Wednesday, October 8, 2014

To whom it may concern...

“It's a waste of time worrying about something that worry won't fix; 
it's about as useful as trying to feed your pet rock.”
~Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year

So, here's the deal.
In 2013, I whispered a prayer for help in becoming healthier.  That prayer has been answered through a number of ways including inspiring people, hard work (aka sweat and tears), and a new way of eating.
Do you know what the number one response is to me?
"Girl, you're wasting away."
To those of you who have not said this to me, thank you.
To those who have, you're forgiven.
To those who have thought it, but have not vocalized it, read this all the way through and then comment.
Let me explain what I hear when the words "wasting away" are spoken.
Expressed concern...passed judgement...unfounded admonishment.
Although slightly misplaced, let me assure you, the concern you are expressing to me is that I am not taking care of myself any longer.  You are also making a judgement call that I am losing too much weight. This judgement lends an ear to admonishment for "starving" myself, therefore, having an eating disorder.
Let me assure you of a few things...
1) I am taking better care of myself now than ever before in my life.
2a) I have lost weight over a period of 17 months now. Not overnight. Not by a "quick fix" diet. It has been by hard work. The sweat and tears kind of hard work.
2b) I have reached my goal weight and have happily plateaued, but this does not mean I am going to stop working out just as hard.
2c) I have used P90X and other Beach Body workouts for the last seven months.  You may not like them and that's okay.  They work for me.  Do what works for you.
2d) Trust me when I say that I have seen enough doctors and nurses, a bone and joint specialist, a physical therapist, and a chiropractor in the past year's time that if they saw any red flags they would have waved them by now. All they continue to do is ask me how I have done it and applaud my hard work. Hmm...
3) I am eating more food now than before. I am just eating cleaner and healthier foods every day and watching my serving sizes.
4) I love food. I love to bake, cook, and eat food of all kinds. I am not afraid of food. I no longer live to eat. I eat to live. There is a difference. I do NOT have an eating disorder.
What have I gained by losing weight?
workout3 Muscle.  Upper body, lower body, and core. All worked on each week, but not everything everyday.
Confidence.  How else would I be writing this?  How else would I have meddled in a friend's life to ask her if she's ready for her turn at a healthier life?  How else could have I shared before and after photos on social media?
workout5 A means of control.  I control what I eat.  I control if (not always when) I work out.
Energy.  I will not beat you in a foot race any day, but I will run with you.  My daily crashes have gone away and I feel a more steady stream of energy all day long.  My peak will always be evenings, but my mornings have improved greatly!
Support.  I have two accountability groups I engage with each day.  They motivate me and, I have been told by some, they are motivated by me, as well.  We share real life ups and downs.  We leave the comparisons behind and look forward to what goals we share and how to best get there together.
An outlet for stress.  God's grace, Jesus' love, others' prayers, working out, and coffee...cannot forget me through the wait, the diagnosis, the drama, the surgery, the recovery, the anxiety attacks, and the radiation therapy all assoicated with breast cancer.
A better definition of who I am.  No more do I question if I can do something.  I question the motive behind it and the sacrifices necessary to do it.  Then I either pursue it or let it go.  It is not "can I?".  It is "do I want it bad enough?"
So, you see, I am not wasting away.  The next stiff breeze will not knock me over.  If you are waiting for me to fail, my goal is to keep you waiting a long, long time. I tumble out of balance poses, my elbows flare on push ups and pull ups, my squats aren't always deep enough, and I enjoy a good dessert from time to time, but I keep on moving forward.
While I appreciate your concern, I do have one question for you...
Why wait until now to be concerned?
Society has this backwards when it is apparent someone has a problem with unhealthy eating and it is never addressed, but it's totally okay to get in their business when they are doing something about their weight and being successful at it.
Just my two cents worth.

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


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 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 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

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