Happy Thursday, dears! Can't believe we are about half way into December!!
I am thrilled to share some of Abi Ray's story with you today. I had the privilege of connecting with her through Beth Marmino who shared in Flourish Flock Feature back in the spring here.
Abi is so vulnerable and wise in all that she shares below- I just know your hearts are going to be encouraged... and don't forget to share this post with a friend who might need some encouragement right now too!
Share where you grew up, where you currently live and a little about your family or job:
Raised as a northern girl, Abi Ray, LMFTA now resides on the southern east coast with her loving husband, young daughter, and oversized Airedale pup. As a counselor and creative, Abi Ray seeks to encourage and equip families and women in their personal narrative and creative expression. Her most recent venture includes founding Legacy Magazine, a brand new print publication that celebrates life with service member families, couples, and spouses through personal, professional, and relational enrichment. Most days you can find her unwinding with her family or with one of her favorite forms of creative expression – photography or journaling.
Share your favorite book and/or podcast:
I often joke that reading is my love language, so it's difficult to pick just one! But if I had to, I would probably suggest Shauna Niequist's most recent book Present over Perfect. Shauna's words encourage readers to consider the landscape of their lives while inviting them to leave behind the pressure of being perfect and begin the life-altering practice of simply being present. I've discovered that when we master the act of remaining present, we are more likely to gain clarity on our purpose and engage our core values and inherent strengths.
Share your favorite quote and/or Bible verse:
My favorite verse usually changes with each season. Rather than selecting a word of the year, I like to select a new scripture each season. I have discovered that this helps set the tone for whatever quarter I find myself in. This season that verse is "Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." - 1 Corinthians 15:58
Share your favorite beverage:
What fuels me is hot coffee in the mornings and herbal tea in the afternoons. There is such comfort in a warm beverage.
Share one of the biggest losses you’ve experienced:
Often, when individuals reflect on loss, their minds return to the loss of a job or of a loved one. While I've experienced both, the most influential loss has been that of my childhood identity. An identity that I had spent ages 5-21 carefully crafting, through the aid of family and societal influences.
Growing up as a minister's daughter and reading books with the title I Kissed Dating Goodbye; I developed the innate belief that I too was destined to marry a minister and hold the title of Minister's Wife. I was convinced that this had to be God's plan for me.
Rather than focusing on developing into the woman God had designed within me, I set out to find the man that I believed God had destined for me - all before I could even drive. And sure enough I found him, or at least I thought I had. He seemed perfect, and it just so happened that his father was a minister too. He was older, appeared wiser, and was also a member of the worship team. On the surface he held all the qualities that society told me to look for, leaving no doubt in my mind that this was the man for me. But our time together was anything but perfect.
While the beginning of the relationship was seasoned with anticipation and promise, the middle and end resembled something closer to desperation and codependency – followed by a lot of dark days. We had both experienced hardships within our family of origin that neither of us had the time or knowledge to process through. Up until this time in our lives, we had both been taught to keep family conflict behind closed doors while presenting nothing but smiles and adoration to the world. And so we did, for almost four years. But after his 3rd proposal and only months away from our wedding, I finally mustered enough courage to lay down the facade and reveal to our church families that our relationship wasn't perfect or healthy and called off the wedding.
Share how this experience has been instrumental in leading you to where you are today:
Though the loss of my childhood identity, a failed relationship, and family hardships, I pursued a graduate degree in Marriage & Family Therapy, so that I could one day help others. It wasn't until my marriage & family courses that I started to recognize the similarities in our relationship patterns to those of our families from generations past. I discovered that one's family of origin has the potential to influence and even dictate future relationships. Meaning, an individual often brings unconscious expectations and patterns to new relationships based on early internalized experiences. Current symptoms between a couple or young family are often the manifestation of behavioral patterns developed early on. What we didn't know at the time is that it's beneficial to explore family origin dynamics, (i.e. relational patterns, religious beliefs, and cultural context) to identify how those would influence our choices and behaviors.
Share some of the choices that have been most helpful in continuing to move you forward and supporting you while you are healing:
What proved to be the hardest part was letting go of the expectations of my family and society. Everything about my upbringing told me to keep silent about my experiences but what helped me heal and gain a healthier understanding was the complete opposite. While being honest for what seemed like the first time in my life was uncomfortable, the alternative would have been detrimental. When we choose to be brave in sharing our story, it's healing not only for ourselves but also for those who are inspired to face their own. As Brene Brown says, "When we deny our stories, they define us; when we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending."
Share any tips/advice/love for others who have gone through something similar:
Share your story. First, for the healing effects it will have for yourself, then for those who might be inspired by it. Also, be comforted in knowing that the ultimate goal is a relationship with the Lord, not with man. And He approves of you and longs to provide for you.
Share some ways you have tried to incorporate laughter and fun in the midst of the hurt:
It was challenging to laugh about the experience initially. I was letting go of all that felt secure, even if it was a false security. But eventually, after processing through the experience with my family and making changes to our relational patterns, we began to experience joy and laughter. Not because the past was humorous but because we were enthralled with the transforming power of the Lord. And there is such healing in that.
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