Saying it Out-Loud

Boy. It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?

It’s definitely been several weeks since I’ve sat down and allowed my fingers to glide along the keyboard in the form of one of these blog posts. We all have those seasons, don’t we?

Truth be told, my absence from writing for the past few weeks had nothing to do with the jam-packed nature of the weeks that have completed (in fact, things have slowed down quite a bit in the past few weeks-IMAGINE THAT). If anything, it was because I was feeling consumed by something I couldn’t quite identify until recently.

These past couple weeks have been difficult. And I mean difficult in a different kind of way than I’m used to handling. I found myself experiencing emotional sensations and behavioral changes that I tend to rarely see in myself. It wasn’t anything super intense-but then again, here I go already with “diminishing” that this could actually be a reality for me. Typing this out signifies that what I’m feeling is real, and while it is not what I’m used to experiencing (almost at the other end of the spectrum for me), it’s still my reality, pure and simple, at this point in time.

If you’ve been following my blog fairly closely, will will know that I’ve identified with experiencing anxiety for many years-dating back even further the more and more I examine it. I was at a place where I was proud of how I was managing this, and even got as far as experiencing little to no anxiety during the wedding planning prep (which is HUGE!). However, I find myself today facing a completely different battle, one that I didn’t think I would be facing at this time in life. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is just mearly not what I expected.

Depression is gripping me right now.

What I’m experiencing right now can be described as this (and maybe it’s not what you’d typically think of when you think of depression):

  • Finding it hard to care about…well, anything at all.
  • Low motivation for even the most simple of tasks, such as doing the dishes, checking my e-mail, taking a shower (I promise I’m following through with the last one 🙂 )
  • Extreme pitfalls in energy. I’m talking waking up feeling like I only slept 10 minutes. Falling asleep on the couch at 8pm sort of exhausted.
  • Wanting to just “lay around” or engage in numbing behaviors (mindless TV, eating crappy foods, no conversations, drinking, etc)
  • Feelings of powerlessness-like I’m feeling rooted in my circumstances and there is nothing I can do about them (while I know this is not true to reality)
  • Low sex drive (and extreme guilt over how this may be affecting my spouse. Especially since we are newlyweds. I feel a lot of shame over that right now.)
  • Weight gain (I’ve gained back 25 pounds of my 83 pounds lost. The internal dialogue I’m having with myself over this right now is not pretty)
  • Irritability/easily angered (enough for loved ones to notice and wonder what’s happening)

I’ll say one thing’s for sure: I’m not feeling sad. In fact, I’m not really feeling like I’m feeling anything at all. I’m feeling numb. 

And honestly, I just want to feel something. 

I’m not feeling unsafe. I’m not having unsafe thoughts-it’s not to that degree. But truly, I’m feeling numb. And right now, that’s the reality.

One night a few weeks ago, I told my husband “I really do want to feel better”. And for the first time in months, tears slowly trickled down my cheeks. I nuzzled my head into his chest and just rested with the hope that he knows I’m trying to do the best I can. And that I want to do more. For him. For me. He’s the most understanding man I’ve ever met. It was the most connected I’ve felt to him in weeks due to the depression.

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A couple weeks ago I had a thought while I was sitting in my office: “What if I just quit my job? Maybe I should do that.” I found myself wondering where is this coming from?love my job.

It was at that moment where I felt like someone else. Like someone not me. 

I e-mailed my therapist-the one that I have so much gratitude towards for helping me thrive above my anxiety. I described what I was experiencing, and her words confirmed what my heart was believing to be true:

“Hun, this sounds more like depression to me.”

Saying it out-loud makes it real.

 

And it’s okay. It’s okay to identify. It’s okay to keep coping. It’s okay to recognize that brokenness is part of our common tie to humanity.

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I was hesitant to publish this post; in fact, I had written this post several weeks back and kept it in my drafts folder, just sitting there. I think there will always be a part of me that leans away before leaning into vulnerability. Since I have written this, the past few weeks have appeared to look a bit “lighter”. We’ve had some unexpected challenges come our way, financially, medically, and work-wise. However, I still find myself able to stay afloat (some days it sure ain’t pretty), and for that I have to thank my Savior as well as my spouse, loving in-laws, and friends.

Sometimes the heavy weight is a reminder of the only One who can lift that from us. As well as the reminder that we are not meant to shoulder burdens alone.

Don’t allow yourself to feel alone in the pain-that is so far from the truth. It may not seem that way sometimes, but we are tied to something and someone SO much greater than ourselves.

 

And, people-if we truly let them-can surprise us with how much love and care they pour into us.

Always chugging on,

-AF

 

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What God Cultivated in the Midst of Anxiety

What an isolating feeling anxiety can be. The best way that I can describe this feeling based on past experiences would be drowning in the chaos of my own internal making.

Looking back, I think what appeared as a “particular, energetic, always on the go, over-achiever, independent, rebellious, resistant against family, forges her own path” type of girl was influenced heavily on what would only be identified years later as an anxiety-based disorder. One that needed to be recognized, addressed, and wrestled with.

And thank God for that. Because I can remember. I can remember the point when it was at it’s worst.

I remember back to days in college where I would go some nights with 1-3 hours of sleep (purposefully) and deem myself “FINE”, waking up the next morning and would go straight for 20 hours from one thing to the next, never to blink an eye or feel that rush of fatigue until days later when I would crash.

I remember spending large amounts of money that I didn’t have in an effort to feel a sense of control over what I felt was spiraling out of my reach. I remember bounced checks. Empty checking accounts. Overdraft fees. Shame. I remember the sobering realization that this only spiraled ME out of control. 

I also remember not being able to stop.

I remember being on my hands and knees at 3am scrubbing the counters, bathrooms, and tabletops raw to release all the pent-up energy that I had inside, energy that craved to be released (but of course, only in a way that allowed me to have more control over my environment).

I remember gaining close to 90 pounds from constantly trying to “outrun” my anxiety through taking on commitment after commitment, pushing harder and harder to reach perfection, forsaking anything my body and mind needed, all to think that would give me the sense of peace that I was yearning to feel in the midst of this struggle.

I remember going months without speaking to my parents, because the thought of facing my mother and hearing her say that I wasn’t “measuring up” was more than I could bear. Even the thought of it made me sick.

I remember checking and rechecking the locks on the doors to my apartment, forcing myself to believe that the more I was able to secure them, the more in control of my environment I could be, prohibiting anything unforeseen from happening. I remember not allowing myself to sleep until I did.

I remember saying “yes” to everything in a selfish effort to please everyone else in my life as well as deem myself “capable and worthwhile”. How sick this looks to me now.

I remember racking my brain ragged with thoughts of how I could push further, do more, BE more in order to ease my restless mind and heart.

I remember turning my back away from God and feeling like I had to be the one to be my own solution, along with everyone else’s.

I remember how tired-my gosh, how TIRED-I was, day in and day out. And how hopeless and hard on myself this made me feel. How most days Senior year of college, I would sleep the morning away just trying to grasp on to some small sense of revitalization, only to miss 75% of my 9am classes sessions, and ultimately, not showing up for a final exam. Just didn’t show.

I remember cancelling plans with friends time after time after time because I felt like I just had nothing left in me to give.

I remember feeling like nothing I could ever do would ever be enough. Enough for who? Me? My family? Everyone? All of them?

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I had to own this. I HAVE to own this. Because hints of this are still a part of me from time to time.

And how common this is. How truly common this is. I own this now not from a place of shame, but from a place of rawness, recognizing that in the midst of the battle (and from time to time, still on-going battle), God has been able to cultivate beauty even from this chaotic mess. I treasure these truths He has instilled, using my anxiety as a spokesperson in which He was able to speak to the inmost parts of me even when I wasn’t fully ready to listen:

Doing more does not MAKE you more. The world does not push us to believe this is true. God pushes us to believe this is true. It’s not about doing more to be more. Moving on to that next thing and revving up the hustle to achieve that sense of peace? Temporary. Not lasting. In fact, more draining than ever. My anxiety would drive me to be “go go GO” and I thought that was the solution. Slowing down has never felt so good.

Having anxiety does not mean you are a “weak Christian”. This took me a long time to wrap my head around. And I’ll be honest, I have heard loved ones who have told me “I can’t imagine ever feeling that way, I have my faith. You just need to pray more”. I even had a family member tell me this. How shaming that felt to me, without them even knowing. I had to accept that this was their lack of insight, and not the shame of who I was. While anxiety may always be a part of me, it does not fabricate itself from a place of “weak faith”. However, it can be a barrier to me engaging in the blessing of the ever-comforting presence of God, as well as the blessings he has placed around me. Faith is not the problem, but it is the solution. 

I have the capabilities to channel my anxiety in a healthy way. God has led me to encourage myself to use my anxiety to stay determined, organized, mindful, assertive, creative, and compassionate toward others who sing with the same battlesong I do. Do I do this daily? Not at all. Can I do this? Yes, through His strength.

You are not everyone’s solution. Period. Here more on my grappling with that here.

He is enough for me. I’d be lying if I said that I embraced this statement daily without hesitation, because that’s not real life. But I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that I don’t have to make it all happen; I merely need to step out in faith and listen to His voice as He calls me. No amount of striving, rushing, success, earthly love, family acceptance, financial security, physical health, and even my own goals will compare to what He has to offer me in Him. I’m so convicted in this.

No amount of striving, rushing, success, earthly love, family acceptance, financial security, physical health, and even my own goals will compare to what He has to offer me in Him.

Let’s keep each other accountable in this. You are not alone. You are made for MORE.

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So in an extremely counter-intuitive way (because that’s how life tends to work), I thank God for my anxiety. Because while I felt that it stripped and took so much away from me in some seasons of life, it was able to cultivate so much in me. HE was able to cultivate so much in me.

So while anxiety is still very much a part of me, I still feel liberated. I still feel more than it. I still believe He is more than it.

And I embrace that.

Stay tuned,

-AF

 

What Worked and What Didn’t: July in Review

8/1/17. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE greeting the first day of a new month (except if those months are November-March. Ew Winter).

I want to go back to a system that was working for me VERY well in the past (why do we drop things that work so well for us?! Ugh.). What I would do is each month, and the very end or very beginning of the next month, I would look back at the past month in a sort of reflective-review style and figure out “what worked” and “what didn’t work” in terms of goals and lifestyle. I feel like this type of reflection is important because it allows us to 1)see what changes might be beneficial to make and 2)allows us to praise ourselves on what IS working and what IS going well (which we often times overlook, well at least I tend to 😉 ).

So here I am to air out my “dirty laundry” of how I let some things go this month (why? Because brokenness and imperfection needs to be embraced and accepted), as well as pinpoint what was working well for the month of July:

What worked:

  • Consistent weekly date nights-making time to just be newlyweds and enjoy new experiences together! Also provided us with something to look forward to each week
  • Saying “no” to extra work obligations (this was a big step for me)-I turned down 2 presentation opportunities and a promotion this month in order to hold on to my sustainable work schedule, and I have NO regrets about this
  • Attending my weight watcher weigh-ins regularly, no matter how I thought the week had gone-I had extra accountability as well as my most consistent weight loss this month since November of last year 🙂
  • Checking out of “work mode” the moment I entered my car after work (I used to be a CONSTANT work planner at home, checking work e-mails at all times of the day from home-no more!). Overall, being less accessible
  • Making more time to invest in close friendships and family relations-making more of an effort to host people at our new home, meet up for coffee dates, and check in with loved ones (especially those who we knew were struggling a bit more)
  • Starting to get back into writing again (hence this blog) and investing in this area of expression and life

What didn’t work:

  • lack of paying close attention to our social spending-which dipped into our finances more than I am typically comfortable with
  • Not writing down a meal plan each week-how easy it can be at those times to just “pick something up on the way home” and not make the healthiest choices!
  • Inconsistent church attendance-due to travel, changing schedules, fatigue-what have you
  • Missing out on my group exercise classes that I like-I missed the variety in activity!
  • Lack of sleep-I was SUPER cranky and irritable at various times this month, and I know it was because my body was not getting the rest it needed. However, I don’t like that side of myself and don’t wish to see it more than I need to
  • Lack of group-based support-I think I’m recognizing I need more time with the sisters in Christ I have in my life on a group basis to discuss and support one another in the specific challenges and blessings that come along with being women
  • Lack of time in personal prayer as well as prayer with my partner-we need more of this in our lives

Even as I’m writing this, I’m recognizing that more things have worked this month that I thought. Sometimes when we are in the midst of a challenging or inconsistent season, it can be hard to see that there is blessing in the storm, and that things are going better than they feel. 

I’m a goal-oriented gal, but I also don’t believe that goals should run EVERY area of my life (I’ve developed a healthier, more balanced relationship with this over the last several months). However, I oftentimes find myself setting a few goals here and there over 5 main categories of my life: Financial, Health, Professional, Social, and Personal/Spiritual. Based on my reflection from above, here are some things I am challenging myself to stay accountable and intentional in (giving myself some grace every now and again 😉 ).

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Financial:

  1. Update our budget and budgeting app to reflect recent financial changes
  2. Weekly analyze/reflect back on our spending patterns (especially socially) to see how we are doing with our means

Health:

  1. Continue to regularly attend weekly Weight Watcher Meetings
  2. Use our new whiteboard (of course) to meal plan for the week before going grocery shopping-map out food prep days
  3. Encourage myself to schedule in 2 group fitness classes a month

Professional (not a big emphasis this next month):

  1. Continue to only check/respond to work-related e-mails/duties when at the office-my job is NOT on-call and I should not be inducing guilt on myself for this choice 🙂
  2. Continue to only schedule client appointments within office availability

Social:

  1. Host one larger gathering at our home (if our dog is ready for it!). If our dog is not ready for it, create a larger group outing to eliminate some of that pressure
  2. Invite 2 friends that I have been meaning to connect with out for coffee/drink dates
  3. Continue weekly date night (love this!)

Personal/Spiritual:

  1. Choose a devotional app that I enjoy and begin to incorporate this into my daily schedule
  2. Make a consistent effort to pray with my spouse each day
  3. Become more consistent in our church attendance
  4. Continue to write on this blog 3-4 times weekly

 

There ya have it! My reflections and intentions. I’d love to hear how your monthly reflections have gone, and what is on your heart and mind for the month of August. I’d love to provide any support I can!

Stay tuned,

-AF

Why I Gave Myself Permission to Turn Down a Promotion

Yup. You heard that right. I made a choice to walk away from an opportunity to “move forward and succeed”.

For those that maybe have gotten to know me a bit more on the WWW, this is not necessarily something that screams “Of course, that’s SO you!” In fact, it almost sounds like the complete opposite. No, someone else did not take over my body. No, it was not a dream.

It was actually me.

I work in a profession where we are paid by the “billable” hour, meaning time spent face-to-face with clients (let alone all the extra coordination, paperwork, and research that go into this job, which we are unfortunately NOT reimbursed for). Recently, I was given a promotional opportunity to enter into more of a supervisory role, meaning a financially stable salary-based position rather than what most of our employees at our agency have. This position would also have me be more involved with a special growing sector of our company, and take a bit more of a leadership role at my stationed site.

Sounds great right? Then why did I find myself saying “No“?

I feel like my “old habits” would have chastised me, saying “Why would you turn down an opportunity to become more financially sound when this is one of the largest things that causes you great anxiety?! Why wouldn’t you want to continue moving up the ladder in your career in order to be more esteemed and successful? Why would you say no to an agency you are loyal to, because what if they won’t think as highly of you if you don’t take this?! Why would you ever say no when you can in fact say yes?!

Gah. Aren’t those voices annoying?

Let me redeem myself here: I COULD have said yes. I certainly could have performed well in this role, as I do in fact have the experience, credentials, and qualities of one that would do well in a position such as this. It had nothing to do with not feeling equipped, or being fearful or insecure about how things would play out in that regard.

But here are the things I would have lost through this, (which I have realized have now become more important that the things I would have gained):

  • The flexibility my current work schedule provides, which is serving us greatly during this season of life
  • The freedom to work with a wide variety of individuals, as well as work specifically with the area of expertise that I am so passionate about
  • The sustainable workload that I have been working so hard at keeping myself accountable in
  • The freedom to make my own hours vs. have to work around other’s availability
  • My margin (OOOOOOH. Sincerely one of my favorite words). Meaning, the buffer that keeps us from getting too close to our ‘breaking point’. 

And when I look back on all this, what it came down to was truly this summation: I’m content. 

I’m content with where I’m at in my occupation at this time (well, aside from the ever-stressful financial aspect that comes along with this gig), but I truly at this time have no desire to do anything besides what I’m already doing at the agency. A promotion didn’t mean MORE to me, it meant LESS. I don’t have a burning urge to “do more, take on more, BE MORE!” like I had in the past. I saw what that did to me, and I DON’T want to go back there (if you’re scratching your head on what this means, read my explanation of that journey here.)

Sometimes, we have to empower ourselves to say no to even the “good” things to say yes to the “best” things. 

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I also have to remember that I am not everyone’s solution. What’s best for me might not match someone else’s desires for me. But that does not mean that I am not making a healthy choice for myself. It simply means we have different priorities at the time, and no one is going to look out for your priorities for you. That is within my responsibility.

I feel good about this. I feel relief through this. I feel freedom through this.

This is one of the largest aspects of self I am trying to nurture this season-giving myself the freedom to exercise “no” to even the good things. Keep ya posted 🙂

What types of “good things” have you had to say no to in order to say yes to the “best things” for yourself? I’d love to connect through this.

Stay tuned,

-AF

Mystery Blogger Award-with appreciation!

Good morning, fellow morning go-ers! The sun is bright. The breeze is cool. Most importantly: the coffee is strong.

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I am humbled to accept the nomination for The Mystery Blogger award! Kudos to Okoto Enigma for the creation of this particular award. Can I just say that I think it’s so neat that the blogging community has opportunities to “pay it forward” with recognition and gratitude? I am so appreciate of Sue over at “My Loud Bipolar Whispers” blog, where she bravely and authentically shares her journey, challenges, and triumphs. You can visit her here

So here are the rules of this award:

  • Name the creator of the award and link their blog.
  • Place the award logo or image within your blog post.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog in your post.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • Answer your nominator’s questions.
  • Nominate 10-20 people.
  • Ask your nominees 5 original questions of your choice.
  • Share 5 links to your best blog posts.
  • Notify each of your nominees by commenting on their blog.

I think I can manage that 😉

Three things about myself:

  • Coffee shops are my FAVE scene (surprise surprise). I’d take this over a bar (while I love my cocktails!) or restaurant any day.
  • I struggle a great deal with using the word “no” (I know, I know, I’m the ONLY one 😉 ). Fostering this and feeling empowered through this is probably one of my largest goals in this season of life!
  • My first interaction with my (now) husband occurred when he generously held the door open for me, and I opened the door next to him and said “no thanks, I got this”. Bold, much?!

Alright Sue, here are the answers to your questions! 🙂

  1. What is your favorite sport? My fave sport to play is volleyball, while my favorite sport to follow and watch is Hockey. The fast-paced nature of the sport and physical intensity it requires is incredible to me!
  2.  What is your favorite NFL Football team and do you watch football every Sunday?  Ahhhhh, sorry! I’m actually not a football fan-NHL all the way for me!!! Chicago Blackhawks is my team of choice. 
  3. Why do you write and why did you decide to write a blog? This is an awesome question-In all honesty, writing is probably my most secret passion. Not many people who know me (even those that have known me for quite some time) are aware of the fact that I adore writing. I guess it’s always been something I did just for ME, and never felt the need to share that with anybody else. However, that wonderful hubby of mine encouraged me that I should more actively share my written voice, and I don’t regret it! Through writing, I desire to share real, raw truths that hopefully many others can relate it. It won’t always be pretty. It won’t always be smooth. But it will always be authentic. Connecting with others through the written word in this thing we call life is now more of a draw to me than I’ve ever given myself permission to feel before ❤
  4. What is your favorite television show? Goodness, this is a hard one! Thank you Netflix for making this question so challenging. Currently, I’m a tad bit obsessed with physical challenge shows, such as “American Ninja Warrior” and “Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge”. I’m also a sucker for decor reality TV such as “Fixer Upper” and “Flea Market Flip”. But what will you catch me binge-watching on a rainy day? “One Tree Hill”. Don’t judge. 
  5. Besides writing, what is your favorite hobby and/or talent? MUSIC! I’m a musician by hobby and by passion. I sing as well as play flute, piccolo, some piano, and some guitar. I’m also involved in a worship band that musically leads worship through my husband and I’s church. My dad said I was singing the words before I was actually speaking the words 🙂

My 5 questions for my nominees to answer:

  1. What do you identify as your greatest accomplishment?
  2. What fear are you hoping to tackle?
  3. What’s your favorite type of beer/wine?
  4. If your personality were an animal (oh, boy), what would it be?
  5. What are the main passions/interests that show through in your blogs and why?

My lovely nominees are….(drum roll please…!)…….

Links to my 5 best (?) blog postings (I’m new to the blogging world, so here are 5 that I think are worth reading to learn a bit more about me and one of my themes!)

Happy blogging. Grateful living. Hopefully striving.

Stay tuned,

-AF

 

The First Things to Go (Ironically)

Yesterday evening, I was sitting in the pews getting ready to lead worship with the worship band that I sing for. One of our pastors (who is such a down to earth, wonderful man) sits behind me and casually states, “Hey! Haven’t seen you in a couple weeks. Give me the update: what’s new?”

It was a completely unassuming question, but I felt so convicted by it.

It was true, our pastor had not seen us in a few weeks, which was odd because my husband and I are very musically active in our church (I previously held a musical leadership position at our congregation before stepping into my new career role 2 years back). But at this point in time, everything seemed to be so inconsistent:

  • Getting married-a wonderful blessing, but still completely uncharted territory affecting living together, learning each other’s rhythms and routines, and trying to run a household together
  • Adopting a rescue dog-which we’ve been having some behavioral challenges with. She’s such a loving and giving animal, but I’d lying if I said this hasn’t turned our lives upside down a bit
  • Navigating a new pace at work-coming from a season of “way TOO much” to trying to find which balance is right at this time
  • Financial whirlwinds-combining money, trying to come to a balanced place on budgeting now for 2, being from 2 different worlds financially, unforseen expenses and the like.
  • Finally being more at peace with my anxiety, but noticing that the changes in life have in small ways led it to rear it’s head in instances that I don’t feel it warrants
  • Running on very little sleep due to some of these changes-which is something I have learned that I merely cannot become lax on.

Why is it that the most essential things are the first things to go in times of overwhelm or inconsistency?

I’m talking even baseline functions-or at least that’s how it is for me. The first things that tend to suffer (or even completely go) in times of overwhelm or topsy-turvey-ness (???) for me are:

  • Eating patterns
  • Sleep or relaxation/self-care patterns
  • Intentional time with my Savior
  • Investing in loved ones

Which is almost comical to me, as these are the building blocks for all other needs in my life. But when I’m overwhelmed (and overwhelmed isn’t even the more accurate term right now, but off-kilter“), they are the first things to slip.

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It is at times like these that “getting back to the basics” is essential. And quite honestly, very empowering to invest in, because they fuel so many other elements of life.

I feel like I have recognized this and have tried to take some meaningful steps toward that in this season in small ways. For example, meal planning and making a list before going to the grocery store so I can make sure my body is nourished with what it needs vs. what might be most convenient or thrown together, as well as devoting Saturday to having eyeball to eyeball quality time with individuals that my husband and I truly value. But there are still basics that need more attention at this time-and part of this post was (selfishly!) for my own recognition in this. Maybe you can relate, however!

It’s important to be aware of what are the first things that tend to “slip” for us when we are in a season of overwhelm, and this might look differently depending on who you are. But without this recognition, how can we recognize that we are “off-kilter” and in need of re-focus? Even more importantly, how can we recognize what we need to fuel us through this season of inconsistency?

Maybe you’re looking for more input and guidance on how to refocus when you find yourself falling into this pattern, and I promise that will come at a later post. This is merely to raise the awareness that has been slipping from my gaze for the past couple weeks, and to own to myself the need to “get back to basics”.

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What tend to be the first things to “slip” in your life when life throws curveballs your way? I’d love to hear your experiences and share in that with you-as well as include some of these in a follow-up post that will hopefully provide some light on how to get back on track in the essentials. As always, we all struggle in this more than we might realize ;). But that means there’s community, support, and hopefulness.

Stay tuned,

-AF

 

Not Your Ordinary Vocabulary Lesson: The Impact of our Words in our Minds

Does this sound familiar?

“I only exercised twice this week.”

“I cleaned only half of the apartment.”

“I didn’t do the other section of that report.”

“I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”

You may be wondering what all of these statements have in common. While on the surface level, these statements don’t seem particularly harmful. In fact, they may be coming from a place of truth and rationality. But if we dig a little deeper into the language and themes used in these statements, we find some common denominators:

Only
Didn’t do
Just
A sense of “not enough”

These are common words/phrases that we regularly use in everyday speech. These words are far from profanity, but can unexpectedly have some strong (and even negative) effects depending on how and why we use them in our speech (and especially to how they translate in our minds!).

Choice of language, while times overlooked and habitual (I mean, how many times a day do we think about this really?), can be a strong indicator of how we view the world and, even more crucially, how we view ourselves. Simple words such as just and only seem very harmless. In fact, these words are so common that it is likely many of us are unaware just how many times (and in what context) we use them. Word choice and the way in which we construct our language have the ability to set either a positive or negative tone for how we interpret situations, and even how we identify ourselves and our worth.

Why am I writing about this? Because this is a huge trap that I fall into without recognizing it!

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Take for example the woman on a mission to improve her overall health (who might tis be?!) . I step on the scale for my weekly weigh-in, and say to myself, “I only lost .5 pounds this week.” Notice how the word only is being used in this statement. What does this language structure lead me to think, believe, or do? Any of the following might be possible with the choice and use of the word only:

  • I may believe that it is not a weight loss to be celebrated, since it is “only” .5 pounds.
  • I  may then think I am  not doing “well” enough, leading me to feel discouraged and disheartened.
  • I may lose motivation to continue my health regimen, based on the feeling of not doing “well enough” in my health goals for the previous week.
  • I may further lose my sense of self-worth and self-esteem (which would be the ultimate loss that I’m not willing to lead myself back into).

While some of these may seem like drastic responses, the language that we use has a profound effect on our thoughts, feelings, and therefore, actions.

What happens when someone employs a simple word switch, changing “I only lost .5 pounds this week” to “I was able to lose .5 pounds this week!” While the situation itself has not changed, the way in which the situation is viewed can be drastically altered with a simple change of language. Now, instead of the responses we saw previously, we might see any of the following:

  • I celebrate the .5-pound weight loss, even if it is smaller than I anticipated.
  • I feel proud of my accomplishment for the week.
  • I am motivated to keep up with my health regimen and even improve into next week.
  • I share this with others while than allow potential shame to keep me in silence

Language is a powerful tool that influences our thoughts, feelings, and reactions, as well as our lifestyle Language even reflects how we frame our self-identity. Without meaning to, we have the power to belittle ourselves and our efforts based upon the language that we use. But we thankfully also have the capability to empower and acknowledge our God-given gifts and accomplishments by how we choose to structure our speech. This speech can include both verbal communication and our own thoughts. We have more power to influence ourselves than we think!

A couple years back, a contestant on the Miss America Pageant composed a personal monologue for the talent portion of the competition. She entered the stage in her nursing scrubs, which seemed a bit unconventional to the audience. The contestant then proceeded to perform the monologue based upon her experience as a nurse. The monologue centered on her experience with a particular patient that changed her entire view of her career and, in turn, her personal identity. Numerous times, the patient would ask for changes in his medication and in his treatment plan, and the contestant would reply, “I’m sorry; I’m only a nurse.” While the contestant was merely trying to explain why she could not perform the tasks for the patient, the statement “I’m only a nurse” began to stick with her and became part of her habitual language.

One day, after the contestant stated again, “I’m sorry; I’m only a nurse,” the patient replied: “You’re not only a nurse: You’re MY nurse, and a nurse that cared for me when it was probably most difficult to care. I appreciate you, and all that you do.” The contestant noted that that was a turning point in her career and in her identity. “Only” was holding her back. Her language inhibited her from reaching a sense of full appreciation for what she was able to do each day, seeing the value in her work, and ultimately, in herself.

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My challenge for you (AND for myself) is to be mindful of the language you use this week. Be aware of what message you are sending to others, and yourself, by the way in which you structure your speech to communicate your views of yourself and others. Utilize language to empower and encourage yourself, as this can have a profound and lasting effect. As God created his people and our mission on earth as “one body with many parts” (1 Corinthians 12:12), let us too take pride in the role we play in this life through our accomplishments, characteristics, and strength we find in Him!

Because let’s be real: life is far more fulfilling when we are not the ones placing ourselves in chains that we do not need.

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

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

 

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.

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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.

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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.