What happens when the life you thought you had vanishes in an instant?
That’s the question addressed by our two brave guests today. Our current series, “Spend It Offering Light” (#OfferLight) continues today with their stories and a giveaway too!
First time reading? Learn the story behind our series here. “Spend It Offering Light” features real people turning their fears into something that helps others, into light. Today, please welcome Leigh Linden (not her real name) and Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens!
Being still. I never really knew what that meant. Did it mean just sitting still? Surely not, I couldn’t do that. Stilling my mind? Wouldn’t even know where to start. But being still is what saved my life.
It was December of 2010. My mind was restless and my body was too. I went downstairs one cold morning and turned on Joyce Meyer. She quoted John 14:16, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” Oh my God, I thought, that’s what I want. I just want some peace.
Three years earlier, in 2007, I got married for the second time. My first husband was a prescription drug addict, and my second husband was Prince Charming. We were a perfect match. Thanks to him, I was able to leave the corporate world and work part-time. I thought my life was a fairy tale. But three and a half years after the wedding, it didn’t feel like one.
I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew something wasn’t right. My life was chaotic. I was struggling to pay bills, but we earned well over six figures. What the hell was going on? I couldn’t get straight answers from my husband.
My best friend suggested a counselor, so I went. At the end of my first session, the counselor asked me if I wanted the truth about what was going on with my life. “Of course,” I said. She told me I would need to be willing to see it, and that I could ask God to reveal it to me. (Don’t ask God to reveal anything to you unless you’re ready to hang on for dear life.)
At the same time, one of my friends had started practicing yoga and she asked me to join her. Why not? I thought. That was Lifesaver #1. Through yoga and meditation, I began to learn to still my mind.
About three weeks after that first counseling visit, my life began to be revealed to me. I went through my husband’s desk and computer. I can’t begin to describe how I felt when I realized that I was married to a sex addict. He had a secret life, complete with an alias, websites, cell phone, P.O. Box and prostitutes.
I can’t breathe, I thought, and then: No wonder I can’t pay the bills. He was taking money to fulfill his habit, and my name was on over a half-million dollars of debt.
I took deep breaths. I prayed, and for the first time in my life, I heard God speak to me.
I’d learned to “get still” on my yoga mat, my place of peace. And when I prayed that day, God’s answers came as a still, small voice. That intuitive voice gave me the courage to separate from my husband, even as I wondered where my next meal would come from. It gave me the courage to follow my counselor and attorney’s instructions to “keep still and quiet.” Six months before, I couldn’t have done it.
Lifesaver #2 came in the form of a cable company representative. When I told her that my husband was an addict and there was no money to pay our bill, she suggested I go to an Al-Anon meeting and learn to stop enabling him. Then a close friend from college sent me an email with Psalms 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Even in the midst of devastation, I knew I could carry on. I knew I could get through it. How? I got on my yoga mat. I cried on my mat. I worked on my mat. I laid in child’s pose; I kept still. Finally, I came through the valley. I got a divorce, a settlement, a place to live. And some peace.
Leigh Linden is a pseudonym for an incredibly brave woman. Please hold her and her story with grace today.
On Love & Loss
“Like everything else our loved ones are not ours to keep. But realizing that truth does not have to sadden us. To the contrary, it can give us a greater appreciation for the many wonderful experiences and things we have during our time here . . . Loss is a hole in our heart. But it is a hole that calls forth love and can hold love from others.”
– Life Lessons by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler
In February 2014, I received the interior layout of my latest book from JETLAUNCH. When I saw the layout, I cried because it’s so beautiful. Seeing the layout made me wish my step-dad, Mahlon, was still around. I wish I could give him a big bear hug, tell him how much I love him, and show him the book.
As I reflect on 2012 and 2013, I’m still amazed by the events that took place. Within the first six weeks of 2012, Mahlon had two massive strokes, my uncle was arrested, a family member experienced a violent assault, and my family unit was falling apart. As 2012 progressed, Mahlon’s health continued to decline and the communication lines between my step-siblings and my mom continued to deteriorate.
During this period, I spent my time traveling between Portland, OR and Red Bluff, CA. I visited Mahlon in the hospital and then helped take care of him when he was sent home. Somehow I managed to finish my print book during this time.
By May 2012, my husband Logan found out his job was being moved to Boston. A month later, in June 2012, Mahlon died. We decided not to move to Boston. Instead, we moved ourselves, our cats, and our tiny house back to Northern California (closer to family), where we spent the next year hopping around from city to city with our tiny house in tow.
In between the moves, I felt disconnected from my normal self. Everything felt dull because I was weighed down by grief.
Today, I’m in a better place emotionally and I feel grateful for the love and loss I’ve experienced. I never expected that my photography practice would help me climb out of depression. I also didn’t foresee that I would be creating a photography book this year.
Over the last few years, I learned that life can change in an instant. The people in our lives are gifts and it’s so important to focus on love, connection, and gratitude everyday. I’m grateful for the team at JETLAUNCH, my family, and my wonderful colleagues and friends who helped make my new book a reality.
Tammy Strobel is a writer, photographer, and teacher. She created her blog, RowdyKittens.com, in late 2007 to improve her writing and to share her story. Blogging consistently improved her writing and resulted in a book deal. Tammy’s first print book, You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too, was published in September 2012.
Her work has been featured by the New York Times, USA Today, the TODAY Show, CNN, MSNBC, and a variety of other media outlets. Tammy’s first photography book, My Morning View: An iPhone Photography Project about Gratitude, Grief & Good Coffee, hit the shelves in March 2014.
Tammy spends her free time taking photos, walking, and hanging out with friends and family. She currently lives in a very tiny house in northern California, with her husband, Logan, and two cats. You can sign up for Tammy’s e-courses or purchase her book at RowdyKittens.com.
Can you relate to these stories? Join the conversation in the comments below!
One commenter will be chosen at random to receive a free copy of Tammy’s new book, My Morning View: An iPhone Photography Project about Gratitude, Grief & Good Coffee. Selection will happen Wednesday, May 7 at 12p CST. Good luck!
Update: Congratulations to Gordon Davidescu, our randomly-chosen winner! Gordon will receive a free copy of Tammy Strobel’s latest book.
Stories around the Web, April 2014:
NEW! What If God is a Woman Keeping Watch? Guest Post at SheLoves Magazine
In Your Rush to Encourage, Are You Missing this Life-Changing Step? Guest Post at The Change Blog
Leaving Normal: Weekly Column at Autism After 16