Create a Life You Love

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Loving For The Real Stuff.

I'm Stephanie May Wilson!

I'm an author and podcaster and my specialty is helping women navigate big decisions, life transitions — creating lives they love.

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The beginning of the story

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We sat on the floor in the dark, facing each other, knees touching. I was crying – it seemed like that’s all I could do anymore. He was comforting – always comforting. We talked about the deep things of life, the hard things, and nodded in solemn agreement that joy isn’t always easy to find.

It was a humbling moment – the kind that leaves you feeling exhausted and wet as mascara stains your cheeks. But it was one of my favorites because it was one of our most tender.

Getting to know someone is a painful, humbling process. To know of someone, or to see someone is fairly easy. Neither of you is required to risk much. But to know – to really know – well that’s another thing entirely.

At the beginning of our relationship, I wrote an article about vulnerability. It was an article based on a whisper, a hardly formed idea of vulnerability breeding intimacy. It was a theory about our relationship that I had barely had time to test.

I wrote of the depth that comes when the makeup has come off, when that person is close enough to see your scars, close enough to be able to reject you for the things that you can’t seem to ever change.

And I talked about the love that comes from that kind of trust – the depth and the breadth of the real, honest-to-goodness love that comes when you know someone loves you for the real stuff.

I was putting my own words to a whisper of a truth, but the truth hadn’t become ours yet.

And then it did.

In the last seven months I’ve watched and squirmed as another person helped me peel back layer upon layer of who I thought I was supposed to be, to reveal the raw and fresh truth about who I really am. I tried to wiggle away often, preferring to show my shined-up side, the side who is tall and endlessly confident, always knowing the right thing to say and flawlessly dressed. I didn’t want to be tearstained and vulnerable, revealing insecurities and fears that were too ugly for even me to see without cringing.

But over the last seven months I’ve watched a total stranger become my best friend and greatest love. I’ve been the recipient of truly great love, watching with total amazement as a man sees the mess in my heart and moves closer instead of away.

I would have preferred intimacy without the tears, but no great thing comes easily.

But Carl and I haven’t been the only ones getting to know each other.

Over the past seven months, I’ve been getting to know myself all over again.

I’ve always prided myself on being a joyful person. It was the greatest thing that defined me – or so I thought.

And then one day, moving across the country, starting a new career, being far away from my loved ones, making all new friends, and starting a new relationship all proved to be a bit too much, and my joy took a hit. I didn’t feel like myself – positive, joyful, happy – and I panicked.

There had to be a root, a cause, something broken, something neglected. I must be broken, fundamentally flawed, I must have done something horribly, horribly wrong to not feel that worth-defining joy. I searched everywhere for a cure, tears in my eyes, insisting that this just isn’t me.

I’m not sad, I’m not this girl. There are certain emotions that are ok for me and these just aren’t them.

I’ve fought myself for months, refusing to allow myself a bad day or a moment of doubt. Grace be damned.

But months and buckets of tears later, my soul has finally taken a breath.

“It’s ok.”

That’s what Carl whispered to me on the floor that night. “It’s ok, and my love for you is not contingent on your joy. Not today, not ever.”

Carl has spent seven months giving me grace and space and permission and love – reminding me over and over that his love for me won’t increase once I’m “all figured out.” But I couldn’t say the same for myself.

I had a tight definition of who I am and what is ok, and anything outside of that definition was unacceptable.

And the last seven months have been a stretch and strain on that narrow, conditional love.

What if I have a full range of emotions? What if I have hard days, weeks, or seasons? What if I cry and don’t have a good reason? What if I’m afraid?

God is not scared of my “what ifs” and neither is Carl. And now, neither am I.

For the first time in my whole life, I’m beginning to accept myself as I am – full and varied and complex. I’m giving myself the grace and the space to experience the fullness of life, not just the pre-approved emotions. I’m getting to know myself without the façade, without the makeup, and without the perfection that I’ve been demanding for so long – a painful and beautiful process.

And the person I’m finding isn’t half bad. She’s joyful, certainly, but in a way that’s richer, deeper, more weathered. She’s deep and full like a relationship that has seen more than a honeymoon season ­– better for the hardship she endures. She thinks and feels deeply, experiencing all of life with hands wide open. Sometimes she cries, but always she soaks in the fullness of the world – like the vibrant green of a rainy day.

I’m learning to love myself for the real stuff. And for the first time in my life, I’m willing to sit with myself in the dark and say, “it’s ok,” and “I love you anyway.”

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  1. Diana says:

    Love this Steph! Beautifully written… and it is quite beautiful when the people we love see us more clearly than we do ourselves and give us the space to simply BE. Be blessed Steph! 🙂

  2. OH MY!! Stephanie, if you only knew how much this resonated with me. Everything you said hit home, because most of what you said (minus the boyfriend part… lol!) is exactly what I’ve been going through. The process of learning about who I am and who God is and who I am in Him has been quite painful as of these last few days. Joy has been slim. But thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to not be okay. 🙂

    • Stephanie says:

      I’m so glad that this resonated with you!! “It’s ok not to be ok,” that seems to be the phrase that keeps being repeated these days. I really hope that you find an abundance of joy really, really soon. Thank you so much for sharing!! 🙂

  3. says:

    Hi Stephanie May! My name is Tanya Jacobs and I am from Belize. What I am about to share with you does not really have relevance to your awesome blog you posted. I met this guy. He is from Zimbabwe and a great guy. He is also a CHristian. Last night I met his family he lives with here in Belize (his uncle and wonderful cousin). It was wonderful that we had dinner. There is just one problem–I don’t think my mom would approve of our relationship, because of his color. I have not told her anything as yet, but I will. Can you give me any ideas of how I can approach her about it? He is 26 and I am 18, and he is already thinking about marriage in about 2-3 years. God bless,

    Tanya Faye

    Sent from Windows Mail

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Tanya,
      Thank you for sharing this with me! I think that honesty is always a great starting point. If I were you, I’d talk to your mom about it, calmly and respectfully. In the end, we can’t control people’s reactions to us, but we can control our actions and hearts. So I’d go into the conversation with an open heart and as much love as possible. Maybe allow them some time to get to know each other!

      I wish I could give you more solid advice, but without knowing more about the situation, it’s hard to know exactly what to do. I’m praying peace and love over that conversation!!

      All my love,

  4. “She thinks and feels deeply, experiencing all of life with hands wide open.”

    wow.. truly happy for you steph. 🙂

  5. Amazing! Made me cry. I definitely relate 🙂

  6. I stand stripped naked before God: he sees my scars, my cellulite, my rolls, my flaws, and he loves me anyway. Understanding this has freed me of self-doubt and of the fear of rejection. God will not look at me and say “you are too messy – I cannot love you.” He does say, “Look at my girl, such a beautiful mess, and I love her beyond measure.” I love reading about your life discoveries. I love watching you unfold like a blossom feeling the warmth of the sun for the first time. You have always been physically beautiful, but watching God bring out the beauty of vulnerability and the bubble of abiding joy is a pleasure to see. I do not have the words to describe how blessed I feel watching our Dad delight in you.

    • Stephanie says:

      Dayna, this is absolutely beautiful. Thank you so, so much!!! “Like a blossom feeling the warmth of the sun for the first time…” what beautiful words. Thank you so much for your encouragement. It means so much to me.

  7. Kadi says:

    “For the first time in my whole life, I’m beginning to accept myself as I am”… Same here, same season and yep it’s a painful and beautiful process isn’t it?
    It just hit me – the number of us in the same boat. The enemy has the same, old tricks. But I think the more we share our story, the more it will help others avoid these tricks… maybe??
    This was beautiful! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Stephanie says:

      It IS a painful and beautiful process!! There really are so many of us in the same boat! I absolutely agree – lets keep sharing our stories! 🙂 I’d love to hear yours!

  8. SoniaLeticia says:

    WOW! I feel the same way in a whole new season. Thanks for being soo vulnerable and allowing us to see that we aren’t alone in our adjustment to a whole new season of life. I have been fighting for joy myself lately, and it hasn’t been easy. People often say fake it til you make it…well i’m trying my best! I know joy comes in the morning though, and pain only leads to it. So, I rejoice in the process..because it makes us stronger!!!

    • Stephanie says:

      Oh thank you so much for sharing this with me. It warms my heart so much to know that we’re in this together. I’m with you girl… lets keep rejoicing in the painful process knowing that joy comes in the morning. 🙂

  9. Nancy says:

    This is just beautiful! I can’t wait to read the book you intend to write. You are so insightful and wise. It is difficult dealing with being “naked” with the one you love. After the newness wears off, you have to present yourself as you are without the makeup and stylish clothes. It’s terrible that we see sadness and insecurity as flaws. You know how they say ” laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone.”; also, referring to women as “high-maintenance”.You are so fortunate to have someone who accepts you with all your qualities that you have believed incorrectly are imperfections and who is helping you to accept yourself. He must be a truly wonderful person and you certainly deserve to be loved.

  10. Hope Naomi says:

    “I like you very much – just the way you are.” – Mark Darcy, Bridget Jones’s Diary 🙂

  11. Christy says:

    Love this and you guys! Fantastic! Thanks for the realness and openness of your heart Steph!

  12. Erika says:

    This is amazing. I feel like you’re in my head — like I could be writing all of these things about my relationship. Thank you!!

  13. Dawn Muench says:

    ” better for the hardship”…. The new theme of my life that I believe is true w every fiber of my being. Beautiful thoughts Steph and to have a relationship where you are free to learn like this is a gift!!

  14. Amy says:

    This is so beautiful and everything that I have been going through in my relationship for the past two years with my boyfriend John. I have cried so many times in front of him now, something I never thought I’d be able to do. One night, in bed, I started sobbing and he asked me what was wrong and I kept asking him, “Why do you love me? I don’t understand.” I told him I’m weird and all I talk about is my crazy family and he said, “But you’re funny and your family stories are so entertaining.” I told him I’m just waiting for the moment he gets tired of me, and he said, “Why do you think I am going to get tired of you?” I said, “Because everyone else has. Neither of my parents wanted me.” He rolled on top of me and pressed his face into my chest and said, “Amy, I have loved you from the moment I met you. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew. And I love you even more the more I get to know you.” This was a lot from a guy who is very quiet and I just laid there and cried and cried.

    Although my relationship with John (who, when I was 28, became my first boyfriend/first kiss/first everything) is one of the most beautiful and amazing things that has ever happened to me, an answer to a long, long, long-time awaited prayer, it has been one of the hardest things for me. Before John, it was incredibly hard for me to vulnerable with others. I could talk about my life to an extent with my closest friends, but there was always this level that no one could reach because I was afraid if it got out, I would be rejected and abandoned. I carried all of this weight inside of me from my dysfunctional family, being abandoned by my mom for eight years while she suffered through an abusive, dysfunctional marriage, being told that neither of my parents wanted me when they got divorced, and so forth and so on. I have struggled with my weight my entire life and I thought that I would never be able to let a man see me naked because I am so scarred from my battles with my weight. I had no concept of grace. I’ve been a Christian since I was 11 (I’m 30 now), but it wasn’t until I began dating John that I really began to understand what grace really means. There are times when I am being so hard of myself and John just pulls me in his arms and says, “Amy, I love you,” and it feels like God is speaking through him (and oh man, I’m getting teary-eyed now).

    I thought I had myself pretty figured out before John came along, but oh man. God has molded me and twisted me and turned me inside out and shattered me into a million pieces. I have never been more vulnerable in my life, but it’s in this time that I am discovering who I really am as a child of God and in my relationship. I think I am becoming the most authentic version of myself than I have ever been. I have started letting go of all of my past hurts and heartaches and fears. I have begun to really embrace grace and mercy and forgiveness for the first time in my life. And it all happened because God developed me into who I needed to be to meet John (and developed him as well) and I am in relationship that is healthy, where I feel love and grace and the ability to be freely me. It’s so hard sometimes because vulnerability is still a tough thing for me, but in this safe space, God is healing me and bringing me out of the hard, thick shell I’ve carried myself around in for so many years.

    And yes, I think of the Bridget Jones’ quote, “You like me…just as I am,” whenever I think of John. I am still amazed at this man God brought into my life and amazed at who I am becoming in this relationship.

    • Stephanie says:

      Amy, this made me cry. It’s so beautiful to hear a story that so reflects the one I’m living. I’m so glad that you have such a wonderful man in your life. God is SO good. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I’m pretty sure that this story made my heart bigger. 🙂

  15. Meredith says:

    Sitting here, can’t sleep have my last final tomorrow and this is just so vulnerable and honest and true steph. I hope to someday learn how to accept my own imperfections and love myself for them. This is a great articulation of the self critique in all of us! miss you and wish we could sit and have coffee and catch up 🙂 xoxo

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