Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Growing

Some of you may have seen me post photos of my Christmas cactus on Instagram. As I took this most recent shot and wrote the caption last week, I couldn't help but think of how metaphorical the words are for my life. To be honest, this year has been hard, maybe not physically or financially, but certainly mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It has also been a year of renewal, redemption, and growth.

After ten years of living in Arkansas (three as an undergraduate and seven as a working adult), I moved back into my childhood home with my mom, dad, and little brother last July. I love my family, and renewing relationships with them was great, but this transition was HARD. I have my own room, but not my own kitchen or bathroom or living room. The house is almost never quiet due to my parents running their small business out of it. We've had multiple arguments and conflicts between family members over the course of the past 10 months. I've probably cried more this year than I have in the past several years. I have been forced to confront my selfishness and lack of flexibility, sins not so apparent to me when living with roommates. Ouch.


Then there was the issue of work. God graciously provided a job for me as a college guidance coordinator at a local charter high school almost immediately after I arrived home. I truly believe that I was supposed to take this job. My students did very well and I developed special relationships with many of my coworkers, but this job was hard. It was not counseling, and after five years of graduate education and internship in counseling, I missed the field so much. I wasn't good at teaching or discipline or recess duty, and I had to learn and do them anyway. The process was painful.

I immediately tried to get involved with church when I got home, but to no avail. They basically put me on a probationary period and did not let me volunteer with the children's ministry, which I so wanted to do. I felt rejected and outcast, like I did not belong.

I did not really take any vacation this year (save for Pat's Run weekend), and I have felt sad, depressed, tired, and overall burned out. I have wanted change, but not known how to orchestrate it. I have even, at times, felt like I did not know myself or recognize what really mattered to me.

Slowly, but surely, God is redeeming, reviving, and growing me. I have not found a house of my own yet, but I have been looking. After agonizing over my decision, I decided to resign from my job at the school and look for a counseling position. About a week after I did that, God brought forth a new opportunity, that Lord willing, starts mid-June. Through the process of not being able to serve in children's ministry at church, I had the opportunities to participate in ladies Bible study and sing in Christmas and Easter praise choirs. I developed relationships with some really awesome people and God reignited my love of singing. I even recently applied to become part of the church worship team (but that may be another issue of watching and waiting).


Like my Christmas cactus, I've still got some dead weight. Certain parts of my life are stagnant and not growing. I've really got to get this self-care thing figured out. But still, I'm thankful. Thankful for God's growing and pruning. Thankful for the rediscovering of previously neglected passions and pursuits. Thankful for new opportunities. Thankful for the loving friends and family that surround me. Thankful that, "He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).

Friday, May 26, 2017

Afghan #50 and More Botox

I completed another afghan today (and got another round of botox shots in my arm.) This pattern is Julee Fort's Down in the Valley pattern from Ravelry. I started on this afghan as a way to use up yellow yard. I intended to use darker and darker yellow until I got to the gold yarn I had left over from this afghan, but Mom disagreed. She suggested using the gray and navy yarns around the edges of the blanket, and I am so thankful for her input. I really like the color combination!

Honestly, I didn't enjoy the last few rounds of this afghan. It is not that crocheting hurts my hand, but that using my hand irritates me at an underlying level. The last two rounds of this afghan took an hour, too, which tried my patience. The satisfaction of the finished product is worth the pains of irritation and impatience, however.

As for my hand, it is not as bad as it was, but was regressing into the dystonic positions. I started to find my thumb folded into my hand, my pinkie wrapped under my ringer finger, and my hand making a fist. My original doctor left the neurology practice, so today's round of botox was over a month late. (Thankfully the other doctor took me on as a patient.) This doctor injected slightly different muscles, and used less serum. Hopefully this new injection method will promote healing in my brain-body connections while still affording me the strength needed to grip milk cartons, open doors, shift my car, etc. We'll see.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Giving Up the Fast

I haven't listened to the radio in my car for almost seven months. Why? I started the practice as a biblical fast last October, but after awhile, when God didn't answer the prayer which led me to the fast, it just became habit to leave the radio off. To be honest, I stopped praying so much and just got used to the silence and quiet of my drive time.

And now? I've decided to start listening to the radio again. Why? God answered our prayers (Thank you, Jesus!), and to continue fasting, for me, would be asceticism, not a spiritual discipline.

Is fasting always asceticism? No, but asceticism is a trap of self-righteousness into which I often fall. Salvation is by Jesus' sacrifice, not mine.

God is using the radio in my life, too. Multiple times in the past few weeks, I've heard Hawk Nelson's new song, "Diamonds." The chorus,


He’s making diamonds
Making diamonds
He’s making diamonds out of dust
He is refining
And in his timing
He’s making diamonds out of us

really resonates with me. This has been a hard year for many reasons. God's refining process in my life has been, and is painful. But it's His process, not mine, which brings me back to giving up the fast. Fasting is about acknowledging God's power, and my powerlessness. Therefore, for me, giving up the fast is about glorifying God instead of glorifying myself.



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What Really Matters/Priorities

I've been on a cleaning spree lately. Just ask my mom. Most of last Friday night saw clothes strewn all over my queen bed, dressing table, and floor. That included clothes flung out of my suitcase. In sorting, I found clothes I forgot I had, clothes that brought back memories (good and bad), and clothes that I realized I'd never wear again. I discarded an entire kitchen-sized bag of clothes and guess what? When I finished, I had room to house most of my clothes in the closet, instead of in clothes, drawers, and that very inconvenient suitcase.


This cleaning spree started with my reading of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. The crux of the book is learning to discard any item that doesn't spark joy. Even items that might be used "someday" should be discarded if the person isn't attached. The person can always repurchase items if he or she misses them. (This point struck home for me, because I'm a major, "What if?" hoarder.) Kondo posits that doing a massive cleaning and tidying of one's home allows a reset of life and a re-focusing on priorities. I think she might be a bit ambitious, but I'm still experiencing benefits from this practice.

I haven't had time to purge all of my possessions at once, so I've been doing it little by little. I purged my purse last weekend after the Friday clothes review. In my purse, I found two old flashlights that weren't working, but were weighing down my bag. I found dozens of business cards from providers I no longer use. I gave the flashlights to Dad and trashed the cards. My purse feels so much lighter now, even with my IPhone in its Otter Box!


This afternoon, I sorted and shredded paperwork, managing to fit the important stuff into one accordian file. Kondo suggests that individuals should keep only paperwork that they readily access, and then sort it lightly. The act of looking for paperwork afterward serves as a reminder to constantly purge it. I've obviously kept too much stuff for too long, because I purged what became bags of shredded paper.

As I've purged, I've rediscovered old treasures, like my 5K race medals, my mother's locket, and my grandmother's Ecuadorian necklace. I'm realizing what matters to me and what I'd like to display when I find my own home. This process is cathartic.

Is tidying solving all of life's problems? No. I'm experiencing a season of change and that change won't go away. Tidying gives me something to do with my restless energy, however. I feel relief when I lighten the loads of belongings piled up in my room, and in my life. Tidying isn't magic. It's a practice in prioritization.

Friday, May 12, 2017

13 Reasons Why

A dear friend lost her mother this week. And another dear friend recently used her blog space to share about the women who have gone before her. So it's about time that I share some of the many reasons I love my mother. In honor of Mother's Day, here are 13 of them:



1) She is a woman of prayer.
-A faithful member of Moms in Prayer, she prays constantly for members of her family, and for others. She does not hesitate to say we should stop and pray about something.

2) She is an encourager.
-When I was younger, I got mad at her for making me read Bible verse cards to combat negative thoughts. Now, I totally value that. She knows where the source of truth lies.
3) She models a positive attitude.
-Her words are on the bright side, even if she feels dark inside.
4) She perseveres.
-She has endured a great amount of physical pain this year, but still goes for almost daily walks and keeps up with household duties.
5) She is a great, but balanced in a healthy way, cook.
-She still uses margarine and butter because both have been touted to "kill you." Her food is delicious, but she never forces it on us. She has taught me the value of incorporating avocado, oats, olive oil, and whole wheat flour into my diet.
6) She doesn't complain.
-I recently learned that she dislikes unloading the dish drainer and dish washer, but she will do it whenever I'm out late at night because she knows I like to have it done before I go to bed.
7) She gives sacrificially.
-She always looks out for the needs of others before herself (Phil 2:4). It is very rare that she will buy something for herself. Rather, she is constantly picking up groceries for me, or supplies for Dad, or a little something extra special just to make our day.
8) She is humble.
-The woman has a bachelor's in nursing and could have been a nurse practitioner, yet she serves as the office manager for she and Dad's business. And she doesn't complain. See point six.
9) She is the model of a submissive wife.
-She is smart and has strong opinions, but after respectfully voicing them to Dad, defers to his final decision.
10) She values the welfare of others above her own ego.
-I will always remember a family hike from college when I found her trailing behind. She is a fit, fast hiker, and I didn't understand. "If I don't stay back with Dad," she said. "He won't hike." Mom wanted Dad with us, so gave up her hiking style to support Dad.
11) She knows the Bible.
-I am terrible with Bible references, but if I mention the concept of a verse, Mom can point me to its general location, without Bible Gateway, or a concordance.
12) She accepts her body.
-She eats healthfully and regularly and refuses to follow crazy diet fads. She trusts her body to do what it needs to do and does not freak out on days when her pants are tight.

13) She loves me.

-I would argue that a mother's influence is one of the strongest on a daughter's life. Many have not been blessed with a mother like mine, one that loves unconditionally, that prays, that gives unconditionally, that attends important life events, etc. God has truly blessed me.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Choose to be happy.

It was my birthday yesterday. And I found myself not allowing myself to be happy, stifling the joy, pleasure, and satisfaction of coworkers' greetings, not wanting to open my cards, wanting to pout. Choosing to be unhappy.

No, the day wasn't what I wanted it to be. I contracted a cold and my head hurt, my nose ran, and my body ached. I couldn't go for a morning run. I wasn't where I wanted to be in life. But you know what? I had a choice. I could choose to enjoy my morning, eat breakfast, read the cards, relish the gifts, laugh at people's comments, and LIVE, or I could choose to stew about what I couldn't do. I chose to be happy.

And it wasn't easy. The day didn't go as planned. I didn't get to finish group texting with my friends because my cell phone ran out of data. I didn't get to go out to Mexican food with my parents because it got late and the lines grew long. But these were my choices, too. I could have chosen to buy extra data, or to wait out the lines. But I chose to turn off data and ask to go home for a quesadilla. Yes, I was sad. I shed some tears at dinner, but I once again had choices: enjoy my day, or let data shortages and dinner ruin it. I chose to try to make the best of things.

Mom and Dad gave me gifts. I got to spend awhile on my computer. I finished off the evening with a movie and chocolate avocado frozen pudding. Overall, life is good, and God is always good. I need to choose to be grateful, to be thankful, to live in the light of God's love and be happy as often as I can. A lot of life is about choices

Friday, May 5, 2017

29.

I've made it a habit over the past few years to use my birthday as a time of reflection, both for the past, and for the future. I like groups of three, so here's the past and the future.

Three Favorite Memories From the Past Year:


The Patriot Run September 10, 2016-My family got to see me run for the first time, and I had the privilege of honoring the victims of September 11th, the Granite Mountain 19, and the men and women currently serving our country as part of fire departments, the military, and the police force.


Getting to know my sister-in-law better over Christmas-My brother and sister-in-law made a sacrifice to buy tickets to come out and visit us in Arizona. I love my brother, but it has been such a treat to get to know my sister-in-law better. She is a compassionate, kind, courageous, Christlike, and adventurous woman, and I love her so much!



Pat's Run April 22, 2017-Such a special weekend with my mom!



Three Goals for the Next Year:

This is the notorious "final question" of the traditional birthday questions. My friends know what I'm talking about. In the past, my goals have been along somewhat the same lines:
 2015-More philosophical than practical, but along the lines of love God, love others, and love self.




2016-More practical and specific. I actually accomplished the first two. The third one, eh, not so much. And I am not sure that falling in love with a guy/getting married is God's will for me. I'm working to accept that and find my place in the world as a single woman.

2017-My goals for this year revolve around that second point of my third goal for last year: loving myself. Since moving to Arizona/that first doctor's appointment where the nurse practitioner said I was weak and had potentially serious neurological problems, I've felt pretty crappy about myself. Physically, I think I'm stronger than ever before. I ran 4.2 miles with the fastest miles I've probably ever run,


but I still feel dissatisfied, not necessarily just with my body, but with myself over all. I just don't feel "at home" in this vessel. Mentally, I had that small breakdown in March, but before and after that, God has given me Holy Spirit perspective on a lot of tough situations. Yet somehow I don't feel like myself. Spiritually, I learned a ton from the True Woman 201 study and I enjoyed singing in the Christmas and Easter choirs at church. But I'm really struggling with understanding the church and what it should be about, especially after what I'd call a crisis in my local church. So without further ado, my three goals for next year center around health, mostly in physical ways, but in ways that I think will benefit my health as a corporate entity:

1) Eat satisfying foods instead of just whatever I find lying around. This means I need to cook more. I don't know how that will happen with my busy schedule and not having my own kitchen, but I can try.

2) Improve my sleep quality-My body started waking me up at 4 am sometime last fall, and it hasn't really stopped. I get up at 5 am every morning, purposefully, but I usually feel exhausted. Naps have been shorter in duration and less satisfying. I'd like to have more restful sleep. Sleep is so vital to good mental health.

3) Find what feels good-as far as exercise and life in general. I've experimented with yoga not once, but twice. I didn't like Yoga Revolution, but the phrase, "Find what feels good" has stuck with me. I've been trying to listen to my body more, especially as I trained for Pat's Run. I decreased my cardio (no HIIT and very little extra walking), lifted more weights (I'm up to a 40 pound deadlift, which is a lot for me!), and did more regular yoga. I'm still learning.

And that goes for the rest of life, too. I'm always learning. I won't "arrive" until heaven, but I'd like to become better in the next year. Until next May 5 and the BIG 3-0!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Train Wreck

So I, the college guidance coordinator, became a PE teacher today. The PE teacher planned to be absent and asked if I could take her classes hiking. "Sure," I said. I led a hiking club in the fall and had accompanied her on hikes before. It didn't seem like it should be that hard.

I dressed in my PE teacher best (e.g. dry-wick tee, yoga pants, and hiking boots) and set out from home early this morning. I felt pretty confident until I realized that the eighth hour teacher didn't know she was supposed to hike with me. (We need two adults to safely hike the trails located around our school.) I sent her an e-mail, but wasn't able to resolve the issue before my first hike. The first hike went okay, but came in very close to our time limits.




After the first hike, I needed to resolve the eighth hour issue and eat breakfast. The eighth hour teacher wasn't dressed for hiking, so she decided to do dodge ball with the students, which was actually a blessing, as it meant I could have an hour off.

On my way to lunch duty, I talked to the fifth hour teacher who was to accompany me. He didn't know about hiking either, but agreed to come. At lunch, the seventh hour teacher told me he didn't know about hiking either. He still said he'd help.

I felt pretty exhausted after that second hike. (Each hike was two miles round-trip, partly uphill, and the second hike was from 11:45-12:35.) The group of students was large. We almost ran late. Then, when I got back to my desk, I had multiple e-mails awaiting me in my inbox, a phone call to return, and lunch to eat, all in 50 minutes. A student needed to talk to me. I had text messages buzzing into my phone. Information overload. But I got it all done.

My legs burned that third time up the hill, but I made it, grateful that the eighth period teacher didn't need me to hike with her. The group of students was smaller and more manageable. We got back early. My boss thanked me for my help. So I guess maybe it wasn't a train wreck after all.

Moral of the story? Sometimes we talk ourselves into problems being bigger than they are. Sometimes changes of plans don't really make that big of a difference. Sometimes (probably most of the time), I can accomplish more than I think if I just take things one at a time.

Are you facing a situation that seems like a train wreck? Is life giving you more than you can bear? Don't dismiss the hard feelings, but do realize that it's easy to get sucked into the, "I can't" cycle. Take one thing at a time and see what God will do.