Lessons Learned: God Protects

Psalm 18-2

My husband and I have our anniversary next week. It’s crazy to think that when I started this blog, we were only dating. Now, here we are, married for nearly two years. Time really does fly by. Before I know it, we’ll be celebrating 50 years together, Lord willing.

We have learned a lot in two years. We have gone through our fair share of trials in two years. Each event that we have gone through, good and bad, has brought us closer together. As I’ve mentioned throughout portions of this blog, I found myself in a deep pit about a year and a half ago.

Within the first six months of our marriage, we had quite the rollercoaster ride. As I continue to process that event and everything that has happened, one major lesson sticks out to me. In these nearly two years of marriage, God has taught me He is a protector. He has taught me His grace and goodness are rich and sweet.

In the middle of chaos and the pit I found myself in, my marriage only deepened. That isn’t to say we didn’t have our trying times. Believe me, we did. In fact, there was a time in the middle of it all that I questioned if I believed in God. There was a time I hit rock bottom.

Looking back now, I realize:

God protected my marriage in the chaos.

My marriage remained sweet and kind.

My marriage was true and genuine, even as I found myself surrounded in a pit filled with lies.

My marriage was strong, even as all the other relationships I thought were strong began to crumble.

My marriage was God-breathed and God-given.

Even as I look back at the time before I got married, I can see God’s hand in my life. I can see Him protecting me from the trial to come, in order to bring my husband and me together as one.

I can see Him knowing me and loving me so well in His perfect timing. I can see a God who is so much stronger and mightier than I will ever be able to fully comprehend.

I slowly experienced God’s presence and protection in a way I had never felt or understood it before.

It took going through the pit for me to see God for the protector, shield, and defender that He is and always will be. It took walking through a deep valley in the first year of marriage for me to understand the power of God’s perfect timing.

Although I still do not fully understand why this trial took place, I do understand God on a deeper heart level than before I found myself in a pit. I may never know why the trial occurred. I am slowly starting to understand that it does not change what I have learned or what I will continue to learn from the trial, nor does it change who God is.

I tell you this: As I walk into my third year of marriage soon, I have a greater reverence for God. I stand in awe of His goodness and undeserved grace. I surely do not have marriage or the Christian walk figured out, but I do know Him deeper and more intimately today than I did two years ago. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Blessings,

Renata

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Why I Study Communication

Good-communication-is-quoteOf all the posts I have made on this blog, I have yet to explain why I am studying communication for my bachelor’s degree. I think I once convinced myself that it was not an important detail or it wasn’t worth mentioning. Nevertheless, as each class goes by, I realize it’s not an utterly useless post. After all, this blog is a testament to my life and my past, present, and future experiences. Besides, the answer might surprise you.

As I’ve mentioned countless times, I studied English Literature in junior college, which I loved. I even considered studying English Literature for my bachelor’s degree. Actually, I would’ve double majored in English literature and communication had I stayed at the school I attended for a semester right after taking a gap year. But, that school simply wasn’t a good fit for me.

After weeks of searching and some more weeks filled with waiting for a new semester to roll around, I committed to a school. I found a university I liked and I stuck with communication. I chose to stick with communication because it deeply interested me. Plus, I knew I wanted the major to complement my associate’s degree.

At this new school, I had to decide between English and communication, unless I wanted to be there for years on end. I only take one class at a time since I work full-time as well. I knew myself well enough that I wanted a change of pace. Plus, I didn’t want an extremely specific degree. I thought communication was the happy medium—specific, yet general.

Most importantly, I chose to study communication, not because I have communication all figured out. I can assure you, I don’t. I chose to study it because I knew no matter what profession or career I had, I would need to communicate with others, whether it be face-to-face or virtually, or in a group or on a team.

I think a lot of people tend to believe, “Why in the world would someone need to study communication? We do it every day. It’s fairly common sense. There’s no need to devote an entire degree to it.” To those people, I say, we need to study communication because it is such a big part of our everyday lives.

In fact, I knew that if any part of me thought I was a good communicator, I needed to take the plunge.

I am about halfway through my degree plan and let me tell you, I am content with my choice. Although the degree has more busy work than I’d like, I have learned a great deal from it. Studying communication challenges me to find a better way to say something. It challenges me to constantly reflect on how my attitudes and behaviors affected an encounter.

It brings me out of my comfort zone. It brings my tendencies, behaviors, and thought attitudes to light. It humbles me and pushes me to be better. I am intentional about putting to use what I’ve learned. This degree isn’t just about me. It’s about myself and how I interact with others.

Now, I don’t think this degree of study is for everyone, but I do think everyone can grow in their communication skills with and without a degree. Nevertheless, I do think it is important to find a degree that excites you, yet also challenges you.

Furthermore, I challenge you to go outside of your comfort zone with your degree if at all possible, whether it is the school you attend or the way you obtain it (online or on campus). If it seems a little overwhelming or impossible at first, that probably means you are heading in the right direction.

Blessings,

Renata

 

Life with Cerebral Palsy: Dealing with Comments

1 Samuel 16-7I am going to be honest with you, guys. I had another blog post idea in mind for this week. In fact, I’ve been thinking about the post for nearly a week now, so it’s definitely something I want to discuss. But, something came up. Some other idea announced itself like a megaphone. It was clear my original post idea for the week needed to be put on a hold.

Now, you find me here. Something happened to me today that I didn’t think would rub me as much as it did. Something deeply pained me more than I was willing to let on. I have previously talked about my life with cerebral palsy in various posts and faucets. As I look back on one of my posts about life with cerebral palsy, I ran across a line I wrote that said, “I let go of the rude comments people made to me in middle school.”

Reading that line today stung a little bit and not for the reasons one may think. Indeed, I have let go of the comments people made to me in middle school. As I’ve lived more life and more days with my disability, I’ve learned that what was said to me in middle school was coming from people who were in the same boat as me at the time—just trying to figure out hormones and who they were.

But, that line stung a little bit because it made me realize that comments about my disabilities were not, in fact, going to stop in middle school. They just weren’t. In fact, I dealt with a comment today. And it hurt. It hurt a lot more than I thought it would. This person asked me if I would be normal after having physical therapy. In response, I said, I would let the comment go.

Nevertheless, it’s been much harder to let go of what it stands for and what it reminds me of. It is my reminder that I will constantly be around people who do not understand or have any idea what it is like to be disabled. I will constantly be around people who do not know how to behave around those who are different than them.  This does not end in middle school. In fact, it only continues and gets worse.

I can vividly recall three instances in my adult life when someone blatantly made a comment about my disability without second-guessing. I can vividly recall how I felt in each of those moments. I can vividly recall how angry and hurt I felt. I can vividly recall wanting to explain myself or say something but not knowing how.

Today, one of those instances occurred.

And it hurt.

It hurt deeply.

It did not hurt because I was ashamed of my disability. It hurt because it was evident this person viewed me as something other than “normal” or capable because of it.

I am still trying to process it all now. Even if I don’t have all my thoughts together, it’s worth discussing.

Truthfully, I find my heart breaking not only for myself but also the people who have ever made a comment or glanced at me awkwardly because of my disability. I find my heart breaking for these people because they are missing out on so much.

They are missing out on getting to know me on a heart level. They are missing out on the beauty of Jesus’ grace. I can let go of hurtful comments because I know who I am in Christ. I can let go of snide remarks because I embrace my disability.

But, it is extremely hard for me to know there are people who have such a skewed view of people and this world. It is extremely hard for me not to spend hours wondering who or what may have led these people to believe it is acceptable to see others only for their impairments and nothing more.

So, I am in a bit of a tough place right now. These comments don’t happen often, or at least to my knowledge, but the sting gets worse each time. But, not for me. No, it gets worse for the people who fail to see me beyond my disability.

If you’ve ever had a comment made to you because of your disability, just know you are not alone. Also, know that those comments do not define you, nor does your disability. It may be part of your story and God’s plan for your life, but it does not define you.

May we all find the courage to see others for their heart and not their outward appearance or impairments.

Blessings,

Renata

Living with My Husband: Worth the Wait

Lamentations 3-25In the past week, I’ve thought a great deal about how wonderful it is to live with my husband. I recently took a stroll through our apartment. In that stroll, I couldn’t help but thank God for the life He has given me. Yes, it has had its fair share of trials, tribulations, heartbreaks and everything in between. But, they all led me to where I am now.

Now, I am married to a sweet man, whom I deeply love and cherish, whom I also live with, which still blows my mind to this day. Don’t get me wrong, I lived with others before, especially coming from a big family and simply having junior college roommates.

But, I had never lived with a guy until I married my husband. I mean, I began my wedding day living on my own and ended it living with my husband. As a Christian believer, I chose to not live with my husband until we were married. I realize not everyone will agree with our decision, but it is what God called us to.

In a way, I relate to Monica on Friends when she realizes she’s living with a boy. She freaks out a little, no matter how prepared she may think she is. I freaked out a little just because it was new for me, not because I didn’t want it to happen. I knew it was part of God’s plan for my life once I married my husband. For that, I was grateful.

Needless to say, it took quite the adjustment to live with him. When I say with him, I mainly mean it took quite the adjustment to get used to living with someone of the opposite gender. Plus, there was the added notion of sharing nearly everything with him. It was much different than any other living situation I previously encountered, where there are still boundaries.

Yes, we have had to get used to our fair share of quirks and habits. For instance, my hair sheds everywhere. Or, he has to place his keys in the same spot when coming home from work each day. Or, I prefer to take showers first on the weekdays, but not on the weekends.

We’ve also had to find a balance between house chores and errands, especially since we only have one car. Regardless of our vehicle count, though, we had to find a balance because we are a team. We are united as one in holy matrimony.

Not only have we had to find a balance between chores and whatnot, but it took quite a bit to find a “me time” routine. You know, a routine set apart for both of us to spend time by ourselves to relax and unwind. As introverts, we need that time to ourselves to recharge.

Nevertheless, just as we needed to find time to recharge our introverted battery, we also needed to be intentional about spending time together. When I say time together, I don’t just mean sit on the couch and watch a show either. Although, that is nice. I mean, get a little dressed up, go out, enjoy a meal and maybe a game of mini golf. Indeed, go on a date and enjoy each other’s company.

It can be so easy to let the busyness of life go by. It’s easy to think, “Oh, I live with this person. We should have no problem spending quality time together.” Our nearly two years of marriage have taught us that is a lot harder than one might think, especially with me still in school.

Thankfully, we’ve done a decent job of making time for each other. We’ve learned to say no for the sake of us, no matter how much we want to say yes and add another event to our schedule. I continuously learn each day why it is so important to make time for each other, whether we’ve been married two years, twenty-five years, or fifty years.

My call to you is this: If you’ve lived with your spouse for only a short while, be patient. Let the kinks and quirks of living together work out. It will take time. But, it is incredibly sweet, so don’t try to rush it. It’s another part of your lives as one. Cherish those funny moments as you figure life out together.

If you’ve lived with your spouse for a long while, go on a date. Yup, go on a date. Don’t let your everyday routine get in the way of your sweet bond in marriage.

And whether you are married or dating, may Jesus always be the center of your relationship. May He be first in your lives. May He guide your footsteps and ways. Don’t let the judgment of others stop you from waiting until marriage to live together.

God’s blessing for waiting is as sweet as honey, dear friends.

Blessings,

Renata

 

 

Take Time to Reflect: Let Moments Linger

Time stands still - Brian Andreas quote

The other day, I had someone say something to me that deeply encouraged me. It was one of those comments one can easily brush past in the moment. But, when reflecting on it later, you begin to realize the impact it had on you. The same can be said for comments that may not be as encouraging.

In God’s timing, these two types of comments happened in one day. During part of the day, I was greatly encouraged and my heart was full of gladness. During another part, my heart ached.

I’ve never understood the part of life where it is natural to reflect on a situation later and see it much differently than you do in the moment. I’ve never understood why I tend to learn more about a situation in the 12 hours directly following it than any other time. Maybe this is because I am constantly trying to be more aware of what I say to whom and when. I also deeply value understanding all that people say to me, good and bad.

I am notorious for constantly adding commentary here and there about an event or experience well after it has occurred. It can be awhile before I feel like I’ve said all I can say. Maybe this is because I want to glean all that I can from life experiences. Part of that gleaning means deciding if I need to reach out to someone or if my afterthoughts are to be kept to myself.

I guess one could say I see the importance of making the most of an event or situation for all parties involved before I consider it in the past. I am a believer in telling someone thank you for this or that days later. I believe in saying thanks, period, even if it may be at an awkward or unnatural moment.

I believe in living life in the moment. But, I also believe in moments lingering on for a while afterward.

There is nothing wrong with making the good moments last a little longer. For instance, my engagement and wedding day lasted longer by all the people who asked me about them. It seemed like I relieved those precious moments, thus, in a way, making them last longer.

I think God teaches us how to live life in the moment by making a moment last longer in our thoughts. Again, I understand this can be for good or bad moments. I think in this lingering God strives to teach us more about ourselves and our behaviors as well as more about Himself and who He is.

All this to say, I believe it is important to reflect on circumstances as they happen, 12 hours after, or even days or years after. Most importantly, it is important to tell those who unknowingly say the right thing at the right time thank you.

My call to you is this: Live life in the moment. But, do not be afraid to let moments linger, the good and the bad. God uses the good and bad to draw us closer to Him with a heart of thanksgiving. It may take some time realize what exactly God intended in those moments, but the lessons are there if we choose to be open to them.

Blessings,

Renata

My Adoption: Seeking to Know More

Proverbs 18-15

A little over a year ago, I talked about my constant health limbo. In that post, I discussed how I felt knowing nothing about my health history. I stand by what I said then. I trust God has my health under control, regardless of what I do or do not know.

Nevertheless, being adopted also adds another layer to the unknown. Lately, I’ve deeply mulled over knowing hardly anything about the first five and half years of my life. I’ve had a tough time embracing the haziness of that time of my life.

Now, I do know it is not common to people to remember much at that age. For instance, most of the memories my husband has from his early childhood are faint moments. He can recall eating something on a trip when he was approximately four years old. He does not remember, in detail, the moments leading up to that meal like his parents do.

In order words, most everyone’s early childhood memories involving hearing something from our parents and being able to envision it occurring, but not actually remembering the experience vividly. I am somewhat like this when it comes to my time in Russia.

My mom told me stories of what the orphanage caretaker told her. But, we all know how it is, as a story goes from one person to another, details are forgotten or changed. I am not at all saying I doubt what my mother told me. I am simply stating something I’ve frequently discussed in my communication degree studies. It’s all part of the process of transferring messages from one receiver to another.

Nevertheless, I mainly remember feelings. I remember the feeling of not having a family. I remember feeling lonely. I remember feeling out of place as the smallest, yet one of the oldest, in the orphanage.

I can see pictures, but I do not have any specific memories of people or events. In fact, I don’t remember my orphanage caretaker or my best friend at the orphanage. I’ve seen pictures, but I cannot associate anything with them. But, that isn’t to say they aren’t important to me—because they are. They are a pivotal part of my life that I desperately would like to recall.

But, that scares me.

It scares me to go through the process of discovering my memories in Russia. I am not all saying I want to go under hypnosis. No, I simply want to harness the buried emotions attached to the experiences. I want to be able to pinpoint an event without knowing all the details.

Simply put, I’d like to have a generalization of the first five years of my life. I know it is possible. And I’m open to it, which is huge for me. I never thought I’d come to this point in my life of actively seeking help to unearth forgotten memories.

I am at a point in my life where I no longer want to remain ignorant of all that has shaped me to be who I am today. This includes the time I spent in Russia. All does not begin after my time in Russia. It can be easy for my subconscious to try to convince me that my memories begin after I found a new life in America.

But, they don’t have to. My memories, my experiences (good and bad) start the moment I take my first breath, no matter where in the world that may be.

I am sure some may be wondering, what if the reason why you remember hardly anything from your time in Russia is that God is trying to protect you from a bad traumatic experience? Believe me, I have thought this more than you will ever know. In fact, that very thought is what often stopped me from ever wanting to pursue the knowledge.

But, if God has taught me anything through the trials, tribulations, and joys I have experienced, it is that He will carry me through. He will carry me through until my hairs are gray. I may spend my life in and out of deep valleys, but that doesn’t change who God is.

So, yes, in this process, however it may unfold, I may learn some hard truths about myself. Or, I may learn some wonderful truths. I am walking into the process with the mindset to know myself better rather than trying to expect a certain result. For, as I get older and as I grow closer to my husband, the more I realize I will be more content knowing something rather than knowing nothing.

All this to say, my adoption continually surprises me. It continuously challenges me. It will always be a part of me. I may simply never know how and when it chooses to impact my life. But, it will always be there. I choose to be grateful for it. I choose to embrace that part of my life story.

My call to you is this: Don’t seek out a certain life story. Be comfortable and embrace your own story instead, no matter how bland or crazy it may seem. Take any chance you can to get to know yourself better.

For those of you like me who may not know about certain portions of their life, don’t rush the moment. Don’t rush the knowledge. God will provide opportunities that will guide you to this moment if that is His will for your life. And if it is not, do not be hard on yourself or feel like you must go in search of something that may not be there in the first place.

Blessings,

Renata

My Style: Preferences, Go-Tos, and More

I don't know style. I know my personal style - Diane Kruger quote

At the moment, I am wearing one of the comfiest, if the not THE comfiest shirt I have ever owned. I feel like I am wearing a blanket. I had no idea it would be this soft when I placed the online order. The saying on the front is what sold me, though: I already want to nap tomorrow. Yeah, I do already want to nap tomorrow.

Comfort over style is my fashion motto, plus budget friendly. I am totally okay with splurging on an outfit here or there, or even for quality’s sake. But, I won’t be dropping hundreds of dollars for everyday wear that has holes in it.

My sense of style is simple and basic. My go-to combination is a basic, plain (usually crew or V-neck) tee with a tank top and jeans. Of course, I must have the option to wear yoga pants. I also really enjoy wearing dresses. In fact, if I wasn’t so short, I would probably LIVE in maxi dresses. I prefer breathable, comfortable clothes that are still cute or dainty. I don’t like to feel constrained by what I am wearing.

My mentality is to look like I tried without actually trying. Most of the time, it works. For instance, the other day at work, I wore a bright, colorful kimono with a black silk blouse and black leggings. I got so many compliments about the kimono.

In that outfit, I was comfortable, I felt good, and I looked professional. That’s what it is all about for me.

I have tons of tank tops. I am one of those people who can’t comfortably go a day without a tank top on. The shirt I am wearing today is one of the few exceptions. Simply, I don’t like the feeling of having my tummy uncovered in any way. Yes, it is covered by a shirt, blouse, or dress. But, it still isn’t the same coverage as a tank top.

I love to wear neutral or solid colors. I often let my accessories or layers be the pop of color or design. So, I have a yellow purse, which had to grow on me. Or, I have colorful earrings. I have a plethora of colorful scarves, too. I LOVE scarves. They are a staple in the winter, especially when I want a pop of color and an added layer of warmth.

On that same note, I practically live in cardigans during the winter and fall. Although, truthfully, I’ll even wear a cardigan in the summer because of how cold my work office can be. I think nearly any business professional can attest to the year-round ice box that is working in an office. Plus, cardigans allow me to add a layer of warmth without completely throwing off the color scheme I am trying to go for.

If I sound like a stuck-up snob about color coordination and matching, it’s because I am. I am not ashamed of it either. I have seen enough cringe-worthy combinations to stand by my pickiness. I am a stickler for color coordination. I refuse to pair brown and black. I am extremely hesitant to pair navy and black. I won’t layer two different tones of a color unless I absolutely have no option.

With color, everything must flow and go together, down to the last detail. It all comes back to comfort. I feel comfortable when I am proud of my combinations. It does not mean I spend hours getting ready. Not in the slightest. I am usually ready within twenty minutes each day. I don’t wear makeup or style my hair much.

Typically, I don’t take long to get ready because once I know an outfit combination works, I stick with it. I am a tried and true kind of gal. I don’t need the extra gunk. I need what works. If a combination does not work, I make a mental note to change it up next time I try it. It may take me a bit to find the workable combination, but once I know it works, it’s hard for me to change it.

On that note, I’d have to say, my key needs in style haven’t ever really changed. How I go about fulfilling those needs has though. For instance, I used to wear shorts and a school t-shirt quite a bit. But now, I don’t really like shorts. I go for the jeans and a basic, plain V-neck or crew neck tee.

As I have gotten older, I have been more open to going outside my usual attire, thus the bold new kimono I mentioned earlier. I don’t know where my style preferences will take me through the years.

But, one thing is for certain, I will always choose comfort over fashion. Until next time, dear friends.

Blessings,

Renata