It’s been almost a week now and I’m still trying to process. We’ve had such a story, he and I. A tumultuous one filled with mountain top moments and deep despairing valleys. When the proposal finally came, for us it would mark a massive and miraculous triumph, bringing an end to a long and, at times, back-breaking battle. I wanted it to feel like a victory cry and I wanted us to metaphorically cry that cry together, to the world, at the top of our lungs.
We sat on a bench in our favorite not-so-secret secret garden in Queen Anne, enjoying the sun. He said casually, “Oh I finally did some modeling for Zulily, I’ll show you.” Surprised and genuinely interested I began scrolling slowly, per his directions, to find the photo of him. He told me it would be subtle. It was not. A large, grinning Tyler with a sign in his hands that said, “Chelsey, will you marry me?” The caption read, “I do—Do you? The deal of a lifetime.” I thought it was a joke and then I knew it wasn’t.
Valentine’s Day has never meant much to me. I spent most of my life without someone to call a valentine so I came to regard it as nothing more than the day you buy obligatory cards for all the kids in your class or wish a happy day to those that did have someone special. I wasn’t bitter about it. It just wasn’t for me. But this year I forgot that my guy is sentimental and squishy inside—which I love—so I hurt him when I planned over it. But that’s not my point. He gave me a letter he had written to me four years ago. It starts like this, “You’ll notice there is a gap between my previous letter and this one.” Yes, he has been writing letters to me for years, even when we weren’t together and this is the first one I’ve ever seen.
Yesterday, February 7th, was what I’ve deemed Best Friendship Day. It’s the day that Tyler Johnson asked me to be his best friend (jokingly when we had first met). Of course I said yes but I had no idea that we would actually become best friends. Yesterday marked 5 years since that day. Let me tell you, being a best friend is hard work and each day we keep learning more and more about what it actually means. I’m so thankful for you, Tyler. Yesterday you kept me sane through a 12 hour work day and demonstrated so well what our Best Friendship Day is all about. I am thanking Jesus for you.
We sat at dinner. It was absolutely delicious which was a major consolation for the frigid wind that had struck my face numb and consequently caused my speech to slur. We talked easily and we joked; we discovered things and we dreamed. It sounds silly to admit, but I felt witty, desirable, even flirtatious. After four years of knowing each other and nearly three years of dating, those things lose their priority. It’s hard to keep them up and it becomes less important.
At one point, to my utter surprise, he revealed that he doesn’t think he’s good enough for me. “Really?! But I thought that you thought you were the sh*t!” I joked, almost embarrassed.
“Do you know what I’m going to say?” “No, I don’t.” I was surprised. This felt weird. It’s my mother; we can talk about anything. But we don’t talk about everything and that’s my fault. I told her with fumbled confidence that I wanted to marry Tyler. I felt sheepish and translucent.
The young girl showed up in front of me quite unexpectedly this morning. She exclaimed my name with such joy and gave me a hug. Next she kissed me on the forehead. It was sweet and uncharacteristic. It had been a long time since I had seen or talked with her. When they’re so young, you’re never sure if they remember you. She did the same to T, kissing him on the cheek.
This evening, as I resumed writing again for the first time in a while, a thought came to me about that moment.
That kiss was from me. A kiss from God. I cried.
When I told T he said, “That doesn’t seem crazy to me. It certainly was out of the ordinary and strangely compassionate of her.”
I feel numb. I do not mourn as I think I should over this election. I believe I should because millions now fear for their futures and the futures of their children. (The fact that I do not feel this acutely is a bullhorn announcing my privilege; I am aware of that now.) When they were already feeling oppressed and unwelcome, their fears are now touted by the man we just elected to represent and work for us on the world’s stage for the next four years.
Chelsey, mom let me read your Instagram post. Wow, your honesty and the depth to be known and loved by God the Father is amazing. My perspective is humble awe of His goodness to both of us. Your choice has allowed both of us to grow and love each other more deeply. Love, dudes
Word can’t express the joy this brings to my heart.
Now I’m thinking, why not pursue a life of stepping out of pain rather than burying it or holding onto it like a trophy simply because that’s the norm? Why not choose to be free? If we are brave enough, we don’t have to carry our wounds for the rest of our lives. We don’t! We can let pain out of the shadows. It may be excruciating to do so but the fear of being seen is temporary and soon after, relief, hope and best of all, healing rush in. I took a step to do this with one thing in my life yesterday. Honestly, I was afraid but I don’t regret it. It was a step toward wholeness, toward freedom.
Today I had a wound that decided to claw to the surface. I was listening to a sermon with a group of people I had grown up around but since moved away from and we were discussing God’s heart— literally discussing. The pastor expected us to verbally answer his questions. I like that about this family. Through various parts of his teaching I felt the stab of tears behind my eyes. I don’t cry for nothing, I’m realizing. As a child, I rarely cried. I didn’t want the attention or to be perceived as weak because I wasn’t weak.
I don’t spend enough time thinking about or giving it. I know very well that I need forgiveness for the better portion of who I am, how I behave, how I love others. I am selfish down to the core. It follows then that my actions and words are motivated by my desires, needs, dissatisfaction, moods, etc. I don’t need feminism or the larger culture to tell me to love myself more. I don’t have low self esteem. I esteem myself too much. I look out for myself better than I look out for anyone else. Yet I find that that philosophy isolates me and brings well-earned shame and guilt upon my head. A wise friend said to me yesterday, “love changes us, not condemnation.”
On Ruth. I want to be like her but I feel completely incapable. She is humble, expecting nothing; I am prideful, expecting everything without much sacrifice on my side. She is grateful; I am dissatisfied. She is hard-working; I am lazy and resentful of the work I must do. She takes risks; I want to stay safe and comfortable. She praises God; I question and ignore Him.
This morning I was thinking about the phenomenon of a crush. I have no idea why. When I was in middle school, I had it bad. He was a few years older than me which, when you’re young, feels like a forbidden gap. He was also a country boy with a squeaky voice who liked guns, country music and country things. I loved horses (that’s about as country as I was willing to be) and that’s why I didn’t appreciate guns. But his family had horses so what was a girl to do?
I had a strange, awful dream. The kind you force yourself awake from and when you do, you find yourself with real tears on your face and pain in your heart. I had to write it down. Dreams are strange and this one cut between scenes like a movie. As dreams often do, it doesn’t make much sense to anyone outside of dreaming.
“It’s so wonderful to watch a child, to see how he experiments.” She is one of many elderly we see peacefully strolling the beach. As she walks by and says this, I am thinking the same. Luther is in the sand, mesmerized by how it falls through his fingers. I wonder when exactly I lost that capacity to be in awe of everything, of anything.
I’m shocked at how often my reality does not match what I imagined life would be like. And at how often I let that ruin its goodness and pull me down into despair and disillusion. How silly. I’ve been thinking and sensing a growing conviction inside me and it’s this: dishonest, idealistic, fantasized art is largely to blame. To be completely transparent, I’m talking about love as it’s portrayed in films and media. There really are magnificent, miraculous love stories out there but I don’t ever get to see the whole story. I don’t feel the whole story. Or perhaps I see what I want to see.