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Leaving My Past in Grapevine, Texas: What Jon Acuff (& other People I Didn't Know Six Months Ago) Gave Me This Weekend

25 March 2013

How was everyone's weekend? I spent mine in the suburbs (I know, right) in Grapevine at a women's conference for bloggers and businesses called Blissdom. Unlike the mass of Blissdom attendees who write about their excitement and expected life change, I just showed up. I assumed the common thread of those women was that they had little else going on. Turns out why they love Blissdom was because they are like me and have too much else going on.

Blissdom gets you away from the else. The layers of real life start to fall off: your identity at work, your identity with your family, the person you are around your friends. They're all really you but they're a layer of you. Blissdom is a guided alone time that sheds those layers throughout the weekend until you arrive at the core of you. When I got to that lump of who I see myself as everything clicked together as to why I can feel so anxious and pressured. Why good things can often never be good enough. That was how things got to feel better for the first time in almost a decade.

When I was a teenager and in my early twenties I was a troubled kid. Badly behaved, a warning sign and a stereotype. My grandfather and mentor died when I was 15, and my parents divorced when I was 17. I had always like to test limits and enjoy the thrill and attention of small rebellions, and at a time when most adolescents are receiving a mass of attention: senior year, high school graduation, college application prep, lead in the school play, I was desperate for my parents. My Dad was gone and my mom was broken hearted. Partying was acceptance into new groups of friends, and the more you did it the more people wanted to talk to you in the halls next Monday at school and make sure you were there next weekend.

I know why the verb for someone battling alcohol and drugs is spiral. It's a chase, but the hill gets higher and slipperier each time. There's a reel of regretful nights that can play in my head at any given time, the most often being the night I was in a car accident where I had been drinking. It hadn't been my conscious choice to drive, but it had been to drink that day at 19 years of age.

When you are arrested for drunk driving, you get a free stamp from society with big red letters on it. I was never treated like a young person possible of sorrow and reform. I was a criminal. An idiot. The villain on billboards, commercials and stories. I had a big, red stamp on me and the ink was everywhere. I did not drink and drive again but I did continue to act like someone of little worth for a long time.

I'll save the journey out of that chapter for my memoirs, but thanks to listening to a big voice in the middle of the night and a lot of hard work and support from my family, I began to find my way back to the person I wanted to be when I was little and not the person I only thought I was worthy of being. I sought life changing counseling, started treating myself like a person of worth through eating well and exercising. I focused on learning and school and graduated on the Dean's List when I had almost failed classes two semesters before.

It naturally takes a while to prove to family and friends that you're serious about a change like this. No one sits you down and tells you when you're done, that they're proud of you and that they see the new person in you. Forgiveness is something you sometimes have to ask for, and the prior me was the last thing I wanted to talk about. So I just tried to be exemplary instead. I proved my change through my actions, to them and to myself. I was Lady Macbeth up at all hours of the night, trying to scrub the red stamp off.

This weekend Jon Acuff spoke and talked about the voice inside of you, the one that wants to bring fear into your life and stop your dreams. I was blessed to meet Markus very soon after starting my new life. I wasn't ready to be in a serious relationship, let alone meet my spouse, but, like Jon Acuff said this weekend, ready is a myth. I felt the fullness of love and companionship and family for the first time in so long. I had it all with Markus, and the voice in my head hated that. I was afraid to tell people about our relationship, because the voice said They all know what you don't - This is just another crazy thing from the girl who is always screwing things up. How could a girl like you find actual happiness when people who have been doing things right aren't there yet? 

As I've worked on my career and my family with Markus, and taken on side projects, blogging and our house, I've loved being busy, trying new things and staying creative. It seemed like there was a cycle of taking on enough, seeing fulfillment in that, then that energy causing me to pile on more until my plate it too full. It's the busy, fulfilled, opportunistic times when the movie reel of failure and regrets plays into my head. I'll rehash a bad night in college on my way to a job interview. I'll go to meet a friend from high school and think about all the times I hurt her with my behavior instead of all the great things we've done together. I would cry to Markus and not know how to explain the overwhelming feeling of the fight inside me besides repeating to him, I feel like a fraud. 

It's gone around like this for the past six years until this weekend. When I showed up at Blissdom with no expectation besides some time to myself. And God put incredible speakers in front of me to help me dig into the deepest part of myself, say goodbye to the voices that haunt there and cover the rest in God's grace.

With Biance Juarz Olthoff's session we talked about tragedy and how the negative turns in our story are not the end but seeds for future trees. We made timelines of our tragedies and high points in life. I realized how certain things I had tried to quiet still affect me as I got hot and teary just writing them down on a sheet of paper.

Next Jon Acuff spoke to us about fear, how it gets louder the more you're doing things that matter and how it hates community. He said that regret wants you to give more of your present to your past so you don't have a future. We wrote down what we hear every time we try to move to the start line of our lives. What I wrote was something that had never occurred to me before in my life, but it made perfect sense.

Then I went back to my room and wrote a second thing, something that wasn't mentioned or required but was the start line I created for myself. On hotel stationery I wrote the following, folded it up and left it in Grapevine, Texas while I went off to live my new life.

I am leaving the shame and self-inflicted pain of my past mistakes here. 
My past is a part of my life that does not define me. 
I am worthy of love and success and acceptance, and it starts with myself. 

I purposefully didn't take a picture of my note because it was going to be for myself, but then I remembered what was shared this weekend about the power of honesty and sharing your stories to others. Jon Acuff said, when you refuse to hide your scars they become a lighthouse for someone else so they don't crash into the same rocks. This story is for people like me who had a moment that replayed in their heads like a horror movie when I was alone at night. That moment is not who you are. And you deserve the grace from it that I was lucky enough to learn how to give myself this weekend.

After pages and pages of notes all weekend, the last thing I wrote was, "The unstuck are the unstoppable." I feel the most unstuck in a long time. I'm at a new start line, where I can keep doing the things I love and feel their impact more now that I'm ready to love myself.

To believe this is all just from hearing him speak! I am thrilled to begin reading Jon Acuff's new book, Start, and also catch up on his last book, Quitter. If you're interested in learning more about Jon and his new book, please click the image below to learn more about it and join me in punching fear in the face (his words, but I like em) and starting your new life!

Start by Jon Acuff

What about your past makes you fearful that you can let go of today? 


  1. Everyone gets a second chance if they want it. Letting go of the past is the hardest part.

  2. This sentence, "How could a girl like you find actual happiness when people who have been doing things right aren't there yet?" speaks volumes to me. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Lily! This is not only an awesome post but it is so awesome PERIOD! First, who knew Blissdom would be an event that would spark such a spiritual awakening and AHA?! Second, I'm so happy for you and what you received from it! Big stuff! I could go on and on because this really merits an huge conversation (because I love talking about this kind of thing), but just wanted to let you know how cool this is and I'm so happy you shared it with your blog family. :)

  4. Lovely post today, Lilly! I think you will speak to more souls than you know! :)

  5. Oh...and also, you might want to check out Oprah's interview with Dr. Brene Brown that she showed on Super Soul Sunday this week and last -- it had me in tears. SOOO good!

  6. Lilly, this was an absolutely beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. Your comment - "I am worthy of love and success and acceptance, and it starts with myself." is so important for all women to acknowledge and pursue. A friend of mine just posted about this great company So Worth Loving ( on her blog:

    Lots of good reading today.

    1. Thank you, Milly! Jon and some other people are speaking in Nashville in September. I would love to go with Markus so I will let you know if we head up that way. Thank you for recommeding the links!

  7. Wow. I would have been very disappointed (and probably bawling in a corner) if I had ventured out to Blissdom for this! Though my background/circumstances are different I can relate to everything you are saying. I've really enjoyed reading Brene Brown's books (I highlighted nearly all of Daring Greatly and am working on her first book now) and think you would too. Thanks for sharing...and you are worthy of love and success!

  8. Wow. I didn't get to meet you at Blissdom, but I'm so thankful I found your blog. This is such a wonderful post and you totally had me welling up with tears.

  9. Wow! This is so lovely. I'm glad you were there to receive this message.

  10. Miss Lilly... what an incredibly brave post. Nobody's perfect and everybody makes mistakes. Some people are fortunate enough to come out of that place with wisdom and grace, like you. Can't wait to meet you, sweet Lilly in person.

  11. Lilly! i'm so glad i got to meet you and cry at your table this weekend. i didn't find what i expected at blissdom this weekend, either, but i was incredibly blessed by friendships new and old and surprising life shifters like these. looking forward to keeping up with you here.


  12. I'm glad we met this weekend even though we didn't get to talk much. I always get so torn between all the conversations taking place at a table. Hopefully I will see you around at some more Dallas related events!

  13. Lilly, you are AWESOME! This post had me tearing up at my desk. I think everyone can relate in some way or another to exactly what you are saying. Thank you for sharing...I'm so glad I started following your blog! You continue to be such an inspiration! :)

  14. I'm sending you such a huge hug right now, Lilly. I'm so thankful Jane introduced us.

  15. that is also my biggest fear, I wrote down something very very similar to yours. it was a great way to close off a fantastic weekend. I read 1/2 of the book on my flights home.


  16. I'm SO glad you were able to attend :) XO

  17. This is sooo powerful and I am super sad I didn't meet you at Blissdom after reading it. Next year?

  18. So beautiful, Lilly. This is exactly why BlissDom exists. Those magic moments.
    <3, Alli

  19. YES YES YES. This. I can relate. I was the black sheep, the used up, the wasted girl. I was laughing and crying listening to Acuff thinking - he's preaching without preaching. Life-giving gospel truth that permeates everything. YOU ARE NOT BEYOND REPAIR. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE IN FEAR OR SHAME. No one is immune to that message. So glad to read your recap and will have to hook up with you next year!

  20. Amazing. Beautiful... Lovely... Pure goodness :)

  21. Wow. What a powerful post. I don't even know you but I'm proud of you - which is probably weird.


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