Well...to begin, in January I started attending a horrible church with an angry and mean pastor. I did this to try to gain some experience leading worship but it only tore up my heart and made me miserable. During that time, I was also taking the most boring class ever on The Hobbit. Saddest 2 weeks of my life. But while at that church, I met one beautiful lady and was able to encourage her and love on her, also having good thought provoking conversation with another girl my age. From that experience, I learned to just trust your gut, not your "be a hero" complex taught you by religion. I ended my time there probably immaturely (through email), but it had to happen. I couldn't go on like that and still be happy. So I moved on.
From there, I continued on CMCing on my floor (spiritual leading) from the previous semester and it was such a blast! I learned to love the girls on my floor right where they were and do life with them in such a present way. Many of them are still great friends today. I spent a lot of time in my room being silly with Jesus and living happily. Alone in my room nonetheless. Alone.
Then... Mr. Payton Smith, the Payton Smith, sort of "re-entered" my life in a whole new way. Around March, we started talking and I told him I wasn't ready to date just yet. Being himself, he sweetly waited on me and really got to know me. What a lover he is. :) During that time of waiting, I really spent time finishing up Captivating by Stasi Eldredge, a book all about womanhood. I can safely say that book taught me sooooo much about womanhood and was perfect for having a few good nuggets of wisdom about boys before dating one.
Also at that time, a girl from the ministry department began mentoring me and even though we only met maybe 3 times, she taught me soooo much about communication and I am forever grateful for her life lessons. They've impacted my relationships greatly and prepared me to communicate well with Payton.
After the school year ended, I said some really tough goodbyes to the girls on my floor. Driving home for the summer was super tough and the first few days back all I wanted to do was cry and be nostalgic about how great of friends they were to me and how well I'd done in ministering to them. I had to move on but moving on was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. I felt so affirmed in that ministry role. I felt like I was finally being me. I felt like I'd finally tested out the leadership waters and blown everyone else around me out of them (in a seriously non-prideful way). I'd proven myself to myself and others. I was perfected in ministry. So coming home was really the last thing I wanted to do, but it had to be done regardless.
I spent the summer "ministering" to my family, which really turned into just hanging and being there for them. My sister broke up with her boyfriend within a month of summer and I learned how to speak to her heart the goodness I'd learned from Jesus that was in there, just like it was in everyone else's and my own. We traveled alone to Florida together and that proved a milestone of our relationship as sisters and as budding adults. We spent much time together, me mostly comforting her in just my presence.
I tried to be there for my mom and get to know my dad a little more. But it was mostly about my sister.
At the end of June, Payton and I officially began dating and when his leg got fractured, he moved back home and we spent all kinds of amazing time together. Near the end of the summer, we began briefly discussing our hopes and dreams and realized they were essentially the same. I always tell Payton that this summer was when I decided what I want to do in life and "who I want to be."
Also during the summer, I completely stopped attending my old church and found a new one that my mom and I started going to when we could. It was nothing I took super seriously (completely opposite of how I was at my previous church), but I saw how beautiful people could be by just doing real community and life together in very small and simple ways. The people there were so non-judgmental and loving; it was completely not like any church I'd ever been in. It was so lovely and solidified, at least I thought, the kind of church I wanted to be a part of in the future as a worship leader.
On Mondays as well, I attended a small group of awesome people that talked about God like He actually loved them and wanted to continue loving them and to be their friend, lover, and adoring father. I learned how to rest in the presence of others, instead of constantly looking around for some kind of social "am I good enough? am I doing this right?" It was wonderful.
At the very end of the summer, I had no desire whatsoever to go back to school. Honestly, I'd wrestled my entire time being there about staying there (save for spring semester of 2013). God and I had basically come to an agreement that if I really didn't want to stay, I didn't have to. And by the end of the summer, going back, honestly, didn't feel at all right in my heart. But I went anyways because as a good Christian, I'd learned that it was probably me missing everyone and I really needed to just be open to growing through whatever struggles would come my way the semester and needed to focus on being a worship leader and getting my degree in ministry.
The first few weeks back were absolutely horrible. I missed Payton like crazy and my heart was torn to pieces being away from my mom and sister after such a great bonding time. My sister also started her first year of college and my mom was dealing with us both being away, so naturally, I just wanted to be there to comfort them and remind them that everything was going to be okay. But I couldn't because I was at school and that was horrible, so I began lying to myself and telling myself that everything was okay and gonna be okay and they would be okay without me.
I buried myself in my schoolwork because I felt I had no choice but to given my workload. I literally had no social life. I barely spent any time with my roommate, who happens to be basically my best friend outside of Payton. Horrible. I ignored her so much trying to get work done that just... ugghh. I rarely saw my friends from the previous year and that about broke me, but was good for me as I really couldn't hide behind the safe ministry-proven facade anymore. I had to truly face my heart and it freaking hurt. It hurt in all reality because it had been buried underneath my schoolwork and theology class and ministry duty.
My theology class, among other things, destroyed my heart. It reminded me of every single thing I hated about religion and the more I tried to convince myself things were okay, the more depressed I got and the worse my heart felt. Thank the good Lord for Payton because I don't know what I would have done without him. Probably went on to get a degree in something that would have further destroyed my heart. As him and I truly fell in love and I gave him my heart, he protected it so well. He was like my mirror I could look into whenever I forgot who I was in my core: beautiful, loving, caring, wonderful, adventurous, amazing. When I finally opened up to him about my depression, he was there. He listened and let me be crazy for awhile. He provided exactly what I asked him to and just by being himself, refused to let me go any further in hating myself or thinking negatively about myself. He knew me and that's all it took.
Talking about what we were learning in our hearts from Jesus over that semester through text message and phone call and trips back home where we sat in the car for hours proved to be my cure. It was all my heart needed to refuse to be squelched anymore. I started to remember what my heart had yearned for over the summer and pretty quickly (literally...within days) realized I couldn't stay at that university anymore and be happy. Realizing that for myself was wonderful; a burden was lifted. But a whole new burden was taken on when I realized people wouldn't understand why I was making my choice. After all, I was Martina, the loving friend leader that was destined for ministry. A natural. What the
My roommate and a few other friends were the only ones who seemed to truly get where I was coming from. Surprisingly, some people did speak up and encourage me in honesty and understanding and that only affirmed my love for people who truly don't care about religion either in their hearts, no matter how much they think they do. (You can't lie to your own heart, believe me). The transition was so incredibly awkward. I just wanted to be gone and not have to tell anyone why.
Finally being home proved harder than originally planned because not only was I still beat up and trying to move on, but my older sister had temporarily moved in with her 6 year old rowdy son and my other sister was back from school, expecting me to hang out with her constantly. It was a rather rough few weeks coming back, but hanging out with my nephew (as well as Payton's little siblings) began reminding me/teaching me about the bliss of childhood, what I felt had been unjustly ripped from me by religion. I saw myself a lot in those kids and they were like my first kickstart back into being myself. The rough stuff eventually passed when my older sister moved out after a few weeks and I spent time trying to recuperate some more. I wanted to cry often for apparently no reason and found my heart asking God consistently "who am I?" all over again. One night, I was filling Payton in on my emotions and he listed off everything good he knew about me. It all sounded so familiar and from there, even when I had trouble believing it, I knew he was right and I finally had something to go off of when remembering myself.
Over time, I learned to listen deeper, past the junk I had just been told about my heart as a human, past the despair, past everything into the beauty of my own soul and there I felt raw and true emotion. I felt love. I remembered love for Payton and for my family and for the whole world.
Now, I'm trying to learn love for my own self and it's incredibly hard. Not only for the simple fact that it's hard alone, but because I once knew it but forgot it over a three month hell period. But a heart never truly forgets its first love, now does it?
So in a stream of thought, quick recap of 2013, this is what I learned and experienced. I'm entirely planning to write a book about much of this, so forgive me for not elaborating on everything in detail. Stay tuned and thanks for reading (Payton ;)).