Saturday, September 20, 2014

BMC 2014

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. 
 Psalm 119:105


Friday, September 19, 2014

She is...I am

capecodma

She's the places that she has a desire to visit.
She's the pieces of quotes that are splattered in ink in her favorite books.
She's the road trips she hopes to go on.
She's the beautiful characters that mesmerized her in her favorite books.
She's full of dreams, and I hope they one day come true.
~Alexa Evangelista



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

salt water therapy

saltwatertherapy You will keep the mind that is dependent on You
in perfect peace,
for it is trusting in You.
Isaiah 26:3

Some days I awaken from dreams that are simply of the "good ole days" kind. Friends and family and I enjoying life together. Sometimes crazy things; others believable. Yesterday morning, however, I awoke with lingering thoughts of the dream I had throughout the night. You know, the one that begins, wakes you up in a cold sweat, and then resumes where it left off as soon as you fall back to sleep.  It seemed so real. It was so believable.  It was so incredibly frightening.  It was also directly related to my morning's appointment taking place at 9:30 AM.
This does not often happen.  Most of my dreams are of the ridiculous kind...people and places intermingling in random situations.  When I do have a dream related to reality, I know my mind is consumed with whatever it is that is happening.
I knew this first appointment back at the women's imaging clinic would be tough.  My first screening since last October 16th's screening led to further screenings, a needle biopsy, my first ever MRI, and finally surgery.  With each procedure, my body had some interesting and increasingly painful reactions to the stress of the journey I was taking.
Interestingly enough, the results of the screening were not a concern of mine.  God has a plan.  He will take care of me.  It was getting through the procedure that caused me the most anxiety.  Not because it would be painful, but rather because I did not want to be "that" patient who passed out {again} or the person who had a panic attack while otherwise occupied, unable to move or breathe.  The reality that either [or both] of those things could happen hit hard on the drive over, resulting in me falling apart in the parking lot outside of the office.  While it was not a full blown panic attack (thankfully!), it was enough of one that it shook me to the core.  I was most likely the only person walking into the imaging center with puffy red eyes from crying.  At least I saw none other as I walked in and sat there awaiting my turn.
A song had come to mind as I was driving to my appointment and the anxiousness levels were rising. "Forever Reign" lyrics were a soothing balm as I sat in the parking lot and played it off of YouTube on my phone.
"You are peace. You are peace when my fear is crippling." begins one stanza.  Jesus is indeed my peace.  There is no other that can calm me like the name of Jesus whispered from my lips.  My situation did not change, but my awareness of His presence with me did.  It is no wonder in my mind why we sang this song in church on Sunday.  I needed these words, this truth.
Anxiety longs to steal my thoughts away from all else.  It is a struggle, in the moment, to do anything but breathe.  It is a learning process I am in to remain calm and keep my thoughts centered on Jesus when I am under attack by anxiety.  Thankfully, it is less often now that I experience panic attacks than back in the winter months.  With each appointment and each anniversary date that comes and goes, and with continued support from my amazing team of family, friends, and doctors, this, too, shall pass.
As the morning turned into the afternoon, I completed the salt water therapy trio.  Following the morning tears, was a good sweat session of plyometrics; completing the trio was a dip in our pool.
“The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.” ~Isak Dinesen

beyond the church walls

in this togetherEarlier this summer, our church had an opportunity to help a smaller church in Atlanta with a VBS for their community.  We met in a school every evening for a week.  The boys and I missed going the first night due to being out of town, but we joined in the second evening in order to answer a plea for help mowing the grass at the location.
Little did we know that God used that to draw us in that night and keep us returning for the remainder of the week.  You see, having missed that first night, I felt a disconnect, not sure it was our place to jump into after it had already begun. He showed me differently.
The boys and I had chosen to ride the church bus with everyone else. We were there to help mow the grass, but remained there for the VBS in order to catch a ride back on the bus.
The boys were given tasks in which they could help serve. I took a seat in the assembly area, not for sure of what I would be doing, until...
A young girl comes in, in tears, and has a confrontation with her older sisters right in front of where I am sitting.  I stand up and talk to the younger girl to try and figure out what the problem was.  She attaches herself to me in a matter of seconds and becomes my insta-shadow.  It is now apparent that I am going to be helping in the 3rd & 4th grade class. All week. :)
opening assembly
Overall, the week went well. Kids were loved on and we were loved on in return.  Serving outside of my comfort zone reminded me that I need to get out of my zone more often.
being crafty
The photo below is one of my favorites from the week. As we bowed for prayer at the end of music, I saw this happening before me...so sweet!
a lesson in prayer
My little shadow drew a picture of us together on the very first night. How could I not come back and see her?
she and I
After a trying day 4 on Thursday, we all made it through to enjoy the closing program on Friday night. Some of these children went to school here, but had never been on the stage in front of a crowd of people. It was sweet to get to see them perform our VBS songs for their parents and such.
younger kids closing ceremony closing assembly

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

a greater plan

Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.    Acts 14:19-20
Can you imagine what it took for Paul to get up and go back into that city?  The very city where the people who had stoned him within inches of his life, lived?
Courage is defined online at merriam-webster.com as "the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous."
When Googled, courage is said to be "strength in the face of pain or grief."
Life often presents hardships, failures, vulnerabilities...
You put yourself out there and wham!  Out of the blue something hits you that you never saw coming.
Perhaps you saw it coming and you could not or did not swerve out of its way.
Or, just maybe, you opened yourself up to a new idea or tried something new and it feels now that people are just watching and waiting for you to trip up or fall flat.
There are going to be those around us that hurt us.
Questions we have go unanswered.
Mysteries of all the "whys" in life are going to remain unsolved this side of heaven.
It takes courage to pull ourselves up by our boot straps an go back to walking again.
But, we will and we do.
There is a greater plan than we can see or understand.
God knows it.
If we know Him, we can trust His plan.
I am reminded of another verse, Acts 4:13...
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Our courage to get back up and to keep on going is rooted in and established by our relationship with the One who gave us this life to live in the first place.
Jesus gives even the most ordinary an extraordinary life to live.
Whether we have it all together or not doesn't matter so much because He's got this...He has me...right where He wants.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

the unspeakable struggle


orangutan2
Sitting on the couch watching the news and browsing fb at the same time, my eyes did not want to believe what the headlines were saying.  I really thought it was a cruel hoax going around on fb because the tv news had not reported it yet.
Then, it hit the screen as breaking news.
Robin Williams was found dead; apparent suicide.
That night, I sat numbed by the reality of it all; saddened by the disease that dictated this was his only way out. Mr. William's death has affected me deeply, unexpectedly.  I have been asking myself what has made his death different than, say, that of Andy Griffith, another of my all time favorite actors.
The answer most assuredly lies within this tragedy's cause itself...depression...or as I refer to it, the unspeakable struggle.  Not many want to talk about it and even fewer want to hear about it or believe it to be worthy topic for conversation.
If you have never suffered from depression, whether situational or clinical, stop right now and give thanks to God.
While I do not know the intricacies of clinical depression, I do know how situational depression and anxiety feels.
I did not talk about it much...most people would not even know if I were not typing this now. Mine was related to my cancer diagnosis and treatment journey that began last October.
As the weeks and months went by, my symptoms worsened.  Each week as I met with my radiology oncologist, she would ask the hard questions and I would say that I was fine.  I could handle it.
Until I could no longer.  Depression and anxiety handled me; they had all along.
I was in denial.  It's more than just a river in Egypt, you know.
Conversations in my head took place every day about how I believed in God and knew He was in control of everything, so these feelings surely needed to just be ignored.  I did not dwell on the negative, but the negative hung over me like a heaviness I have never known. I told myself and others that I have so much to be thankful for that I cannot let the negative dictate my outlook.  I told myself that I did not cry every day nor for long if I did, so it cannot be that bad.
But then...
Panic attacks.  Feeling overwhelmed in large groups.  Flat affect.  Sleeping twice as much as I normally do.
I was a psych major.  I know the danger signs.  I knew all along that I was in denial.  I knew I was suffering from depression and anxiety.  I knew what and how I was feeling was not me, but I was helpless at changing anything.
I broached the subject with a friend of mine who has also had cancer and a similar unspeakable struggle.  She wisely advised me to openly discuss this with my doctor.  To give myself grace through this time and allow myself to be helped were also good pieces of advice.  She told me the conversations I was having with myself about being strong and relying on God were good, but sometimes the strong thing to do is ask for additional help and to rely on God to send the right help.
To be okay with not being okay was tough.
Thankfully, my radiology team members were very understanding and supportive.
Thankfully, I actually went and filled my prescription that same day.
Thankfully, everyone around me in Kroger was too self consumed to notice that I was having a major panic attack standing there waiting on my medication to help stop my panic attacks.
Yes, that did happen.
Thankfully, I began to experience less anxiety and depression after a few days of taking my medication.
And, thankfully, once radiation ended, I was able to taper off my medication under my doctor's care and be free once again.
Many of us will never know the depths of depression as some do.  We may not live with it everyday like others.  This does not mean it does not exist.  It does not mean that we will never experience it to some degree.
Talk to someone if you are suffering silently.
I needed help and finally asked for it.
Once I spoke of my troubles with those who could do something to help me, I realized God was in control and at work in the entire situation all along.  He was working on me...stretching me, growing my faith, and providing for my needs unlike anyone else could have.
He is that good.
Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on You, and in Your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, You are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”   2 Chronicles 14:11

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

#TransformationTuesday

"But God has surely listened and has heard my prayer."  Psalm 66:19

As one who has struggled with weight all of my life, seeing the ups and downs in jean sizes became my reality.  I would lose some pounds only to face a stressor in life and see them return and bring friends along for the ride.  I spent years believing lies, yet secretly hoping for a better reality.  Lies that I am not capable of overcoming my sweet tooth and that I am just not the workout type, topped the list.  I have never really lacked self esteem or self confidence; I know who I am.  However, I know from personal experience, others define me by what they first see.  Having been a plus-size lady for years, I was treated differently, intentionally or not, when I dropped pounds.
My health journey to where I am today began back in 2010.
It is amazing that things do not happen accidentally, even if they seem to in the beginning.
Actually, as the pieces of my story have come together, this story begins way back in high school and college and can be read in this post.
In early 2010, I slipped on a patch of ice and hurt my back.  Firecrackers shooting up and down my back, kind of hurt.  I could not stand up straight, get up and down from sitting/lying without pain, or simply breathe/laugh with ease.  Everything I did or thought was first filtered through pain.
After 3 months, I decided that I could go to the doctor/physical therapist and pay them $ to tell me that I needed to lose weight and exercise more or I could just go start doing that on my own.  I joined the local Y in early May of that year.  Off and on, I would go and walk the track and use the elliptical.  After my back began to feel better on a more consistent basis, I met a wellness coach and she set me up on some weight machines.  I fell in love with lifting weights.  When I went to the Y, I also found myself drinking more water.  I enjoyed going to the Y, but the problem was the inconsistency of my going.
In January of 2011, I began a morning routine and that continued until summer.  Summer changed everything and it was hard to begin again come August.
So, I was a member of the Y and exercising more than before, but not seeing many results.  I did feel better, though.  My back was less troublesome.  This cycle kept repeating itself.  Off and on...on and off.
In April of 2013, having put on a lot of pounds again and feeling so totally controlled by sugar/carbs, I whispered a prayer for help.  Now, I am a Christian and prayer is not a new thing for me, but this prayer was a desperate plea for help.  I was under the influence of something I could not overcome on my own and I was wearing myself out trying.
The next 3 months were filled with one event after another that slowly, but surely, were an answer to that desperate plea for help.  I was learning how to eat less sugar/carbs, losing weight, and feeling better about my appearance.  It was not until August, however, that my thought processes changed and met up with what reality really was.  I saw a friend from high school post a challenge to do 100 push-ups and squats a day for 30 days.  That first day of those push ups/squats were actually easier than I thought they would be.  I had been gaining strength with my trips to the Y, but had never really put myself to the test to prove it until the challenge.
I found myself changing the way I thought about working out.
I challenged myself to do more and do it more consistently.  That 30 challenge turned into an everyday challenge.  I was making time to go work out at the Y, not trying to find some time.  I put more weight on my machines and logged more miles.  It began to pay off to the point where others were noticing the changes and commenting.  Inspiration was born from people I know personally as I saw what they were doing in spite of life's circumstances.
Amazing things.
Against the odds.
This would serve to be very important.
In October, when things were going well and I was seeing muscles in places I have never had them before, a little curveball called cancer entered the picture.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Found by a routine mammogram; stage 0 DCIS.  Treatment: surgery and radiation.
I remember meeting my surgeon for the first time. Through all her information, prognosis, and treatment suggestions, I held it together. I had not once shed a tear about my cancer diagnosis until the moment I opened my mouth to ask her if I could continue to keep on working out. It had become so meaningful to me and I had come so far.
I did not want to give cancer the opportunity to steal this from my life.
I did not want to give myself an excuse to let it.
Encouraged to keep on doing what I was doing and taking one day at a time, I left feeling confident.  Through surgery in November, recovery in December, and radiation in January-March, I fell hard into my workouts.  They were there before cancer.  I felt most like myself when at the Y.  I only missed a few days after surgery and the final week of radiation due to pain/exhaustion.  My friend from high school, a Beachbody coach, gave me great encouragement and helpful tips through my recovery.  It was so hard not doing anything, but my body needed to rest and recover.  So did my mind, but that's a story for another day.
Through the months of battling and holding on, I knew the next step was going to be big and one of faith.  The final avenue to cross in order for my prayer to be answered in full was at my feet.  I borrowed P90X from a friend and ordered a sample pack of Shakeology from my friend, now my coach, who posted the challenge back in August.  I began P90X and drinking Shakeology in April.  I have not looked back since.  In fact, I have ordered my own copy of P90X and 21 Day Fix and look forward to my next bag of Shakeology to arrive each month.
Since April of this year, I have lost over 10 inches and almost 10 pounds.  Since my prayer in April 2013, I have lost 40 pounds.  My God supplied every person and every thing I needed along my fitness journey.  Some characters were indeed characters, but played a pivotal role, nonetheless.
I can do more than I believed possible.
I can work hard, feel good, and see results.
You can too!
Knowledge is power.  Encouragement is key.  Beginning is the first step.  Take it!
I did and will never regret it.  Find something that works for you and get moving.

April 2013 Me and July 2014 Me...Praise God for answered prayer!