Every Journey Has a Beginning…

Welp. Here it goes. Playlist entitled “Acoustic Concentration” going and a glass of wine in hand (capitalizing a bit on some of that liquid courage, if you know what I mean), I’m finally sitting down to write. I’ve caught a bit of a writing bug that has been lying dormant for quite some time now. I don’t know, something’s been awakened where I feel like I have something to say. (Well, those of you that know me beg to differ, rightly stating that I tend to ALWAYS have something to say). Nonetheless, we will see where this takes me. And hopefully you’ll stick around with me for the ride. You like adventures, right?

Who am I? Fair question. Some days, I find myself asking myself the same question. Funny how that goes sometimes.

I, in my opinion, am many things. I’ll shoot a few at ya, and you can decide for yourself what you think.

First, I’ll give you the “elevator speech” version. You know what I’m saying, that college-ruled answer of the quickest synopsis of you. I’m a 27-year old female living in Milwaukee (Chicago born and raised, yikes) who has just gone through LOTS of adjustments in life. I’m talking major upheaval here, folks. Life as we know it has been completely turned upside down, and most days I am merely trying to find which way is up. I recently received full licensure and certification for my career (which was a total of a 4-year process), was recently married to my wonderful husband (shoutout!), we moved in together after the wedding and are in the midst of navigating this uncharted territory called marriage (ladies, living with a man is CULTURE SHOCK), and of course have recently rescued an oh-so-energetic boxer-lab mix who has so much love to share (who also apparently is not a fan of sleep). So the puppy-parent thing happened (aren’t you supposed to test the waters with a dog before you have a baby? At least that’s what my sources say!). But wait! There’s more 😉

I’m a daughter (not always the best one), and a friend (again, not always the best one). I’m also a wife (shoutout to the wonderful man who has hitched his wagon to mine!). I’m a musician by hobby and desire. It makes my soul awaken, and gives me a sense of purpose. I’m a listener by profession, and aiming to be by habit (it’s a work in progress, I’m not gonna lie). I’m a “go-getter” (some people have other words for this, but this is me putting it in a positive light. Why not!). I’m an expert worrier (oh yes. More on that later). I’m a control ADDICT, and addiction is truly what it relates to (yet a perfectionist in recovery!). I’m someone who has had a fair share of battles with weight and body image (honesty hour here). I’m an enjoyer of life (there is just so much here-sometimes I don’t stop and recognize it enough). I’m a frequent ingestor of caffeine (coffee, please, on the rocks.) And, I’m a sinner. But most importantly, I’m a girl who is seeking to allow Christ to fully captivate my heart and life. I’m a lover of Jesus.

Now here comes some vulnerability:

I think it’s important to state that about 2 years ago, I was absolutely MISERABLE. I’m talking run down into the ground, going 1,000 miles a minute, constantly trying to keep up with the over-arching demands of life, overly concerned with pleasing others, constantly saying “yes” when I really wanted to say “no”, placing everyone and everything else before myself-MISERABLE. I’m not even sure if people in my life truly knew just how miserable I was. I of course, being the independent female that I am, couldn’t dream of letting anyone see the broken pieces that were piling up inside of me. So I remained in this place (and honestly looking back, it probably started even sooner than 2 years ago) until I finally decided that enough was enough. This was not a way to live. This brutal time in my life came from a variety of sources (mainly self-created) and manifested into many consequences on my life-and I’m willing to lay it bare for you to see how and why it got to this point: and how each day is a battle away from the individual I used to be during that season of life. Maybe some of you can relate-we will see!

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That’s just a snipit. A little teaser, shall we say. I’m sure you will learn more along the way, maybe even some you DIDN’T need to know (um hello, TMI much?). Why am I doing this you ask? Haha, fair enough.

Like I said, I feel like I have something to say. However, because I feel like I always have something to say, I don’t always do enough reflecting as I ought to. I feel this is a very important element and practice of life, as it catalysts gratitude and positive growth (and I am all about that positive growth, you feel me?). They say (whoever “they” is) that you should always have a reason for doing something.

My reason? Because I want to encourage you that you are made for MORE.

Made for MORE than just being in “survival mode” due to the demands of this world. Made for MORE than constantly running yourself ragged in order to appear competent in the eyes of others. Made for MORE than being constantly depleted and not having enough energy to give to yourself and your loved ones.

As I lay the cards on the table, I’m hoping that my reflection and sharing of my journey may reach the hearts of you readers, and impact your walk of life as well-in any way that might mean for you. Whether it’s to say “I have never thought about it that way before” or “that’s just what I needed to hear”, or something even as simple (yet powerful) as “wow, me too”. And if its to say “Woah, this girl is off her ROCKER. Thank heavens I am not like her”, that’s fine too.

 

So what will you find here? You will find raw, honest truths. You will find hilarity in my mishaps of this journey we call life. You may also find some helpful insights into how you can embrace authenticity in your life and in your relationships-something that binds us together as a human race and connects us in ways that are seen and unseen.

Most importantly, you will find that you are likely not alone in your struggles. In your insecurities. In your fears. In your desires.

Let me walk this with you. And let’s be real. Together.

Stay tuned,

A.F.

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I Thought I Would Feel My “Most Beautiful” on My Wedding Day

Greetings, loving and supportive community! No wine or coffee in hand today, just Fresca (what is life coming to?).

It’s not secret that I have been married recently-tied the knot, hitched my wagon permanently to another, changed the Ms. to Mrs, all that jazz. What a wonderful blessing and challenge this has been all at the same time. While this might seem like I am going into a  “the joys of marriage”-based post, I actually have something less obvious I’d like to share on this.

Which leads me to my next point: Per one of my earlier posts (refresh your memory here) , we have established that my complete self-neglect and drive to be everything and everyone’s solution led to a large weight gain a few years back. One that became so obvious at such a breaking point for me in my life. Since then , I have been utilizing Weight Watchers for the past two and a half years to address this concern, and have had periods of both triumph and utter discouragement. It wouldn’t be a weight loss story without both of those aspects 😉

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Once I hit 83 pounds lost, (woohoo!) I thought to myself “Thank goodness! I’ve lost the weight, and while I still have more to go, I truly believe that I am going to feel my most beautiful on my wedding day!”.

However, the stress of wedding planning plus trying to earn credentialing in my career tailspun me back to old habits of putting everything before my new priorities: mainly, ME. I gained 25 pounds back in the course of 3 months and was completely and fervently angry at myself.

After all that work, after all that weight loss, the old thinking patterns and way of life could come back just like that. 

I don’t know if I merely got too comfortable, or if it is truly possible for certain seasons to bring out something that you felt like you had SQUASHED within yourself, but all I knew was I hadn’t been so disappointed in myself in quite some time.

I remember getting my second fitting done for my wedding gown, and there not being enough material to close the gown fully without some skin peeking out, and my seamstress asking me, “When did you pick this up?” My answer cut me to my core: “only one month ago.” AKA 10 pounds ago.

Thankfully, seamstresses are basically magicians with needles and threads and the gown was slightly altered in order to fit my new, slightly ragged, overly driven, slowly declining self.

I remember sitting down to dinner with my (then) fiance and finally being fully open with him about how much self-anger and disappointment I was experiencing at the time about this unexpected weight gain. “Of all the times for this to happen”, I tearfully choked out, “it’s happening near the day I thought I would feel my most beautiful”.

He encouraged me that holding on to the self-anger and self-disappointment was ultimately what was going to lead me to hold on to that physical weight.

Smart guy, that one. I definitely picked a smart one who knows me inside and out.

While I can see the difference in my body from our engagement photos to our wedding photos, I in no way felt any less beautiful when the day finally came to wed the man I cherish and adore. The union that Christ was blessing us with was the most beautiful thing in the room that day, and that was the way it was meant to be all along.

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So where am I now?

I’m still 20 pounds heavier than I was before “the slip” (hey, 20 is better than 25!), but what I am focusing on most is not necessarily the old habits that crept back in, but the self-anger that led me to hang onto the weight that was gained back. This was truly what led this to be a slip for me: I reinforced the gain with how I was thinking about myself at the time. How can someone who is at a loss with themselves and not seeing themselves worthy of care begin to invest in any aspect of their lives? This was the thinking pattern that I needed to wrestle with. This is the one I’m wrestling with each day afterward.

There are going to be days where this feels seamless, and days where this is going to feel near impossible. Like I mentioned before, for me, it is not entirely about diet and exercise. It is about the way in which I am seeing myself and what that means for how I prioritize my limits, my emotions, and my needs. 

For me, the feeling of “carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders” led to holding on to tangible weight as a result of this unsustainable mentality. I desire freedom from that. I believe I’ve been made for MORE than that.

One day at a time ❤

Stay tuned,

-AF

Late-Night Thoughts on Firstfruits

Firstfruits. What a random late night thought. Personally, I know I have heard this word many times while sitting in the pew, or even possibly as a youngster with a bad haircut in the Sunday school classroom (ah, the years of the mushroom haircut…thanks mom). But what does this word really mean?

The bible describes the concept beyond “firstfruits” in Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy itself is referred to as a “covenant renewal document”, with repetitious tones of the law and promise the Lord gives his people. The Lord speaks through Moses to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 26, emphasizing firstfruits as a response to the plenty the Lord provides:

“He brought us to this place and gave us this land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O Lord, have given me” (Deut. 26: 9-10a).

When I think of what “firstfruits” looked like to the Israelites in this day, I picture the first harvest, and the best of the best-something people likely want to hold on to.

This same mentality can still be applied today-when we see the benefit of “work”, or the signs of payoff or production, we often times want to keep that for ourselves (I know I fall into this category far too well). We may want to grip tightly to our payoffs for many reasons, some being the mentality of “I earned this, I deserve it!”, or “I absolutely need this”, to even “what if this is all that comes along? I can’t let this go.” To the above reasons, I’m not necessarily just meaning money. This can even relate to time (“I don’t have enough time!”), or how we approach opportunities (“What if nothing else comes along?”). Sound familiar? It sure does to me. We try to hang on to everything we possibly can in order to aim to sustain ourselves, or sometimes, even just stay afloat. We focus on storing up vs. living in the abundance that is.

But what does this say about our relationship with God? As we continue to live our lives as a response to him, God truly desires our “best”, all of us. Not the “bare minimum” to get by. Now I’m not saying this means to go off immediately after reading this and sell everything you own, but let me explain myself. The way we live out the time he has given, and what we do with what God has given us, is a direct reflection on our relationship with HIM. If I watch the offering plate go by week after week, justifying it with the ever-known reasoning of “I just don’t have any money to spare”, am I really trusting God to continue to provide for me? Or am I leaning more on myself to produce what I need? Or if I accept a job that I do not feel called to merely on the desperation of “I sincerely don’t think anything else is going to come along, so I might as well just take it”, am I operating on the belief that Christ will continue to guide and provide for me in a way that I might not understand? We shift the trust from our Creator to ourselves when we feel we just do not have anything to spare. This is scary, as the way we live shows the trust (and gratitude!) we have for our Provider.

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Oftentimes, firstfruits are a sign of “more to follow”, and an ever-present reminder that to offer up firstfruits is to live in confidence and trust that God’s promise of provision will be fulfilled. It is living dangerously! It is living in a way that is contrary to what the world teaches (plan! plan! plan! Every man for himself!). While I am a frequent flyer of the planning group, I too must operate on the principle that the way I use my time, gifts, and money is a direct reflection on my relationship with my Savior. This can also send a strong message to others, and to connect the dots between our “dangerous living” and the trust we have in our Savior, to give complete and full glory to God!

Giving of ourselves in a way to Christ while “balancing” the circumstances of this earthly life can be challenging. And this tends to look differently for each one of us. But when we shift the focus to “what I need” to “God will provide”, our actions tend to follow, with intentions stemming from a place of trust in God rather than relying on ourselves. And what a comfort. What. A. Comfort. Because I sure as heck can’t do it on my own. Ever though 9 times out of 10, I try to (more on that later!).

How can you live “dangerously” this week with your intentions and actions? It may be something as simple as meeting up with a friend that you know needs to hear Jesus in the midst of struggle rather than spending an extra hour after work at the office to tackle that to-do list. Maybe it means setting aside a financial contribution to the works of the ministry God is calling you to be a part of, even if you feel that there is not a penny to spare. Or maybe this means praying a bold prayer this week. I would love to hear how this looks for you.

From my heart to yours-Stay tuned,

-AF

One Lovely Blog Award-With Gratitude!

Hello, beautiful souls!

My heart is full today as I sit down to write this afternoon (as well as my glass, with some delicious homemade sangria I’m sipping on during this warm day! Interested in the recipe? Let me know!). I’m humbled today to be nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award-a writing recognition that features bloggers whose writing has sparked some interest and meaning in the eyes of viewers (what a wonderful experience!). Many thanks goes out to the wonderful Shawna at Whole Hearty Happy for this generous nomination. I’ve been enjoying her writing since I’ve hit the blogging scene. It is truly appreciated to be recognized-especially with being a new face to the blogging world :). During my first week of blogging, I’ve learned that readers are so supportive and encouraging, and truly desiring to hear what I have to say. I pray that I can continue to provide you with stories worth hearing, insights worth applying, and truths worth aligning with. Let’s be real, together!

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Rules:

Each nominee must thank the person who nominated them and link their blog in their post.

They must include the rules and add the blog award badge as an image.
Must add 7 facts about themselves.
Nominate 15 people to do the award!

7 Facts About Myself:

  1. I’m definitely full-on embracing the role of dog mama-and quickly!
  2. I’m newly married-which comes with its blessings and challenges (like sharing a clothes hamper with the hubs-does anyone else but me think that’s weird?!)
  3. I LOVE to try new coffee concessions as well as beer and wine styles-the more unique, the better!
  4. Anxiety has been an ongoing battle for me-you will see themes of that woven throughout my written works
  5. I’ve given more money to Bath and Body Works that I’d care to admit-I’m OBSESSED with soothing scents. Candles are a staple in our home
  6. I’m also a lyricist that takes great pleasure in putting fitting words to flowing melodies. I believe that music is truly a central mode of communication, and one that can tie us all together in ways that are unexplainable.
  7. I’m challenging myself to balance being realistic with being optimistic. Because a healthy mentality is healthy for the soul ❤

Nominees:

So Let Us Know

Tea and Tales

Mind Haven

Anxiety, Depression, and Me

Calrevoyant Curves

Courageous Yoga Chick

Sherina Speaks

Sensible Nonsense

Drizzle Me Skinny

Currently Lately

I Hate to Weight

Living in Stigma

Solace

Living Uncovered

Cooking with a Wallflower

 

Happy reading, all! Let gratitude overflow your day. And as always, stay tuned!

-AF

The Things I’m Striving to Let Go of

Oftentimes in life, we focus on what we would like to gain. Lately, I’ve spent more time focusing on what I’d like to lose. 

Author Lara Casey calls these things “weeds“: the elements that need to be ferociously pulled from our lives versus the tidbits that need to be nurtured and cultivated. Because (and I’m so learning), that essentially when we lose these elements, we have the opportunity to gain so much more.

This is such a central theme in my life: trying to tow the line in finding the balance in obtaining and releasing. 

That being said, I would love to clue you in on the areas of life in which I am trying to become free of. Those “weeds” that I’m slowly chipping away at pulling from my garden called life. The things that oftentimes get in the way of potential gains. Here goes:

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  1. An over-emphasis on the perceptions of others: This is something that has been more of a silent battle for me. On the outside, appearing a very outgoing, confident, out-spoken woman. However, my over-emphasis on others’ perceptions has caused me to over-work and over-committ myself in ways that I would never advise anyone to do. It’s also led to over-using “yes”, which has gotten me into a lotttttt of trouble.
  2. Constant accessibility: Here’s where I start to sound like an “old lady”. I wholeheartedly HATE the concept of always being able to be reached. With so many ways to communicate (both verbally as well as virtually), individuals tend to think there is little to no excuse for not “getting back to someone”. I would be the person who would take on such a tone of urgency whenever someone needed something of me, whether it was a work-related e-mail, or a social invite, or even just wanting to “catch up”. For what?! I am striving to let go of this sense of urgency and adopt the perspective that there is no rush when it comes to pace of communication (as well as the fact of being “off the grid” when I choose to be 🙂 ).
  3. Gymtimidation“: One of the staff members at the gym I attend threw this term out at me one day, and I was like “Yes, that’s exactly how I’m feeling!” I was having so much trouble stepping out of my comfort zone at the gym, whether that meant venturing over into a lesser-traveled strength training area, or even using a machine that I wasn’t 100% confident on what it actually did (hey now, some of those are STRANGE). I feel that since identifying what I was actually feeling and where that fear was coming from (hello, recovering perfectionist, remember?), I have felt more empowered to be able to modify this for myself, whether that’s taking more classes or even using funny-looking weight machines ;).
  4. Financial fear: ugh. Ugh. UGH. This is such a tough one for me. Growing up, a great emphasis was placed on working your butt off in order to be independently secure in terms of your finances. I’ve never worked less than 3 jobs at once in my life (UP UNTIL THIS YEAR, Holy guac), as was constantly urged by my parents to work work work and save save save. This “financial fear” mentality has led me to go through periods of out-of-control impulsive spending as well as periods in which I would have so much anxiety even buying the essentials. I remember those awful days standing in a corner of a grocery store aisle, having the false mentality that all eyes were on me and that my fear was somehow exposed, feeling on the verge of a panic attack staring at the items in my cart (all of which were essential, nothing over the top). This is something that still has such a powerful grip on me, and I see how it comes through in my hubby and I’s marriage. I’m still the type that is either constantly checking the bank account with a pit in the bottom of my stomach, or going weeks without looking at bank statements because the fear of the thought of being financially insecure is a fear that my body will avoid facing at all costs.
  5. Being everyone’s solution: I feel this one might need it’s own separate post, as this was the driving force to my excessive weight gain, unsustainable pace of living, and almost complete isolation 2 years back. In summary-I just cannot allow myself to be in this mentality, as well as have to view this is absolutely unrealistic. For my own health’s sake. Others in my life are also being challenged to accept this, as it has changed the way I act professionally, personally, and emotionally.

What are you challenging yourself to let go of in order to make gains in your life? Can you identify with any of these areas? I’d love to hear what’s on your heart. How lovely would it be for us to know we are not alone in these areas that grip us?

Stay tuned,

-AF

 

A Staple Recipe in our Home

On a dreary day like today, I LOVE to cook.  Here’s one of my fave recipes that I’ve modified in order to add a boost of healthy into a spin on a traditional dish. It’s quick, easy, and cheap! Plus, the hubs loves it 🙂

AF’s Fiesta Taco Chili (makes about 4 servings, but sometimes I just double this recipe if I want to bulk prep):

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey (either 93% or 99% lean)
  • 2 small cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1/2 small can green chilies
  • 1 can black beans; drained
  • 1 can kidney beans; drained
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

 

  1. Brown the turkey in a skillet; drain any fat
  2. Chop onion; drain and rinse beans
  3. Combine onion, beans, and ground turkey into crockpot (I spray the crockpot with nonstick spray or use a liner)
  4. Mix in tomato sauce, green chilies, taco seasoning, and chili powder.
  5. Cook in the crockpot on low for 6-7 hours
  6. Top with sour cream and green onion
  7. ENJOY THE AMAZINGNESS!

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Plus, it’s very Weight Watcher friendly (more on my continued journey through this later!)

Stay tuned fellow chili-lovers,

-AF

What am I REALLY Craving?

Ya’ll. I’m a recovering mindless and emotional eater.

Some days are better than others.

When we think about “being in relationship” with someone or something, we often think about 1) What we are contributing to the relationship and 2) What we are able to get out of the relationship (how it is significant to us). Now riddle yourself this: How familiar are you with your relationship with food? I know this may seem like a strange question, but think for a moment if you had to personify your relationship with food. Is it:

  • A vital relationship, one used for sustenance, energy, and feeling uplifted?
  • One of great comfort—an essential element used in coping and providing safety and comfort?
  • A “love-hate” relationship that tends to be inconsistent, intense, and at times even guilt-ridden?

We don’t often think about “personifying” our relationship with food, as food is an object. However, for most Americans, food goes beyond being merely an object (like this girl right here). Food tends to be an activity, a means to gather/come together, a cultural experience, an opportunity to create/experiment, and even a “comfort tool.” Scripture has long taught us that food is God’s means of helping his people to be sustained and have energy toward serving Him and furthering his kingdom—and what a wonderful gift this is. Unfortunately, like many wonderful gifts from God, we as sinful humans tend to twist and alter the purpose that God intended and created his gift to be. We at times tend to use food as:

  • A way to feel “in control” when life seems to be spinning out of control
  • An over-the-top comfort tool (satisfying our need for comfort through food)
  • A way to “pass the time”—even if our body is not in need at the time
  • A means to “numb” or “distract”—using food as a way to avoid a current struggle or situation

I think it’s safe to say that we all have fallen into one of these traps at one time or another—perhaps on a smaller scale like pulling out more cookies than our body needs after a tough day at the office, or even on a larger scale to the point where it becomes a consistent issue or worry. Wherever you lie on this spectrum, the following may apply to all: We need to pay more attention to our relationship with food!

When I say “pay more attention to our relationship with food,” I am talking about more than portion control and eating healthy food items (although these are also key elements of our relationship with food! However, this was not enough for me, and is not enough for most people). I am also talking about our emotional relationship with food, or our interpretation of the purpose that food serves in our lives. When we use food beyond the scope of what God designed it to be for his children (sustenance and energy), we may be digging ourselves into a hole of struggles.

What if we more often stopped and asked ourselves this question: What am I REALLY craving?

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At times, the answer may be very simple: “I’m craving FOOD! It’s past my lunchtime and I am running low on fuel and energy.” Fair enough! But if we really take the time to pause and ask ourselves this key question, we may find ourselves experiencing a variety of “cravings,” all of which we are trying to satiate with food:

“I’m actually feeling bored: I want to munch to pass the time when what I really desire is an enjoyable activity to engage in.”
“I’m really in need of comfort: I’m feeling insecure in the present situation, and want more than anything to feel calm and comforted.”
“What I really want right now is to feel more in control: life just seems to keep spinning, and I can’t seem to catch a grip on it. I really want to feel more in control in this moment.”
“My guilt is driving me right now: what I truly desire is to feel relieved of this shame and be able to be honest about the present situation.”
When we are clouded by these underlying emotions and “cravings,” food may seem to be the only answer to that current struggle. Food tends to provide us with that instant gratification and means of avoidance, but when looking deeper, food may be unable to satisfy the true underlying need we are experiencing. However, if we do not pause to ask ourselves the following key question before making our food decisions, it is truly difficult to see any alternative means of coping, or even that we may be craving something other than food: Am I really craving what I am physically putting into my mouth, or am I craving something deeper, like personal connection, safety, or enjoyment of my time? To satiate the TRUE “craving,” we need to know what our body is really asking of us. More times than not, the answer may not be food.

Maybe this post posed more questions than it did answers—which is great that you’re examining yourself in light of this! There is so much more I could say on this, and I would love to talk with you about your personal relationship with food, as well as some of the deeper underlying “cravings” you may be experiencing. It is essential to understand our bodies and what they truly need of us! I need to do this daily with myself, and need to surround myself with a supportive community that understands my need to do this.

So my tribe of emotional-eaters-in-recovery, holler at me!

Stay tuned,

-AF

From One Fellow NON MORNING Person to Another

I don’t know about you, but I am NOT a morning person. No sir.

I mean, I truly WISH I was a morning person. I look at all these chipper morning people, you know the kind, the kind of people that are up before dawn, get a work out in, have hustle-bustled around the house completing some chores, taking time to even meditate or do their devotions, and this is all before even heading to work. My goodness! I can barely wake up on time to have a cup of coffee before heading to work (#priorities).

While my example from above may be a bit on the extreme side (however, I have met people like this!), one of my goals is to reach a more comfortable shade of this. One of my absolute least favorite things in the world is feeling rushed. My anxiety is literally in tail-spin mode when I feel that I am rushed in any way, either by myself or someone else. I mean truly, who likes to feel pushed about like they have no time to even stop and breathe?! But how often is that how we live most mornings? With not even a second to spare? Being on “autopilot?”  I know I’ve been there far too many times. Particularly, this morning.

I am SO dragging this morning. Who’s with me?

SO, today’s blog post is on tips of how to beat the “morning slump” and kick-start your morning into a revitalizing, joyful experience (Or at least, a bearable one. Some days, that’s all I shoot for).

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  1. Begin your day with intentional gratitude. The Lord’s mercies are new each morning! Gratitude is not only an attitude, but a practice. When we make this practice intentional, it becomes a more habitual perspective of thinking, and modifies how we experience the life he has given us! What better a way to set the tone for the day than by taking in the world around us and giving thanks to the One who made it all possible? This can be done in a variety of ways, but I do have a few favorites:
  • Gratitude journaling: This can take as little as 3 minutes! Challenge yourself to put on your lens of gratitude in write down 3 ways you are thankful today. If you would like a more structured way to do this, Ann Voskamp has wonderful gratitude challenges to do this each day!
  • Take a gratitude walk: If morning activity is your thing, this could help you kill 2 birds with one stone! (I sincerely just realized how morbid this well-known phrase is…moving on!) A gratitude walk involves somewhere in your neighborhood, or in a favorite nature area, and verbalizing the beauty that you see in God’s creation. Really make this a full sensory experience and be intentional with what your senses take in!
  • Consistently involve gratitude in a morning prayer: set aside a time in your prayer life to not only ask of the Lord, but to merely give thanks
    • A holistic prayer style: PART
      • Praise: Use His names and give Him the glory- Almighty One! True Healer! Source of Life!
      • Admittance: Personal confessions to the Lord
      • Request: What we are asking of God
      • Thanksgiving: gratitude of our many earthly and spiritual blessings

*Many of these take anywhere from 3-20 minutes, so plan in what works best for your morning routine! Moral of the story:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.”-1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

 

  1. Set the Scene. Make your morning environment enjoyable! Who wants to revitalize themselves in an area that sucks the life out of you? Yikes! Pull open the blinds, crank up some favorite tunes, and get your body in motion! Sometimes, I even like to use some fresh scents to help awake my senses, such as a refreshing candle or some fruity lotions  (bath and Body Works has made SO much money off of me). Make the setting you awaken to somewhere that you look forward to engaging in!

 

  1. Skip the snooze button. Gah, this is sooooooooo tempting! This is my #1 vice when it comes to mornings. However, it is proven that continuing to engage your body in the “snoozing process” actually leads you to feeling more sluggish, and decreases your chances of actually getting up out of bed. Plus, when you continually snooze, you leave yourself with less time in the morning to do all the wonderful things that we are talking about here. So, do yourself a favor, and break up with Mr. Snooze! Sometimes, it takes people putting their alarm/phone across the room, so that when the alarm sounds, that physical act of getting out of bed is required.

 

  1. Plan out the day. Mornings are a wonderful time to get organized for the rest of your day. Take a review of your calendar, review any monthly/weekly goals you have set out for yourself (YAY! More on this later!), and if it is helpful, make a short to-do list for the day based off of your goals or obligations. This helps us to feel more organized and ready to take on the day.

 

  1. Take some personal time with God. This is probably the most important thing I can suggest to you. Our God has a relentless love for us, and craves time on our mind and calendars. Starting the day out with quiet time with our Savior is soooo revitalizing, my dears. It also helps us stay in the mindset to put God first, instead of having him get lost in the never-ending stream of our day. This can look different for everyone, but morning meditations and prayers, a short devotion with our coffee (holler!), and engaging in a bible-reading program are excellent ideas of how to do this. The point is to be intentional about our personal relationship with him by engaging in his Word to kick off our day. To be fully present in this time with him is hard, as I’m sure we fall into our mind wandering to the day ahead, but challenge yourself to be fully present with God as he opens up his mercies to you through his word.

 

There you have it! There are many more ways to engage yourself in the mornings, but here are a few of my favorites. I am so excited to hear what you all are involving in your morning routines! Share with me. I wanna know. Because I still need help on this each and every day.

I am by no means an expert, mearly someone who is navigating through these struggles with you.

Let’s be real. Together.

 

Stay tuned,

-AF

 

 

 

 

The Moment I Learned the Problem Wasn’t Diet and Exercise

Why hello there-You came back! I knew you would 😉

The rain has finally stopped (thank GOODNESS. Our dog literally has been having her witching hour nonstop during the storms), which means the sun is now able to trickle through the blinds and perform it’s familiar dance on the shadows on the wall. I of course have a heaping cup of coffee in my hands (you’ll begin to notice a theme here, folks) and am taking in the day one moment at a time (which is still difficult, might I add).

I figured it’s about time to make good on my promise from my first ever (EEEP) blog posting. I mentioned before that around 2 years ago, I was truly in a rough place. A running ragged, survival mode, putting myself on page 8 rough place. There was a great deal that contributed to this time in my life (external AND internal), and I feel that without knowing the details of this time as well as what I took away from it, you will not truly be able to authentically know me.

So here it goes. Please feel free to stop reading if your “warning, this gal just might be too out there for me” alarm starts going off in your mind (but I pray you stick with me 😉 ).

Around 2 years ago, I was in a place in my career that required me to accumulate a certain (LARGE) amount of supervised hours as well as take a state and national exam in order for me to become fully licensed and certified for my profession (which I might add, is an emotionally draining profession. Rewarding, but truly emotionally draining some days). Some of these hours were in fact unpaid hours, as full licensure is oftentimes needed to be reimbursed for this line of work. So what did this look like, you ask?

It’s hard for me to even admit this right now, but I became so obsessed with completing this process, “proving” myself, and being financially sufficient that at one point during this time, I was working a total of 4 jobs.

WHAT. No, your eyes did not deceive you. That is indeed the number 4.

I was running from one job location to the next like a hamster on a wheel. Going from working at one clinic, to zipping over to another clinic, to rushing to coordinate music for worship, to showing apartments in a leased community (which I had absolutely NO experience doing prior) for a bit of rent credit all while trying to maintain my roles as partner, friend, daughter, Christian, woman, and more. My drive for success and being perceived as capable was at an all-time high, driving my anxiety and self-consciousness through the ROOF. I was truly in survival mode.

One day I actually totaled up the number of hours I was spending at work each week. The number stared me in the face like the rudest awakening I had ever experienced. That number? It was 72.

Yowza.

Tired.png

But how could I work any less?! What would others think of me if I wasn’t constantly busying myself, or if I (GOD FORBID) ever left early one day or took a day off?! How would I appear competent in the eyes of others if I wasn’t running myself into the ground? Would I appear as if I didn’t care? Plus, at this time, I wore “run down and ragged” as a badge of honor. And THIS truly became the problem. Who would I be without this busyness?

It made me feel capable. It made me feel strong.

Yet it made me feel lonely. It made me feel frail.

I never saw my friends. I rarely spoke to my family. My anxiety drove me to act out in anger and fear, hurting those I loved. I would go through the motions day in and day out, to wake up and do it all over again. Life became about one thing and one thing only: doing and being MORE. 

You may notice I’ve been making mention to a couple numbers so far this post. There is one number that I will leave unsaid, but this number had to do with my weight.

During this time, I was at the heaviest I had ever been in my life. A number that I still to this day shudder at every moment I think of it. A number that reflected damaged health, stolen moments, and the true picture of self-neglect.

At one point, my grandmother (who is the person I am absolutely closest to in my entire family) made a comment that stated

“You used to be so beautiful.”

She didn’t mean anything hurtful by it, but it truly crushed me. Crushed me in a way that I have never felt crushed before.

So naturally I figure, I can fix this with diet and exercise. This truly just must be a “weight problem”, right? If I adjust those 2 things, everything should level out and I should be healthy again, right?!

But one day it clicked (and I could write a wholllllleeeeee other post about this specific moment): this is not a diet and exercise problem. This is a lifestyle problem.

I was constantly (and in the most selfish, roundabout way), consistently putting myself last. And putting everything and everyone else first. For my own selfish gain of feeling capable.

Everything I was experiencing during this time in my life-weight gain, anxiety, self-consciousness, isolation, fear, excessive fatigue, feelings of inadequacy-was driven by my lack of investing in myself. It had nothing to do with what was happening outside of me, and everything to do with what was happening inside of me.

balancing-stones

Diet and exercise would not be enough. I had to change the way I looked at myself, my roles, and my lifestyle.

This realization is what finally kick-started the self-reflection process to figure out what the real problem at hand was. The problem was my lack of investing in ME.

I felt so broken. But I needed that feeling of brokenness to grasp the motivation to make some major changes. And I’m still going through those changes-some days I do well, some days I feel like I fail myself and all those around me. Maybe you can relate on some level.

This just scratches the surface. You will notice themes of health, anxiety, and self-compassion through raw authenticity coming through in these blog postings. And now you have a piece of the puzzle to know that these themes are themes I struggle with day in and day out. And maybe you do too.

You are not alone. We are made for MORE than this.

Follow me as we can learn to live this out.

 

Stay tuned,

-AF.

 

 

 

When Doors Close

I’m just gonna jump right into it: It is extremely difficult to continue treading forward when it appears that many doors are closing. It takes a tremendous amount of effort and energy to remain motivated and hopeful when it seems that God has been closing many doors to opportunities, especially when these seem to happen so close in succession. No one wants a door slammed in their face! And I have truly been there myself, feeling as if nothing I’m doing is coming into fruition, and even getting to the point of doubting my own abilities and direction based upon the current circumstances of nothing seeming to “line up”.  Or even feeling that desire to have something transpire that just wasn’t in the timing for me (How I responded to this period in my life was a large component of that downward spiral I was explaining earlier-and I promise more on that soon!). And that perspective, my friends, is EXHAUSTING.

The apostle Paul might know a thing or two about this (ha.). In Acts 16, we find Paul and his comrades traveling throughout the region of Phygia and Galatia in order to preach the good news of the Gospel. The book of Acts goes on to say:

“When they came to the boarder of Mysia, the tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.”         -Acts 16:7-8

Now, it appears here that Paul’s intentions were very pure: He was seeking to preach the good news that had been placed on his heart by the Lord! Why would the Holy Spirit keep him from doing such a thing that seemed to be the perfect thing to do at the time? It seems almost “wrong” that an opportunity that appeared to be so fitting for Paul would become a “closed door”. Paul must have been beyond perplexed. Sounding familiar? I know it does to me. However, if we continue reading, we see God unfold his perfect and wise reasoning:

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”– Acts 16:9-10

 

Paul, originally dazed and confused as to why this would be happening, received a sign from God that explained this sudden change in what Paul had planned and felt was right for him at the time. A great door had now been opened to preach into the whole continent of Europe. It was there that Paul was truly needed most. Through closing this previous door that Paul had anticipated (and wanted) to walk through, God conserved Paul’s strength and remaining years in order to be utilized into more fruitful fields, where Paul was needed more. God was not punishing Paul by eliminating opportunities. God closed the way to the lesser in order to guide Paul to where He needed him most.

 Prayer

Sometimes we are SO stubborn (by the way, I am probably the most stubborn of all, WORD.). Sometimes, it takes God making something impossible for us to do in order for us to see that He is the one orchestrating our path and our future. What may look like a frustrating and hopeless circumstance of doors continuing to be slammed in our face no matter HOW hard we try may really be God’s way of saying “My way, not yours, dear child”. It is only when we place our full trust and confidence in Him that we experience the joy from “doors closing”.

 

What? Can we really find joy in a circumstance that makes it seem like I am hopeless, useless, and destined for nothing? YES! When we choose joy in these circumstances, we are displaying that we trust that God is using this to guide us toward more fruitful fields. Now, I am by NO means saying that this is easy, because it’s not. But, with this perspective we both gain and lose:

  • We LOSE hopelessness, frustration, self-doubt, anger, and fear
  • We GAIN confidence, purpose, patience, and motivation

 

I don’t know about you, but life is tough enough when I think I know what’s best. And still somehow, I seem to be wrong…more times than more times than I’d like to admit ;). And we may not receive this clear vision (such that Paul received in his dream guiding him where to preach),  but maybe that’s God call for us to surrender? We are to serve God as we think best. If we happen to be wrong, (THAT never happens), we need to trust God to correct and guide us-and sometimes He has to do this by slamming those doors! What seems like discouragement is really God’s ever-present nudge in the direction that he has laid out for us. I need this reminder: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” –Romans 12:12

 

How can we praise God for “closing doors”? OR, how can we shift the focus from discouragement to joy and trust? I’m still a major work-in-progress on this, and likely will be for quite some time. It’s that whole “control addict recovering perfectionist thing, right?!

But hey, you’ll have to wait for the next post for clarity on that 😉

Stay tuned,

-AF