have done anything differently or changed any of those decisions.¬†Maybe I can be grateful that twenty-one was beautiful in its own way, that it marched to its own beat.

Twenty-one was all about questions, wandering, and words. But it was also about joy and freedom. It was about making impulsive and irrational choices–only to learn, those don’t always turn out to be mistakes.

Twenty-one was messy and chaotic, but it was a jam. It was a mixed melody and I learned to dance.

Welcome, twenty-two! Here’s to a year of turning up the volume and changing the beat. I’m ready to dance to whatever tune you’re destined to play.

 

Sometimes You Just Walk

“Baby, you’re going to be quite alright.”

These are the words I heard sitting in my car this morning. I was just staring at bare tree branches during the final moments of the morning’s thunderstorm.

Just seconds before, it had taken everything I could muster not to just sit down in the floor of Target’s fitting room and let my eyes pour their own kind of rain.

I’m going to Ireland. I have two (pretty much three) amazing jobs. I am living my dreams, doing all the things I love. I am exactly (well, for the most part) where I hoped I would be at twenty-one. Honestly, I’m doing better than I ever expected.

But…¬†and isn’t there always one of those? That word, she follows me everywhere I go; her fingers are almost always laced with mine.¬†Sometimes, she sits on my shoulders and she is forever kicking me in the gut.

The truth is, no matter how seemingly perfect it’s all going, there are always those things that can knock the wind right out of you. One minute, you’re admiring a clearance lamp shade and the next thing you know, you’re hyperventilating next to a horrid burnt-orange vase.

It hits you…you’re not perfect. You feel like a worn out puzzle and as though your pieces are scattered in a million places. Every day has been a prayer for finding the right fit for at least one of them.

Somehow, you’ve got to accept it. You have got to¬†get over¬†the fact that you’re going to do some things that you’ll immediately regret. You will make decisions that will forsake everything you ever stood for. You will betray yourself over and over again.¬†You will at some point be your own greatest disappointment. You will break your own heart.

But then you’ll hear those words, “Baby, you’re going to be quite alright.”

Maybe you can’t hear Him when He says those words to you. Maybe you’ve never really known where to lean your ear to hear what your maker has to say to you.¬†Well, I¬†think He’d be okay with me relaying this message to you.

You’re going to be quite alright.¬†I know there are loose ends. Oh, and there are dreams that fell off somewhere along the way. You lost some pieces of yourself, and you left behind some important stuff that you needed.¬†You’re tired and you’re disappointed and really, you’re a little bit angry.

But you’re quite alright. You, with your bloodshot eyes and your faded sweatshirt,¬†you are going to be just fine.

I took a walk on the edge of a busy street sidewalk today. As I balanced my weight on those strips of concrete, I decided that sometimes it’s okay to take a walk having nowhere to end up.¬†I didn’t have a destination and sometimes, you won’t.¬†Sometimes you just walk and you end up wherever you end up. Sometimes, it leads you somewhere else, but a lot of times you end up turning around. Yeah, sometimes you just walk.

And It’s okay to wander a little. The wanderers are the learners. They are the ones with stories and they almost always come back with a little more strength in their bones.

When I noticed the green starting to peak out from the ground, I closed my eyes and I told Him that I wish He would go ahead and tell her to wake up. I wish the hands that formed this earth would wake her up. I need to see her crawl out from under the winter covers. I think it’s time she and I both pull ourselves out from the beds we’ve made.

I know it’s not always so simple.¬†We’re going to wander aimlessly, we are going to screw up and the winter is going to come and it’s going to feel barren and cold. At first, you might be enchanted with the change, but quickly you will remember how much you long for growth and green.¬†When you do, and the winter has not quite passed, know that you’re doing just fine.

And you’re going to find your way. The pieces will eventually start to show up and they’ll fit where they were always meant to.¬†

You will disappoint yourself and then you’ll learn how to forgive your own heart. ¬†The things you pick up and leave behind will mold who you are going to be… and as for us,¬†we’re¬†going to be quite alright.