A Thankful & Delighted Heart: On Non-Plans & Law School

I’m going to law school.

Let me say it again and say it louder: I AM GOING TO LAW SCHOOL!!!! Four years ago in Nashville, I decided I wanted to pursue a law degree. For the past three years, I battled debilitating depression and discouraging anxiety. I had mood swings and low dips and dark, dark moments. It was hard for me to dream and plan for my future.

Last year (and really all of 2020), I miraculously felt healed in a lot of ways. My medication finally kicked in and I have only faced a handful of depressed days since. It truly has been the biggest and most surprising blessing.

So I decided to go for it! I took the leap of faith, bought some LSAT study books, took the test (twice), did okay on the test (twice), and applied for schools. And here we are, with my dream and plan unfolding right before my eyes, as I begin classes in just over a month.

Quite literally nothing went according to plan.

In undergrad, I never planned to go to law school. I never planned to veer off from my degree and career path in public relations. I never planned to move back home to Dallas so soon.

Post-graduate degree, I never planned to have bipolar disorder and struggle on and off and on again with it. When I began to dream about law school, I never planned for it to take me three years to take action and four years to finally attend.

And even going to law school now, I didn’t plan to stay in Dallas. I didn’t plan to move back home with the parents (again), and I didn’t plan to attend UNT Dallas.

But here we are!

Even though nothing has gone to plan, I am eager and excited and over the moon at seeing this dream come to fruition. It has been a rewarding and humbling and downright giddy experience. My poor little brain was pushed, pulled, and stretched mentally as I studied for the test, wrote personal statements, and applied for schools.

Lately, I have prayed for a grateful and delighted heart. In all honesty, I am not too thrilled to go back with living with my family. I love them dearly and treasure their relationships, but I know the dynamics of being an adult at home will be difficult. And I am not too thrilled to stay in Dallas. I love this city and it will always be home to me, but I was ready to spread my metaphorical wings and fly.

But here we are! I am trying to be thankful for the opportunity to go to law school, for parents who are generous enough to welcome me into their home, for a city that houses a community I cherish.

I am trying to be delighted at the way these non-plans have unfolded, to be delighted in that The Lord has been so gracious to me during this incredible journey of chasing a dream I feared would never happen.

So here I go!

It’s just little ole me with a big-hearted dream and a big-hearted plan to do big things and love in big ways. It’s just little ole me ready and waiting for good things to happen this year, my very first year of law school and my second time around living at home since returning to Dallas.

I am hopeful and expectant and giddy and excited! I am nervous and anxious and scared and intimidated. But it will be a wonderful journey, and I am just grateful and delighted to jump headfirst into it.

Four Years Of Bipolar: On Hope + Expectation

Commissary

I was diagnosed with bipolar four years ago.

Four years!! That is four years of all sorts of mood swings, all sorts of both valley and mountaintop moments. That is four years of on-and-off depression and mostly-off manic moments (phew!).

My mental health journey has certainly been that: a journey.

Years and years ago, a mentor of mine Claire told me that my life is like a tapestry, this wonderful, brilliant, beautiful grandeur of a thing. She said that the hardest moments, the moments of doubt and weakness and trial, will only be a blip, a small stitching within an incredible, grandiose piece of artwork.

And she was right.

When I was first diagnosed, I thought my life was over.

I was afraid I would struggle with severe, debilitating depression the rest of my life. I was afraid of losing friendships and loved ones because they would not understand, they would not be able to empathize with my darkest lows.

I was afraid I would have to give up on my dreams, that the reality of bipolar would just keep me in the pits. I was afraid I would never fall in love, because who could love someone who was so unstable?

My fears were unfounded.

Yes, I have struggled with depression on and off and on again, but the past couple years have been surprisingly and wonderfully magnificent, practically depression-free. Most of my friendships have only strengthened as dear ones have stepped into my sadness with me, coming alongside me in the valley.

I have pursued my dreams harder and fiercer than I ever did before: chasing after this law school goal, taking the LSAT, actually following through with applications. I even fell for a guy who in turn fell for me for most of 2019. It was the most delightful surprise, and though we moved on, I am still abundantly thankful for what it was when it was.

I guess one of the biggest takeaways is this: goodness always lies ahead.

I have a lot of hope and expectation for the future. I have a lot of eagerness and readiness for what is to come. I know Jesus Man is good to me even during the darkest times, and I know His Father will surprise me with the best of things time and time again.

I know there are plot twists and turns and trials coming, too. I know the valleys loom ahead even though I don’t want them to — no one wants them to, after all. I know there will be moments of doubt and fear and weakness and mourning.

But there will also be times of joy and gladness and radiance. There will also be times of gratefulness and a heart that is overwhelmed with love and grace and utter peace. There will also be delight in its purest form as I give thanks to God Above as I am wrapped up in His merciful kindness.

So my friends, be encouraged.

Be encouraged that no matter what trials and tribulations you face, they are but a small blip in the grand tapestry that is your life. It may not feel like it now, but this too shall pass.

Be encouraged that you are not alone in your hardships or suffering, but instead remember you have a village of friends and loved ones who care for you, ones who will gladly come alongside you in the valley.

And lastly, be encouraged that good times and a hopeful future do lie ahead, no matter what your life may look like now: up, down, or in-between.

Come Together: On Loneliness & Connection

I had a lonely childhood.

Not necessarily physically or even when it came down to friendships. I was reasonably social, making friends at school and church. I was involved in extracurricular programs and my youth ministry. But emotionally, I felt distant and alone in many ways.

I think the source of most of this loneliness was some serious perfectionism that made me feel isolated and detached. I always thought I had to prove something to my parents, my teachers, and even my friends. I felt pressure to perform, to excel, to make a name for myself.

This perfectionism made me feel like I could not show any flaws, I could not seek any help. It made me feel trapped and emotionally stunted. I had to always be happy, to always have a smile on my face. People could not know any doubts or fears or insecurities I had. That would make me look weak and broken. And I was neither of those things.

I’m a recovering perfectionist.

It was not until my twenties and my bipolar diagnosis that I started to come to terms with my perfectionism, isolation, and anxiety. My sweet therapist, Chelsey, and I broke down some walls that I spent my whole life building. We discussed how I refuse to feel, refused to admit that it was okay to not be okay (a new, profound realization).

During our sessions we discussed my lonely childhood and how it impacted me, how it instilled some damaging thoughts and habits in my present-day self. We worked on addressing my feelings and allowing myself to “sit” in them–to fully feel in the moment, no matter the emotion.

“Loneliness is cured by connection.”

That is what I heard in Brene Brown’s podcast the other day. It really hit home for me, because I know it to be true.

I felt awfully lonely when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I had just moved back to Dallas after studying in Waco, and I felt like I didn’t know a soul. And on top of that, I was still wrestling with some perfectionist tendencies.

But these days, I feel awfully loved. I have a community of supporters, a village of kind folks who love and encourage and push me. They are here when I am sad, here when I am happy, and here for every feeling in-between.

These days, I reach out to someone when I feel like I’m isolating.

It is a new habit that’s taken plenty of practice and time to accustom myself to. And it can be very humbling asking for help, prayer, or guidance. But it is so good for my soul to connect with others to prevent feelings of loneliness.

Here is my call to action:

If you are ever feeling lonely, I encourage you to ask yourself why and where it comes from. Acknowledge your feeling and tell yourself it is okay, it is human to feel this way.

Then reach out to a friend, family member, or loved one and ask for exactly what you need: their presence, their prayer, etc. Don’t be afraid to seek outside help, don’t be afraid to look weak–loneliness is not a symptom of weakness, but a by product of humanity.

More Than Conquerors: On When Doubt In God Creeps In

Lately, I’ve doubted God.

I have not doubted His existence, but I certainly doubt His power and even His presence. I doubt He wants and works for what is best for me, I doubt whether He truly loves me with all that He is.

As per usual, me and my sinful heart are wrong — as a child of wrath, I simply cannot fathom all of His grace and kindness (see Ephesians 2). I’m caught up in Satan’s lies and my faith suffers from it.

But God — yes, the Creator of the Universe, the Giver of all things Good, the Father of my Spirit — He does do wonderful, miraculous things. He is present in the everyday mundane. He does want what is good for me and seeks that out. He loves me with His entire being and expresses that through grand, amazing gestures.

So why the doubt?

Though it’s been two years, I still struggle with anxiety and depression. Though it’s been a life time, I still suffer from insecurity and self-hatred.

It’s Satan lying to me, telling me, “Maelyn, you are not worth dying for. You are not worth giving life.”

So here I sit, in darkness and bitterness, doubting a Heavenly Father who has been so gracious to me.

I am more than a conqueror.

According to Romans 8, nothing can separate me from God’s love. Nothing on this side of Heaven can touch my relationship with Him, not even Satan himself.

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

– Romans 8:37

When I face doubt in God and my faith, I must remember that I am more than a conqueror. That even Satan’s lies cannot keep me from the love of my Father, the power of His presence, the grace that He gives.

Mental illness and death and loss and hatred and broken hearts cannot keep me from loving and being loved by The King. These things are only earthly distractions, excuses not to pursue my faith. These things are only things that Christ came and died for.

Dear friend, when you doubt in Jesus, look to the cross. Look to the wonderful example of God’s loves. Look to how he conquered sin and death and Satan. Dear friend, remember you are more than a conqueror.

 

Do It For The People: A Recap On Dallas Blogger Brunch

It’s easy to romanticize blogging.

It’s words and pictures and beauty and Instagram likes. It’s getting free stuff and making connections and hanging out with the coolest people in the coolest spots in the coolest city.

In some aspects and to some degree, it is that: sharing stories and engaging audiences and receiving perks and making friends.

But it’s so much more than that.

It’s carving hours out of my day to create, draft and schedule social media posts. It’s making a long-running (or at times short-running) list of blog ideas on my phone when they pop into my head. It’s obsessing over analytics, including likes, visits, views, engagements, shares, re-tweets.

It’s reaching out to local shops and to fellow bloggers and facing rejection or not hearing back from them at all. It’s putting my hurts and hopes and hang-ups on a screen for the world to see, and praying at least one person will receive my words well.

Blogging can be a place of insecurity for me.

Why don’t I get that many shares? Why did this post do better than my other? Why do her photos get more likes? What am I doing that’s not enough? Am I enough?

This weekend, I gathered with a group of other bloggers at Magnolia Sous Le Pont, a coffee shop in the Harwood District. Rhonda, the mastermind behind Dallas Blogger Brunch, led us in a delightful conversation of how to’s and learned mistakes and growing dreams.

It was exquisite and fun and challenging. It was an afternoon of letting time slip away and humbling ourselves into a place of vulnerability as we admitted, “I have no clue what I’m doing or how I’m going to make it as a blogger…but at least I have you ladies.”

As we sat there, huddled around three marble tables, mugs nestled in our hands, I found peace. I found rest. I found the heart of why I do what I do.

I do it for the people.

I don’t blog for the likes or the re-tweets or the site visitors. I don’t blog for the subscribers or the Facebook followers.

I blog because I am a born storyteller, always looking for someone or something significant, memorable or even wonderfully mundane. I blog because stories can turn strangers into friends, friends into family, family into a community.

I blog because I get an opportunity to meet amazing women who have amazing passions who aren’t afraid to dream and do, and to fail in the process.

It’s easy for me to lose vision, to lose faith in myself and my gifts and my creativity. It’s easy for me to covet what others have: their followers or talent or sponsors.

But then I remember why I do this: for the people. I remember why I love it: for the people. I remember why I’ll never leave it: for the people.