A Moment In Paradise

By Tonia Emrich

It’s amazing how many things we never let our hearts desire for fear of disappointment, and this was one such thing: a week in Hawaii!  In addition, I never expected to have a moment of epiphany regarding a lifelong struggle while there.  But isn’t that how it goes?  Sometimes, the best moments are the moments we never saw coming.IMG_7581 (1)

To get a real appreciation of how overwhelming this was, I need to rewind and share some of my life-long struggle.  I will start with the perspective of the young girl who fell in love with a young boy in North Central Indiana.  Yes, my husband and I were, for all intents and purposes, mere kids when we fell for each other: me in the latter years of high school, him in the early stages of college.  And we fell madly and deeply in love.  We went against conventional wisdom and didn’t wait until all the prescribed pieces were perfect to start our life together.  We got pregnant, bought a little trailer and lived on my grandfather’s land while beginning our journey as a married couple.  Those were the days.  It IMG_1769seemed, “we could live on love.”  We managed to stretch the $600/month he brought home from Wal-Mart like nobody’s business. After all, we had what we wanted most—each other.  And so began our lifelong partnership called marriage.

It seemed like in no-time flat when our first little bundle of life arrived.  I was a mere 18-years old when I became a mother to my first tiny person—Brielle Marie-Noelle.  Yes, even her name was perfect.  Named from our favorite song, my mother, and a friend in France who could not stay stateside long enough to greet ourIMG_1328 (1) joyous addition.  We were now a family.  But the joy soon became tainted by the crushing weight of expectations.  Not only my own expectations, but now also the expectations of what society says I should be, do, and become.  Now, it was no longer just my husband and I taking on the world.  We had another’s well-being that we were responsible for.  And since she was perfect, she deserved the absolute best.

In those early years, I suffered from a lot of shame because.  Even though my husband had a managerial position and good insurance, and we lived meagerly.  We didn’t have enough to pay the hospital what they wanted for the birth of our darling baby girl.  We didn’t have enough no matter how hard we tried; and… we tried.  At that time, all the words of warning from those who told us we should not get married at this time began to echo in my mind.  However, this was the one thing I knew that I had done right.  My husband and I were perfect for each other and could not bear to be apart.  Everyone knew and saw this; however, the weight of a society’s expectations was something everyone already knew all too well.  I was now just beginning to learn this.

And so the story goes.  My husband is a hard worker, so he continued to excel in the workplace.  He received promotions.  Sometimes we had enough and sometimes we didn’t.  We always endeavored to do our best, to be our best, and provide for our family.  We had more children, 4 more to be exact.  We moved 5-times over the next 8-years until we landed in the small town in Wisconsin where we still resIMG_6578 (1)ide to this day.  During those years, I continued to struggle with living up to outside expectations.  I longed to be able to have more fashionable clothes, to be more put together personally.  I wanted to have a life that was respected by others, not to be looked down upon anymore.  But I threw my energies into making our home and family.  However, this struggle was ever-present during those years, underneath it all, deep down and managed.

As the kids got older, I was able to learn how to dress more fashionably, which I greatly enjoyed.  I found that I had a knack for it.  I also had a knack for decorating.  Beauty is something that draws me, so I continued to seek beauty in all things I could influence.  And so I did.

After being a stay-at-home mom for 18-years, I found a career in health & wellness that I continue to find deeply satisfying to this day.  Again, not something I ever dreamed for myself.  But life’s ebb and flow seemed to lead me there.  And when I saw the opportunity, I went for it.  I began to no longer just go about making our home and family, but I became more involved in business and our community.  I loved having an additional identity outside of being the mother of my children and the wife of a minister (my husband).  In short, I found myself.  And that’s a crazy thing!  I had never considered myself as being lost!  But, lost I was, screaming on the inside wanting more.  I wanted someone to give me permission to be.  Doesn’t that sound crazy?  Maybe you identify.IMG_0741

Many women I have talked to have shared a similar struggle.  In retrospect however, the questions begs asking:  Why do we need permission to be?  We are here, aren’t we?  And as someone who was a very devout follower of Jesus, and heavily involved in the church, even I still had this fundamental struggle.  After all, those are questions that are supposed to be answered with the Christian system of belief.  And… this added to my shame.  To struggle with questions that were supposed to be settled.  Who am I?  Why am I here?  What am I?  What am I supposed to do with this life?

Over the years, I continued to struggle with these questions.  Thankfully, I found peace, wholeness, and fulfillment through a variety of venues.  Many continuing experiences and frequent whisperings of God to my soul brought about more and more wholeness.  And here’s a secret I learned that I believe is not spoken enough:

EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US IS NOT EXEMPT FROM THE JOURNEY OF BECOMING.  WHETHER YOU ADHERE TO A CREED THAT HAS ALL OF LIFE’S ANSWERS, STILL WE HAVE TO PUT ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER AND DISCOVER THE ANSWERS TO THOSE PRESSING QUESTIONS.  WE HAVE TO WALK THEM OUT IN FLESH, FROM OUR PLACE OF TRUTH.

Other people can be mirrors for us to see who we are.  However, some people are broken mirrors which do not accurately reflect our truth.  They reflect their own brokenness.  That’s why I believe the most sure reflection of our being is found in our source—God, our creator, in whose image we are made.

So, I feel I have a much better reflection of who I am and what I am to do with this life.  And that brings us back to my vacation in paradise with my husband.  Yes, in that place of paradise, I had a moment of epiphany!  It was a moment that was completely unexpected and without any fanfare.  Nobody else on that promenade had any idea where I had come from or my journey.  Neither did they have any awareness of the deeply spiritual experience that flashed in my spirit on the promenade that day.

I simply took a walk on the promenade in paradise and was basking in the heavenly view.  As I was walking, I saw a flash of myself now through the eyes of the young girl I once was.  The girl who longed to have beautiful things and to have the respect of others.  And I realized, that even though I did not necessarily have a written-out-plan or course-of-action, nor did I even see a path to my current destination all those years ago, still here I was!  I had enough.  I could wear the things that I felt comfortable wearing out in public.  I could have what I needed-to-have in the appropriate situations.  Nobody was looking down on me.  I was okay.

At that moment, I had the thought:  if I could go back and talk to the me of 20 years ago, I know exactly what I would say.  I would speak peace to her.  I would tell her that it’s all gonna be okay.  I would tell her that the expectations of the outside world do not define her.  I would tell her to continue to lean on the goodness of God.  I would say that lifeIMG_8246 (1) will teach her the lessons she needs to know if she will learn from it.  I would tell her that she can relax a little more and enjoy life’s moments a little more.  I would tell her that she will never regret one moment of changing dirty diapers, making meals for her family, or living with less stuff to care for her children.  I would tell her that she will find what she is seeking if she will continue to seek it.  And I would tell her that life’s seasons have a way of rewarding us for the work we do in the previous season.  Also, I would reiterate that it’s going to be OKAY!  That all the stress, all the strain, all the expectations she places on herself will mostly serve to keep her from living the moments to their fullest.  Rest, Relax, trust, and be okay…

Although I am unable to speak to that young girl who was me all those years ago, I can share with every person who identifies with this struggle.  I can share the truth that has impacted me so deeply and pray that whomever needs this truth will find it.  Whether they find it in my sharing or in another way, I pray that all will find my truth that now sings through my soul.  I am enough.  I was always enough.  I am me.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  This life is mine to live to its fullest expression of my highest self for the glory of God, for… He is good.

I pray the next 20-years of living in this truth will yield more joy, peace, contentment, and abundance to share with those around me.  I pray I leave this world a better place than it was when I arrived.

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