I admire strong women. Women who seem to face every storm in life with grace and aplomb. I recently watched a 20/20 segment on the three women who survived over ten years in a house in Cleveland…all victims of kidnapping. They went on to rise up and start their own foundations focused on assisting victims of abuse and violent crime. I was in awe that they could form coherent sentences, let alone accomplish such great things.

Women are resilient. We roll with the punches…much like the inflatable toys we had as kids that had a weight in the bottom. You punched them and they kept standing back up. But, sometimes the “standing back up” takes time…especially if you were knocked down a lot. One of the benefits of “being a certain age” is hindsight.

Rocky Mountain camping
“Camping in the wilderness of Colorado brought me closer to God…and myself.”

Looking back over my own life, I can identify moments that didn’t seem so bad. Then more moments piled up till the weight became overpowering and the house of cards I had carefully constructed came crashing down around me. I sat at the bottom of the barrel looking up and wondering what the heck happened to me.

I was in a situation that became the perfect storm for destruction. Married to a busy doctor. Parenting two daughters who were nearly sixteen years apart. And the child of an alcoholic. My self esteem was in the toilet. I was shuttled from doctor to doctor, medicated with this and that till I was truly a zombie.

Collegiate Peaks and a camper
“My three month solo journey took me to some of the most beautiful vistas I’ve ever seen.”

It all came to a head…ironically, twenty years ago this week. I could no long envision a way out of my pain. I only wanted to sleep and be left alone. On that fateful day…Epiphany, to be exact…January 6, 2000. It was a New Year…a new decade. I wanted it to be better. Instead, I swallowed two full bottles of pills and nearly ended my life.

The following years were filled with hard work, tears, frustration, and fear. But I was determined to rise up and overcome. I was not going to sit in the corner and cry. I found an excellent therapist who helped me find my voice. I took better care of myself. I worked hard to rebuild relationships, especially with my children. I went back to work…even opening my own business. I found Jesus. I quit abusing my body with substances meant to ease my pain but which ironically nearly destroyed it.

Woman with camper
“I graduated to the big camper when I took the show on the road in 2014.”

Five years later, I met a kind man. We fit into each other’s lives so easily and perfectly. We married and it was supposed to be my happily ever after. Then three weeks shy of our 6th wedding anniversary, he died and the life I had so carefully reconstructed died with him. 

I learned a lot from the previous marriage. I learned resilience. From the overdose, I learned better coping skills. And from widowhood, I learned that inner strength is what comes when there are no other options. That is when I discovered the restorative effect of nature. I joined a group of women who camped together. I learned to make my own happiness. I learned that HE died…I did not.

Bride and groom
“One became TWO again in October 2018 when I married my best friend from high school. Who knew?”

When I saw those strong women from Cleveland, I saw them turn their mess into their message. Their test into their testimony. Their pain into their platform. Although my circumstances weren’t nearly as horrific as what they went through, I felt a sense of pride for them. For their accomplishments. For their strength and courage. I recognized the hard work it took to get there.

We all have a story. Every single one of us. I didn’t talk about my story for a long time. I was ashamed, embarrassed, undeserving. I was afraid of the judgement of others. Then I went into the wilderness of Colorado for three months after my husband died…just me and Jesus. We had lots of conversations about who I am…who I was intended to be…what my purpose is. That’s when I knew…I had to share. My best way of sharing has become writing. I prayed for the right words. I prayed for the people who needed them to be mysteriously guided to find them…not knowing how or why. Now here it is…twenty years after starting over…and seven years after starting over yet again. 

Woman in rpod 196
“The six weeks I traveled with the Charity Raffle Trailer was the longest I’ve been alone since I settled in WV for good in 2016.

We have no idea how many times we may have to start over in life. It’s probably a good thing we don’t know. I don’t know how those three young women overcame their personal hell. I do know how I overcame mine. Every single day brings choices. Every single morning brings opportunities. Every single night brings the opportunity to say, “I did my best. I’ll try again tomorrow.” When you share your story, you help people. You assure them they are not alone. We rise by lifting others.

This is why I have joined Girl Camper. This is why I have turned my writing to these pages. Because we have a common goal. We lift each other up to be the best we can be. We educate others from our own experience. We show each other what it looks like to suit up and show up. We reach a hand back to the newbies coming along behind us and help them gain the confidence they need to succeed and to turn a dream into a reality. And, we inspire…humbly and with grace. 

Woman in sandals on riverbank
“I still like to get out on my own from time to time. Nature recharges me and reminds me how far I’ve come in the last two decades.”

We are a community of women on every point of the spectrum. Young and not quite so young…brave and not quite so brave…confident and not quite so confident. But we all have one thing in common. Determination. That trait alone will carry us far in this life.

I am so proud to be counted as just one of a huge movement of women who are “Going Places and Doing Things”. I want to be my most fabulous self…and I want that for all of you, as well.

Be blessed…

Ginny McKinney  –  Marshmallow Ranch

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13 ESV

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