Letting Go: Walking by Faith

sunset skiesThere are times in our lives when we cry out to God, asking him to turn situations around, begging and pleading for miracles. And sometimes it seems like, he doesn’t hear. In my mind a lot of the time, I would even say that he is late. Long after something has come to a close, then he shows up. Peacefully, in his own time, working things out. I’m very much someone who wants things to be resolved immediately, so I don’t have to worry about them anymore.

There is a story in the Bible of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. When he was sick, they sent word to Jesus letting him know. Still, he didn’t go right away and by the time he did arrive, Lazarus was already in the tomb, four days later.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” John 11:21-22 NIV

God, if you had just been there. We question him all the time. If you had provided that job. If you had of let that relationship work out. If you had of not let me be wounded. If you hadn’t let it die.

Martha knew that if Jesus had just shown up early, he could have quickly healed Lazarus and been on his way. If you want to read the whole story you can in John 11. But basically, Jesus had a greater plan in mind. He knew either way that Lazarus would live, but many of them there didn’t have faith or even have any idea that he could also raise the dead. They were full of sorrow and doubt and moved by their sorrow, Jesus himself cried with them.

He felt their pain.

And he raised Lazarus from the dead. Even when it seemed to everyone that he was late, that it was too late. That there was no way for it to work out, there was. He knew there was a way.

Sometimes, we can get so caught up in rushing things that we don’t realize that some things have to die. We have to be dead to some things, in order to grow. God can bring life back to situations, relationships, he can restore and heal the pain and wounds of the past. However, there are also some things that he may have to forcibly remove us from. But he is never late even when it doesn’t work out in our timeframe.

We must have faith all the same, we must believe and know that even if a situation seems hopeless or lost to us that it is not lost to him. There are many great things at work in all of our lives, even if we don’t yet see it all or understand, all we need to do is know that he has the power.

And believe.

This has been one of my favorite songs to listen to lately and I thought I would share it with you all. We are all storytellers, the greater the pain and the struggles, the more of a story we will have to share to give hope to others.

Perfect Imperfections: Beauty in Our Flaws

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For the longest time, I didn’t smile. People who know me now may find this hard to believe, but I just didn’t. Not as big as I smile now, I would smile a closed mouth self-conscious smile. Why? Because I have a stain on my two front teeth from when I was a kid. It was glaringly apparent to me and so I practiced smiling without showing teeth in the mirror. It wasn’t until I stopped caring what people might think about me and just loved myself that I began to smile freely and I realized, most people didn’t even notice or care. Most people would just smile back.

It’s easy for us to notice something about ourselves, we are with ourselves every day after all! And we take it and analyze it and look it over. We sometimes will deem ourselves “less than” or “not good enough”. I don’t wear makeup, I’ve worn it perhaps twice in my life both times at Mary Kay parties. If you handed me some makeup, I would probably just use it in one of my crafting projects.

Because I don’t wear makeup, I can easily stare at my face and pick out everything that’s wrong. Sometimes I binge watch makeup tutorials on YouTube and I think, I could correct every little flaw. Then I smile, and I see my less than perfect smile that actually helps to spread joy and I remind myself that it’s okay. I’m perfectly imperfect.

I’m not perfect, but I’m me. And that’s good enough for me.

I’m sometimes fashion challenged and yes if you look hard enough you might catch me wearing one red sock and one green sock for no reason at all except that it might have amused me for the day. And for the people who get the courage to ask about all my stretch marks, I can tell them about Pemphigus and help spread awareness. When they hear I’m a chef, they think there might be a more exciting story about a battle with the deep fryers, but all the same it opens up conversations with complete strangers.

I find it curious, it’s much easier for me to see the beauty in a lot of other people then what they see in themselves. It’s something about comparison and the race for perfection, that we could all just improve ourselves just a little bit more but never actually arriving. But really, the imperfections? The things that set us apart and make us less than perfect? Are beautiful.

It’s uniquely ours, every scar tells a story. Every line holds a memory.

So embrace your imperfections and your flaws, you’re beautiful. Just the way you are.

How to Relieve Stress Through Art

Minion, polymer clay
Minion, polymer clay

My favorite way to release stress is through art. My first degree was a focus in art therapy and although I did not pursue it and actually become an art therapist (because I am way too sensitive and ended up sobbing along with my first patients) I still use art as a form of therapy for myself and a way to have fun and brighten up my days.

I make stuff all the time.

When I’m happy when I’m sad when I’m angry, or if I need a personalized gift for someone. The process of creating puts me in a different state of mind, as my art therapy teacher always said, it’s about the process, not the finished product. So if you shy away from art because you’re a little “art challenged” have no fear! I started out drawing bad stick figures, but it makes me happy and nothing can quite match the feeling of making something with your own two hands.

The tardis from Doctor Who!
The tardis from Doctor Who!

Perler beads:
These are my latest greatest crafting go to. The best part of these is that you don’t need to have any previous art experience, all you need to do is buy some beads, they are very affordable by the way, and a perler board. You can google perler bead patterns for almost anything that you want to try out. They have all kinds of designs already out there. You can also make your own designs, but make sure that it’s a small picture as the more detail you put into it, the more involved it will become. Next, make your design and then you simply place one of the ironing sheets on top and iron one side. Put a book on top of it so that it doesn’t curl up and once it’s cooled flip it over and iron the other side. You’re done, you made that! You can make these into necklaces, bracelets, magnets, hair pins, literally whatever you want. Or you can just leave it as is and look at it from time to time.

Painting:Elf Painting
You don’t have to be the next Van Gogh, but the next time you’re at a craft store check their canvas section. I usually wait till the packages of canvases are on sale and then I buy a lot. A lot. And occasionally my family and I will just have a paint day, I just bought big tubes of red, yellow, blue, and white and just go to town. It’s even more fun when you’re mixing the colors yourself. Again, don’t worry about it being perfect. Have fun, get messy with your family or friends. You don’t have to wait for a painting event to paint, have stuff on hand at home so you can paint whenever the mood strikes you!

Clay:

Polymer clay cookie bracelet
Polymer clay cookie bracelet

There are few things more relaxing than kneading stuff to me. I don’t know why, if its homemade bread or clay it’s just fun! Polymer clay is great for detailed work if you’d like to make small figures, charms, or jewelry I would highly recommend it. Regular polymer clay will have to be baked in an oven when you’re finished though, that is a downside. Recently, I discovered air dry polymer clay which is even better!

There is also regular air dry clay that can get quite messy and squishy, but sometimes you can just let it all out into the clay and pound it out if you don’t like it. The best part of air dry clay is that you can just add some water if you want to keep working and not let it dry out. I don’t recommend very tiny pieces with regular air dry clay as it tends to crack and isn’t very sturdy. But this is great for large pieces. There are also various clays that you can make yourself at home and be even more efficient.

These are just a few ideas to get you started, but it is the main way that I relieve stress and center myself when I need to just kick back and relax. You don’t have to get really crazy with it either if you’ve got a piece of paper and a pen or pencil you can just go at it and have fun. Again, don’t critic yourself heavily! The point of it is to relax, not to stress yourself out more. If you like doodling, then doodle. Do whatever type of art form that makes you happy, everyone needs a lot more relaxing in their lives. So relax and try to have some fun!

Finding Peace

Soul collage, my expectations for a healthy, peaceful future!
Soul collage, my expectations for a healthy, peaceful future!

I had lost my peace. It’s a sad fact, but I did. I was so happy with discovering who I was, I was so sure that everything would work out. That this pain would not be forever. The lack of sleeping has only gotten worse, my head hurts and I try to lay down and sleep but my body hurts too much to even go to sleep. My doctor believes that physical therapy will help relieve some of the pain and I start today. I feel the flickers of hope and I grab on to it tightly.

How did I lose my peace?

I looked at the storm. I looked at the storm and the waves directly, I allowed my joy to be stolen by people. I couldn’t handle the stress that overcame me and I slid over the edge. But before I went all the way, I reached out. I spoke up, I said, I’m not okay. Normally, when people damage my emotions I withdraw, away from everything and everyone and I let the darkness consume my mind. Now I practice release, I let it all out. I can’t afford to hold it in anymore. Not when I’m so close to a breakthrough that I can feel it.

Everything is coming against me stronger than ever, my mind and body are both frazzled, but I can just see the light. I know good things are right around the corner. I know that I can’t give up. I know that no matter what anyone says or does, I know who I am and I know that I am loved.

A lot of people know that Jesus walked on water, but Peter did too. Even though it wasn’t for very long.

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” – Matthew 14:28-30

Like Peter, I became a water walker. I was living strongly by faith and hope and trust. That no matter what storms were going on in my life, I was okay. I could do anything as long as I kept my eyes on Jesus. As I came under attack from those I did not expect it from, I became broken and afraid. In my brokenness, my physical pain intensifies because I can’t quite fight the pain as much as I would like and it’s basically just a mess of emotions and pain. I began to sink.

Lord, save me.

He did save me and he saves me still. I am so blessed, to have a family that loves me as they do. To have my boyfriend, who is also my best friend; who has always been with me through it all and lets me pick out whatever I want to watch on Netflix! I am blessed to have friends who check up on me and during my bad days, they pick me up. I am blessed to have connected with so many new writer friends through the Ragged Edge writer’s conference who support me, understand me, love me and pray for me.

I look at all these blessings in my life and I look away from the storm. I focus on the light, I focus on Jesus. And I’m able to take one more step, I’m able to go one more day. I know that things will get better, it’s really only a matter of time.

Even though we are all locked in the fight right now, the battle is already won.

When we’re overwhelmed by our struggles and by the things that try to drag us down. We can rest assured that as long as we keep on fighting, nothing can stop us.

He’s Always Been Faithful

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Most days are hard for me, some days are harder than others. Having chronic pain takes its toll on you emotionally as well as physically. Mentally, every day I have to struggle to hold myself together. I’m already a sensitive person. I feel every emotion to the deepest depths, it helps me to experience joy and love to great extremes, but also sadness and pain. I have something of a pain tolerance, I’m sure, but it still bothers me in the long run. Sometimes I just want to cry and scream. I am weak, I am overcome.

But that’s when I’m strong.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)

I’m always amazed by Paul when he wrote this in the Bible, he had his own suffering to deal with. He begged God and begged God to take it away from him, just like I so often do. Instead, he started to boast about his weaknesses, delight in them even. I’m usually quick  to respond to people who say that I’m strong, that I’m not. I’m sooo not. I’m weak, some days I’m so weak that I don’t know how I can go on another day. I don’t think that I can survive, but somehow I do. But in your weakness, there is strength. In your dark places, there is light.

Life was never meant to be easy, nobody is having smooth sailing out there. But when we encounter ourselves in these places of brokenness, it’s the way that we rebuild ourselves that matters.

There are many things that I don’t have, some things I would like to have but can’t, some things I believe I would need to have. I see prayers being answered for other people left and right and I think, what about me? When’s my big miracle coming?

Soon.

And just like that, little blessings began trickling in. Providing in ways that show me that, not only does God care about my needs, but also about things that I want. The more that I walk by faith and not by sight, the more that I take those little steps every day to just be grateful for the things that I have, the more that things just seem to work out. It’s not any gigantic miracle like I thought, but instead its tons and tons of little miracles that make me dance and sing. It makes my faith grow and it lets me know, he still cares. He never left me, and he never will. On the days like today when I can’t find the energy to go on, I don’t have to. I can be completely and totally weak. I can be broken.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

It’s okay to be broken, it’s okay to be worn down and tired. In fact when you’re crushed in spirit, God is closer than ever and it’s all going to be okay. He never said that we won’t have days when we feel like we can’t make it, but that’s when it’s time for us to call in some heavy back up.

If you’re in a place of brokenness right now, know that God loves you and so do I.

You can make it. Just keep going.

You Are Enough

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Made on Canva.com

Have you ever felt overwhelmed? I have and I do, time and time again. This week especially was difficult, first I was sick with who knows what, but with a lack of immune system the smallest thing can kick my tail and my body falls apart completely trying to fight it. I didn’t get a lot done this week, I wrote when I could and I crafted a bit but the smallest things took so much energy. Mostly I rested. Getting out of bed was my little victory for most days.

I found myself lacking, because I couldn’t do all that I wanted to do. I didn’t even do all that I felt that I needed to do some days, but what I needed to set as a main priority was taking care of myself. I find that, for me at least, taking care of myself mentally and physically was never high up on my to do list and when I do make specific time out for myself I feel kind of bad, like I‘m being selfish. But if I don’t take care of myself, I’m in no position to help anyone else. The point of the matter is even if you don’t get a lot done, even if you don’t meet your goals for the week, that’s okay.

You are enough, just as you are.

I’m not sure why there’s always this constant battle with myself over whether or not I’ve accomplished enough to the point where I feel okay to take care of myself. I’ve been doing better at staying positive and remembering who I am and that I am enough, but it’s still something that I fight to cling on to each day.

People are always so busy, and with the act of being busy we can easily become frazzled and forget that we need to rest. That it’s okay for things to slow down, even when things are still and it’s just you and the silence, you’re still enough.

There’s nothing you can do that would make you any more of enough or worthy than you are right now in this moment. Of course there are skills that you can better yourself in, but it’s not what defines you as a person. You are literally the only person like you that there is. You have an amazing personality and your smile is uniquely yours. It’s not about what you can accomplish, or can’t accomplish right now. It’s not even about future goals that may still be outside of your grasp.

It’s about living, truly living.

Enjoying every single breath that you take. No matter what the day may bring, each day is a gift. So do things you enjoy and spend quality time with the people who you love to be around that make you smile. It’s okay if things are rough right now, they will get better eventually, one day. But for now, even with things imperfect as they are, right now is a great time to be enjoying life.

Fitness and Health: How I lost 100 pounds

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I used to weigh 289 pounds. During my battle with my autoimmune disease I was put on such a high dosage of steroids that my appetite was ridiculous. I was ashamed to eat out in public because I could easily consume two full meals at a restaurant and still feel hungry. When I came to the realization that being sedentary on top of eating so many calories in a day was easily going to tip me into the 300s and beyond, I decided to start making changes.

I wanted to start a healthy lifestyle for many reasons. One of those reasons was with all the health issues I had going on I didn’t want to get anything else from being overweight. I wanted to take charge and have control over my health as much as I could. And for another, I had learned to love myself. Truly and completely, just as I was.

I would at first stare in anger at myself, hating what I had become. But I read somewhere in a book (I can’t remember which one) but it said to practice telling yourself that you love yourself and that you are beautiful in the mirror every day for 30 days. It took me beyond 30 days to feel like I wasn’t crazy but I actually did love myself. Even with the “moon face” from the steroids, even though my teeth aren’t perfect, even though I was overweight, even though I had scars and discolorations that would never go away, I was beautiful.

By loving myself, I also realized that I had to take care of myself. Recklessly consuming junk food and chocolate (tons and tons of it!) were not making my appetite situation any better. My steroid dosage had been lowered and I decided to start where I was. I knew next to nothing about exercising and losing weight, but I knew what my doctor had told me countless times. Eat right, exercise, drink water. There’s really no magic formula.

I liked to dance, so I started off with a game called Dance Dance Revolution. There was a dance pad on the floor and you had to step on the arrows in time to the music. There was different difficulty settings on the game and I started off on about easy to medium depending on the song, I did 30 minutes a day. I didn’t do anything to my eating immediately, and because of that, there were many comments made about how it was counterproductive that I still ate whatever I wanted. I felt disheartened, but I knew the weight hadn’t just jumped on me one day and it wasn’t going to come off in one day either.

I cut pop out of my diet first, I knew I was drinking most of my calories. Next I cut back on sweets, but I didn’t give them up completely at this point. I was just trying to focus on exercising every single day and making it a part of my routine, even when I was sore or in pain, I would go to great lengths to try to get in some kind of exercise.

The progress did not happen overnight, and though I lost weight quickly at the beginning from making small changes it has been a long road ever since then. Going through many health issues and new medications through it all slowed me up a lot. I fell off the wagon time and time again, I binged on chocolates when I was depressed. I’d stop exercising for months and then pick myself back up again.

One of my art teachers once told me:

“Inspiration and motivation will only carry you so far, but if you keep up your determination, you can do absolutely anything you put your mind to.”

He told me this because I really sucked at making pottery, but I would go to that classroom every day. Before class, after class. I would take my clay home with me and work at it until I got better. He told me that was the kind of determination I needed to use on whatever I wanted to do in life and I applied it to my health journey.

Even when I fell, I got back up. I didn’t look at the scale because it depressed me. But I was shocked when I went to the doctor’s office and noticed how fast the weight was falling off of me. I had to keep getting smaller clothing and eventually other people began to notice too.

I ended up losing 100 pounds, against all odds. Even suffering from hypothyroidism, I just got the needed medications and kept pressing on. Every battle with health issues pushed me back some, and yeah it’s happened again. But I keep picking myself back up, the best way to make a change in your life is to never give up. I still haven’t reached my goal healthy weight yet, but that’s okay. I’m well on my way, and I’m determined to make it. I won’t let anything stop me or hold me back.

If you’ve struggled with being overweight, or just want to make healthy changes in your lifestyle, I say do it! Don’t over-think it, don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t do it. You can do absolutely anything that you put your mind to. Take small steps, take it one day at a time, but also keep in mind the future you that you’re working for. It won’t be fast or easy, but it is well worth it.