By Rachel Clark | Guest Blogger
Puberty had never been quite normal for me. I didn’t get my period until I was almost 15, my 12-year-old molars still haven’t completely come in (I’m currently 20), and I went from being stick thin to putting on 8-10lbs in one month at the age of 16.
That weird period of weight gain was the start of my health getting much, much worse. My face bloated up, I was constantly nauseous and constipated, and I missed a couple of months worth of periods. I was also prone to huge mood swings, despite my generally happy, levelheaded personality.
What really ticked me off to knowing something was wrong was when I started developing painful, cystic acne at the age of 18. The summer before I left for college, the skin on my face, back, and chest was constantly inflamed and bumpy. I cried, as in bawled, almost every day.
I went to college and my freshman year was an extreme roller coaster of health issues and emotions. During the second semester in January, the ovarian region on my stomach began to throb nonstop for a week. I spent all of my free time lying in bed, only getting up to eat, go to the bathroom (which was unusually often), and drag myself to class.
I felt tired, teary, and just overall sick for the next few months. Then in March, I doubled over to what was the worst pain of my life. My roommate and neighbor freaked out and debated taking me to the hospital, wondering if it was something like appendicitis. After a horrifying 10 minutes, the pain subsided to a dull ache, occasionally interrupted by shooting pain. Having medically savvy parents and me being a pre-nursing student, I knew the dull pain was not due to something acute like appendicitis. I took pain reliever round the clock for over a week, and was told by a physician’s assistant a few weeks later that my pain over the past few months had been due to ovarian cysts.
Despite continual stomach pain, daily crying, and painful acne, I finished my freshman year. I still look back and wonder how I did it, remembering the horrible feelings of pain and hopelessness I felt so often when waking up each morning.
After I returned home for the summer, I went and saw a Napro physician in my hometown of Houston, TX. She drew labs, performed a transvaginal ultrasound, and diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS.
I still remember the doctor sitting in front of me and showing me the ultrasound picture. “Do you see those pearl looking dots? Those are all the cysts on your ovaries. They have made your ovaries very swollen, 3x the size they should be, to be specific.”
PCOS, I learned, is caused by your body making too much male hormone (testosterone) and not enough female hormones (progesterone and or estrogen.) In my case, my body makes almost no progesterone and only a little estrogen, and WAY too much testosterone.
This extreme imbalance of my hormones is why I suffer from symptoms like acne, mood swings, and ovarian cysts. The pain that I felt in January and March of my freshman year were from cysts getting too big and eventually rupturing (which was cause for the excruciating pain.) When an ovarian cyst swells and ruptures, it pushes on your bladder, making you urinate frequently. It can also cause fever and an overall flu-like feeling because of all the ruptured fluid, which causes inflammation in your abdominal cavity (my stomach was so swollen I could have passed for being newly pregnant.)
And the weight gain and my puffy bloated face? Because hormones pretty much affect every aspect of your body, I had insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, to put simply, is when your cells cannot properly breakdown and digest sugars, like from sweets and starchy food/carbohydrates. This leads to weight gain and being easily bloated.
While I was grateful for this wealth of information, I was also very overwhelmed and eager to know what I had to do to “fix it.” Most healthcare providers will prescribe birth control. Birth control, though, essentially just puts a band-aid on the problem. The root cause of PCOS is a hormone imbalance, and all birth control does is stop your period to stop your hormones from working. This does not help anyone get better and usually just complicates health problems even more when a woman gets married and wants to have children. Since birth control puts the brakes on your hormone production, when a woman wants to get pregnant, her hormones at best are still imbalanced and need treatment, and at worst even more unbalanced and untreatable from the birth control’s effects.
Napro, however, seeks to help and heal women by prescribing natural treatments to balance out and correct the hormone levels.
If you or someone you know suffers from irregular or painful periods, abnormal acne, mood swings, stomach problems or most commonly, “I just feel tired all the time,” you very well may have a hormone disorder. You may not even have PCOS, you may have endometriosis (which is a topic for another day) or you might just lack or produce a little too much of a hormone (like thyroid, cortisol, etc.)
Hormonal diseases are horrifically under diagnosed in the healthcare field. I am still shocked when I hear from my friends or other women that they experience a lack of periods or extreme pain during them, abnormal weight gain, adult acne, the list goes on. This is because most doctors will default to putting women on birth control, and often people go on silently suffering for years, never understanding why they suffer from these unpleasant and sometimes debilitating health problems.
While this may sound cliché, you owe it to yourself to feel healthy and happy. Life is hard enough as is, and the last thing any young girl, college student, mom, or any woman needs is an overbearing, constant lack of good health.
Please, please, do not hesitate to a) shoot me an email or b) find a Napro Physician in your area. I know too well what it is like to be in pain all the time. I know what it is like to not know why you cry so much, and hate feeling sad and not like yourself. I know what it is like to feel the painful and swollen acne and crave having normal skin. I know what it is like to sit at a table with your friends and desperately wish you could have pizza and ice cream without feeling sick or gain weight. Trust me, I know.
I have learned in the worst of times, you can always choose joy in the suffering. And I know that all trials, including my own, are just part of the cross God has given me so I can get to Heaven.
Resources: I would love to hear from you and help any way I can!
Napro Physicians in Your Area:
P.S. You are enough.
By Arden Whitehurst | Guest Blogger
You are seen. You may feel invisible. You may feel at times that you don’t exist. You may wonder if you have an invisibility cloak that hides you from the view of all guys. But, you are seen. You may not have guys clamoring for your attention, but you are still seen. At parties, you may be the girl who stands alone. At dances, you may be the girl who is never asked to dance. In your friend group, you may be the only one without a “significant other.” All of this may be true, but the real truth is you are seen.
You are known. You may look around you and feel as if there isn’t a soul in the room who really knows you. You may feel like no one, especially guys, would ever care to know you. You may be discouraged and feel alone. But, you are known. You may not have guys lining up to talk with you or even a date in the near future, but you are still known. All of this may be true, but the truest truth is that you are known.
You are beautiful. You are. You’re probably rolling your eyes or laughing under your breath right about now, but it’s true. You may not have guys fawning over your outward appearance or gushing about your beauty. You might not have a guy that tells you you’re beautiful daily. You may feel unattractive or plain on your best day, but the truth is that you are beautiful.
You are loved. You may have been hurt in the past or simply overlooked. You may feel unlovable. You may believe that there is nothing about you for a man to love, but you are wrong. Please hear this: You. Are. Loved. You may have moments, memories, that seem to prove that contrary, but the truest thing about you as a human is this, you are loved.
You are worthy. You are worthy of love and affection. You may not consider yourself worthy of anything, much less of love and affection. You may have been told you are unworthy or had a guy in your life that made you feel unworthy of good. You may have done, been, said, seen things that left you feeling completely unworthy of affection. You may simply believe, for whatever reason, that you are inherently unworthy regardless of anything you do. But that, my friend, is simply not true. You are worthy.
So, to the girl without a date, you are seen. Even if you are overlooked in the moment and feel invisible in a sea of pretty girls, you are seen by the Father. Even if no one asks you to dance or looks your way, you are still seen. You are seen by El Roi, the God who sees. No matter where you go, you will always be seen by Him. There is not a place you can run that will hide you from His gaze.
To the girl without a date, you are known. You may look around and see the couples, hear the stories and feel alone, unknown, unworthy of being known. But you are not alone and you are entirely known. In fact, you were known before the beginning of all time. Even if no guy is putting forth effort to know you right now, that’s not because you aren’t worth being known. God sees you and wants to know you intimately. He wants nothing more than to spend time with you. He wants to capture your attention and to have a relationship with you. You are known by your Father from the inside out.
To the girl without a date, you are beautiful. You probably look around and see the girls that have guys fighting for their attention and wonder what makes them more appealing, what do they have that you don’t? I bet you come to this conclusion – they’re more beautiful, thinner, funnier, or outgoing, more fun and flirty, more of everything that you are not. But I want to challenge that. They are beautiful, but so are you. You are altogether beautiful and there is no flaw in you because you were perfectly made in the image of a perfect Father.
To the girl without a date, you are loved. There doesn’t have to be a “prince charming” in your life for you to be loved. If you remember nothing else, remember this – you are loved. You are SO loved. So loved that someone died for you. And better yet, He died to save your life. Is there a better, more novel worthy love than that?
Lastly, to the girl without a date (or the girl with the wrong date), hear this: you are worthy. You are worthy of a man who will respect and cherish you. You are worthy of a guy that treats you with patience and gentleness. You are worthy of a gentlemen and of being treated like a lady. So, be that lady and wait for a gentlemen. Because you are worth waiting for.
I will leave you with this: You do not need to be thinner or taller or funnier or smarter or more talented and flirtatious or anything else. You are seen, known, beautiful, loved and worthy just as you are, date or no date.
P.S. You are enough.
By Tori Vissat | Guest Blogger
The desires seem to be sitting on my shoulder for all to see.
They are exposed, sometimes painful and sometimes beautiful.
But I know that they are always on some level, very beautiful…because God is the author of them. For the longest time, I hardened my heart to authentic love.
To pure love. To a love that only gives. To a love that mirrors the love of Christ, This is My body, given up for you.
How truly wonderful it would be if one day my Lord would allow that to be a reality for me, with another person, on our wedding night.
But with all good things, the devil himself waits to destroy these thoughts!
“Those desires are not from your Father! You made them up…you are crazy to think that would happen! You are far too bad for God to fill your hearts greatest ache!”
And so it is, the great battle wages on the one where I must make a free choice over and over again to believe that my Father is good, to say “yes” like Mary that what was promised would be fulfilled and to cry out like Peter, Yes Lord, you know that I love you.
Jesus’ timing is not mine. I cannot be like Eve and grasp for what I think I need and want. I must wait in the silence sitting with the ache in my heart. For the greatest of these is hope and hope will not disappoint.
P.S. You are enough.
By Maura Preszler | Founder of Made in His Image
I recently found this photo on my husband’s computer and my eyes welled with tears of joy and gratitude upon seeing it. And not for vain reasons, because let’s be clear, at this point I’ve been in labor for about seventeen hours without medication. I know right, what was I thinking? I have thirty pounds strapped to my stomach, haven’t eaten all day and they wouldn’t even let me have my trusty cranberry juice (at least I’ll have my cranberry juice, I thought to myself when I knew I couldn’t eat) and have been to the bathroom all over myself and the nurses (bringing a tiny human into the world makes one lose more than just sleep).
During my pregnancy women would say to me, Oh you’re pregnant, don’t you just love it? Or, I loved everything about being pregnant. Then I felt like a bad mom because no, I didn’t like being pregnant. To be honest, I thought I was literally going to explode at times.
So yeah I wasn’t feeling so hot in this picture. But I love this photo for the beauty of the journey this has been for me and for the healing our Father has blessed me with. Being pregnant was extremely difficult for me, my depression returned, I gained 30 pounds which was extremely hard for me with my past eating disorder struggles had insomnia for 9 months, heart burn and acid reflux (yeah I never got “the glow”). I waited for it, trust me I did, but it didn’t come. But what I did receive was the greatest gift and blessing, our precious son to raise as a saint for the Kingdom of God and a deeper understanding of our Heavenly Father’s love for us.
When I was in therapy for my recovery I decided that I was going to offer up each session and homework activity for my future children. So when therapy, seemed unbearable, or I had to draw or describe events and bodies that I thought I would never be able to do, I would close my eyes and picture what my future children might look like. I imagined their tiny hands and toes and how I would desire to surround them with love and tenderness. I thought about all that I would want to teach them about God the Father, Jesus, Mary and the Saints. Then I thought about how strong I would need to be for them and how much I needed to grow and heal before I could get married and have children. Then I closed my eyes gently, as I opened my doctor’s office door and proceed to another therapy session.
That day during labor, I knew what I had tried to do for Pio and I couldn’t wait to meet the precious boy who had inspired my healing. So yes, I love this picture and as odd as it may sound I loved that day of labor because it reminded me of where I’ve been and how much God in His goodness has blessed and healed me. Since Pio’s birth I haven’t struggled a day with depression. I’m so thankful that I imperfectly surrendered my recovery and vocation to Him. He indeed took and continues to take my brokenness and has turned it and continues to turn it into His beauty.
P.S. You are enough.
By Maura Preszler | Founder of Made in His Image
For most of my life I’ve wrestled with the questions, Where is God in abuse? What’s He doing while it’s happening? What’s He thinking? What’s He feeling?
Last night I read an article about how Pope Francis met with five adult survivors of sexual abuse by priests while he was in Philadelphia. I’ve always loved Pope Francis but was really touched that he would do that. Most people just ignore it, as if it never happened, as if not talking about it would cause it to go away. I was moved that Pope Francis desires to expose the evil of abuse for what it really is – evil. He is the Vicar of Christ and is leading his people by example, not just by words.
I continued to read the article and his words penetrated my heart so deeply. “I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused them grievous harm. I am profoundly sorry. God weeps.”
I started crying. “God weeps.”
I said it over and over again. Maura, this is where God is in abuse. This is what He is doing, this is what He is thinking and this is what He is feeling. He is weeping. He is weeping for His precious children. He was weeping for you. He was weeping for you Maura. I wept. If I could go back and tell my younger self anything, I would tell myself that God was weeping for my pain.
I use to think, could I have done something to make it stop? Why did this happen to me? Was it my fault? Could I have fought back harder. It must have been because I was weak, if only I had been tougher. Maybe it was because I was bad?
It’s okay to think those thoughts initially. My doctor use to say that such a response was only normal. But it’s important to claim these thoughts for what they are.
These are nothing but lies, from the king of evil. The devil. And we need to recognize that so we don’t dwell on it. What I have learned in my journey of healing is that God gives us free will and while He doesn’t will evil to happen, He allows it because He will not take away our free will. It is up to us to decide how we will use this gift He has given to us, some use it to harm others (abuse) others for good. While abuse is always evil, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you. Because God has given us free will, He could not physically stop your abuser from hurting you, because that would have been going against His very nature as God. He does not force His children to make the correct choices in regards to our freedom. While God desires nothing more than your protection and safety, He can not force people to follow Him. Therefore, because of our fallen nature, evil is prevalent in the world.
Pope Francis continued to say, “The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret. Abuse survivors have become true heralds of hope and ministers of mercy. We humbly owe each one of you and your families our gratitude for your immense courage to shine the light of Christ on the evil of the sexual abuse of children.”
And this goes for all abuse survivors. And I want to challenge you to bring abuse to the light. The horrific evil of abuse must be exposed and not remain hidden in the dark. It must be brought to the light, no matter how hard that is. Left in the dark, it festers and becomes an uncontrollable monster covered in shame and self-hatred, which leads to mental illnesses and at times suicide. Although very difficult, exposed to the light, justice can be served and true healing began. Because in the end, a person can either own the abuse or it will own you. And this is why abuse is oftentimes generational, because it becomes a learned pattern. And when someone is exposed to abuse at a young age it becomes a learned behavior for them and when provoked or stressed they revert to the only behavior they know – abuse. And so it repeats itself, generation after generation.
But the time is now to fight for freedom. To fight for your recovery to fight for your future. The only person that can change your future is you. Yes, abuse is horrific and there is no excusing it, but you don’t have to let it define you. There comes a point in life where you need to decide, you need to make the choice to be a survivor, and not a victim. You need to move on. You need to start your own life free from the shackles of being a victim. Yes, the past will still haunt you from time to time, but you need to make the choice not to dwell on it and to focus on the positive.
The truth is, you are stronger than what happened to you. You need to take control, set up boundaries and practice saying no. This is your life – own it. Contrary to what negative stereotypes may tell you, you are exhibiting tremendous courage and strength in seeking professional help. It might not feel as if you are, but you are. Your vulnerability, bravery, determination and perseverance will shine through the darkness, it simply takes time.
Five years ago I left the east coast to start a new life in Nashville, TN because of abuse. It was hard. It was really hard. But I can tell you this, I never looked back. And I’m so grateful for the journey, because it has and continues to teach me my worth. Trauma therapy was exceedingly challenging, but no matter what I promised myself I wouldn’t quit. I had no money, I worked up to three jobs at once to pay for the medical care I needed. Every time before I went to therapy, I would close my eyes and picture my wedding day and I knew unless I did this for me, I would never be able to be in a healthy relationship and get married. I would picture meeting my future children for the first time and all that I would teach them. I would picture our family – free from the chains of abuse. Three years after that, I met my husband, and three months ago we were married. And before I walked down the aisle, I thought of all those therapy sessions and was in awe of God the Father’s faithfulness. I cried tears of joy and walked down the aisle to meet my husband. And this would not have been possible without therapy and without owning my past.
I challenge you to be a solider for Christ, walk with Him to Calvary and as you fall along the way, ask for the grace for the cross to be placed squarely on your shoulders as you rise again. Choose to see beauty despite what has happened in your life, or how others have wronged you. Forgive, pray, ask for grace and seek beauty in the ambiguity of life.
Such is the rule of our warfare. We advance by yielding; we rise by falling; we conquer by suffering; we persuade by silence; we become rich by bountifulness; we inherit the earth by meekness; we gain comfort through mourning; we earn glory by penitence and prayer. Heaven and earth shall sooner fall than this rule be reversed; it is the law of Christ’s kingdom, and nothing can reverse it but sin. | John Henry Newman
P.S. You are enough.
By Arden Whitehurst | Guest Blogger
Lord, I need breathing room.
That has been my prayer the last couple weeks. When my therapist breathed those words out and I breathed them in– breathing room– a weight I didn’t even know I carried, lifted.
Breathing room. Space. Leeway. Margin. However you say it, I need it.
I’ve never had breathing room. I’ve lived the last 8 (at least) years in a confined space, a box, a little square drawn in the sand. I’ve lived stuck. Stuck in a tight spot. Claustrophobic but afraid.
Eating disorders, many mental illnesses and compulsive behaviors leave no breathing room. They are the tightest-of-tight boxes and the smallest-of-small spaces. There is no room for anything but the rules, the expectations (of self or others), the behaviors. There is no bending from anorexia to go to a birthday party. There is no pausing over-exercising, self-harm or purging just because there is an opportunity to travel. No. No, because there is no breathing room in any of those situations. There is no room for error, no room for a change in plans. You do not stray from the black line. You do not change plans. You do not change your mind. You simply do not, because there is no room for that.
There is no room, because room, margin, leeway, they all mean mistakes, errors, mess-ups, mishaps – failure. Room to breathe means room to fail. And I have never allowed room to fail. Perfection, yes. Failure, absolutely not, I’d rather die.
Perfection leaves no breathing room. Anything outside of the realm of perfection, of the expectations placed upon us, is utter catastrophe, sending the world into a dizzy.
I grew up sticking myself in that little box out of fear, desire to please, perfectionism. No one had to put me there. I didn’t need anyone to draw those black lines of my “allowed square inch.” I did that myself.
Strangely enough, I have always hated tight things, anything that confines me physically. I am seriously claustrophobic, yet I am drawn towards this tight confining life. The life that says when and what you can eat, who you can see, what you can do and say, unwritten rules galore. Rigid, unrelenting, changeless, unforgiving.
So when I heard those words — breathing room, give yourself breathing room– I thought “Can I? Can I really?” All the confining I had done on purpose. All of the restricting I had inflicted upon myself. All of the rigid rules. I did those things. I inflicted it, enforced it. I gave myself a life of confinement, a life without air, without any room to breathe, to fail.
I gave myself that kind of life, but now I’m choosing to give myself a life that breathes. I need to give myself room to have hard or bad days. I need room to get overwhelmed and cry. I need room to be imperfect. Because life is not perfect. My family and friends are not perfect. College will not be perfect. There will be overwhelming, hard, straight up bad days where I just want to throw my hands up in defeat. Without breathing room those days are too much, unrecoverable. Those days are failure and make me want to quit. But, insert some breathing room, stretch that square inch a bit, and that same day can be called good. I can laugh at that day. I can pause, breathe deep and say, “this too is good.”
That extra room means that what would have been failure in my teeny-tiny perfect box can instead be called grace, growth, good. That extra room means release of the pressure to be good enough, an end to the proving and the living up. That extra room means God has room to move. Room to change me, bend and break me, mold and challenge me, love and grow me. In my confining life there was no room for anything “else,” not even God.
As I have thought and prayed over this need for breathing room, God gave me this — You don’t need more breathing room. You already have all the room you need. I gave you all the room you could possibly need on the Cross. Just take it. Use it.
Talk about dumb-struck. Of course I have all the room I need. Jesus gave me all the room in the world to fail and fumble and fall on the cross. He gave me so much room, grace (unmerited, undeserved favor), to mess up that I will never be able to use even half of it. It’s immeasurable the grace He has bestowed upon me. James 4:6 says, “But he gave us more grace.” He didn’t just give grace, He gave more grace and even more on top of that. His grace has no constraints. It is freely given to all. Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Not just the good or the perfect or the tall or the thin or the pretty or the smart or the talented, but to all. Yet this grace was not given because of something I did. No, this grace is a gift. It’s a gift that God gave in His Son. It’s a gift that cost more than we will ever be able to comprehend. And it’s a gift that we choose to breathe in and live out of daily.
I will leave you with this question – do you need to use more of your gifted breathing room?
P.S. You are enough.
By Tori Vissat | Guest Writer
Photo credit | Donna Irene Photography
My Father never rushes, He is patient and waits for when I am ready
He is soft and gentle, never harsh or condemning
He sees me from afar, whispers in my heart His words of love
He draws near when I want to run
He knows my past and is unafraid
My Father is not ashamed of me
He sees my scars and with His precious blood heals them
He holds me when I feel unworthy of being touched
He invites me in when the world seems scary
He puts life back into a heart that feels numb and unfixable
My Father had me in mind from the beginning of time
He has never once forget me
He is waiting when I stray from Him
He calls me beloved, beautiful, His precious jewel
He is strong when I am at my weakest
He speaks my name when I want to give up
He sees my addiction, my wounds, my fears and takes them into His sacred side
My Father longs to be with me in my darkest days
He sees past my outer appearance
He knocks at the door of my heart
I let Him in.
P.S. You are enough.
By Arden Whitehurst | Guest Blogger
Photo Credit | Donna Irene Photography
These cute striped Loft shorts. I’ve only worn them once but they tell a story. Granted, it’s a story only I know. To everyone else they look like any other shorts. But not to me. Would you like to hear the story?
A couple of years ago, my mom bought me these shorts as a gift because none of my clothes fit. I thought they were adorable, but I didn’t wear them for months because I was hiding. Hiding from what, you might ask? I was hiding from life. I was hiding from myself. I was hiding from the world. So these shorts hung empty in my closet, until I packed them in my suitcase. They made the plane ride and got hung in a new closet. They hung empty in this new closet for a month. I wanted to wear them, but I was still afraid. I was still hiding. I was still holding on. Finally, I got a challenge from a special lady. “Wear something that’s pretty and be proud in it.” Some of you might think, “That’s not a challenge. I do that everyday.” But it was a challenge for me. I woke up the next day and took out the shorts and a white shirt. I put the outfit on. I stood barefoot in front of a floor length mirror and turned side to side. Did I like what I saw? Could I do it? Could I be that brave? Regardless of if I liked the reflection, I did it. I wore the shorts. I got so many compliments that I think a part of me thought, Hey, maybe being seen isn’t so bad?
Flash forward, almost two years and those shorts still hang in my closet, unworn since that challenge day.
It’s the time of year where I clean out my closet. I try everything on and get rid of what I don’t like. So out came the striped shorts. I was scared. I’ve changed since the first time I wore those shorts, yet part of me felt like that scared little girl in hiding again as I held those shorts up. Deep breath as I pulled them on. They zipped and buttoned. Exhale. But they were tight. Sigh. When I say tight I mean tight. Tight as in spandex tight. I don’t like tight clothing. Never have. Probably never will. Which is usually fine with me, but this is different.
I take them off and hold them up again. Were they really tight? Yes, yes they were. Sigh. I folded them before sitting down to think. Not going to lie, a few tears fell as I faced an inner battle. What would I do with this?
You are probably wondering why I care so much about these shorts. For Heaven’s sake, why would anyone cry over shorts! I didn’t cry because of the shorts. I can buy new shorts. I cried because of what the shorts stand for. You see, the last time I wore those shorts I was 10 (ish) pounds less than I am now. I had been in treatment for anorexia and had already gained a painful 20 pounds when I first put those shorts on, but I still had another 10 (ish) pounds to gain. That’s why I was scared. I was scared to be seen even though that was what I desperately wanted. I was scared to look pretty. I was scared to be looked at.
The shorts fit loosely when I first wore them. I tucked my white button down in, lifted my chin and whispered, Be brave, Arden to the girl in the mirror. The second time I put those shorts on, I found myself whispering the same thing. Be brave, Arden.
Now I sit with the shorts wondering what to do. Do I get angry and beat myself up about having gained 10 pounds? Do I go work out until my legs give out? Do I skip dinner and pray that the shorts will fit tomorrow? No. No, I don’t do any of those things. A few years ago I would have, but not today. Today I simply sit with the shorts and give thanks.
I give thanks to God for those 10 pounds and the 20 pounds before the shorts. I give thanks not because I like the fact that I had to gain back the 30 pounds I had lost or because the shorts don’t fit. Instead, I give thanks because of the life I live post – the shorts. Because those shorts no longer fit I can dance for hours on end. I can hold my weight in pointe shoes. I can jump and turn without fear of breaking bones or passing out. Because the shorts don’t fit, I can run after my dogs in the rain. I can play tag with the kids I babysit and hold them for hours. I can work out with my brother until I’m sweaty and panting. Because the shorts don’t fit, I can stand and worship at church without having to sit down and shut my eyes in order to stop the world from spinning. I can have cupcake dates with my best friends and spontaneously drink hot chocolate while watching a cheesy Hallmark movie with my parents. Because those shorts are too tight, I have new friends and a church community that I love. I have relationships and opportunities that would have been impossible 10, 20 or 30 pounds ago. Because those super cute shorts don’t fit, I have a life and a good life at that.
So I give thanks and keep living brave even though the shorts don’t fit.
P.S. You are enough.
By Erin McNew | Staff Writer
Photo Credit | Donna Irene Photography
In life I think we experience about a thousand things that aren’t fair. People subtract themselves from our lives without warning. People hurt us without justification. People overlook our uniqueness and treat us like we’re replaceable. People fail to value us.
Life is hard. It hurts. And you just never know when or where it’s going to remind you that you aren’t really in control. In fact, sometimes I feel like it’s those moments when we feel the most in control that God chooses to remind us that we’re not. Sometimes we just have to have the ground ripped from underneath us to remind us to stop looking down at it and start looking up to higher things.
Some days are awful. But we have about a hundred good ones in their wake. We have a hundred good ones to give us memories to hold onto when people leave us. We have a hundred good ones to learn from. And we have a hundred good ones to think about when life smacks us in the back of the head.
Life changes so fast. It literally happens in a moment. And sometimes all it takes is that moment to prevent us from ever going back to the way things were. I revel in those moments. I revel in those moments that give me something to hold onto in the aftermath of change. I revel in those moments that remind me that I had something to love. Because someone who is loved, even when lost, is a beautiful thing. It’s not something to take lightly. Because as much as negative events are life changing, those moments that are captured in love are life-giving. And they give us life that, no matter what happens, cannot be taken from us. Because they give us a life in the Spirit. They show us glimpses of love that we don’t often experience.
No matter what anyone says, tears are healing. Because it’s those moments in which tears are shed that we are reminded that something or someone meant something to us. They probably still do. They arguably always will. Because love, whether romantic or platonic, may never truly go away. It may numb, or it may change, but I’m not sure you can just expel something from your heart. I’m not sure that’s how God made us. I’m not sure He wired us to view the things we love as being disposable or temporary. Though I think He’s granted us the knowledge that their physical existence may fade, I think He’s endowed us with the inherent capacity to combine our own existence with that of another, even if only in spirit. Because though hearts may stop and feelings may change, a place in someone’s heart is not something you rent. It’s something you keep. It’s something you change by touching it with your own unique love.
Smiles are beautiful. They’re something I have a hard time forgetting about people. And I love that. I love that God grants me the ability to remember positive things about people whose existence in my own life was imperfect. I love that He’s constantly reminding me that I have a reason to love people. Even if it’s just one smile. Or one laugh. Or a few words. Because, oddly enough, when people are gone those are the things you grow to remember. The small things. The small things grow to define their entire interaction with you. And the small things, just as fast as life knocked you down, have a way of picking you up. They place their hand under your chin and slowly tilt your lovely face up to God, because we forgot in our own troubles. We forgot how much God longs to see our smile.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
P.S. You are enough.
By Scott Weeman | Men’s Staff Writer
Photo Credit | Donna Irene Photography
One of my least favorite questions that people ask me when I first meet them is “What do you do?” For some reason, this question triggers all sorts of insecurities in me as a man, as if there is some right or wrong answer to their question, and the answer I’m about to give is certainly the wrong one. While the person asking the question is simply attempting to get to know me better (or doing the best they can in the undesirable arena of small talk), what happens internally is that I end up projecting all of my insecurities onto the other person, waiting for judgement to come after sharing a little bit about what I do professionally. Sometimes I’ve even dodged the question’s true intentions, responding with,
“Well, I play golf. I ride my bike around the beach. I play volleyball with my friends. I help out at my church doing various things. I get together with many guys on an individual basis to discuss life. I write. I drink coffee… Oh, you want to know what I do for work?!”
I have spent quite a bit of time analyzing why this question has created (and to some degree, still creates) a gross amount of turmoil within me. What occupation would I be happy to proclaim as one that I “do”? I love my life, I love the opportunities that my job as a server in a restaurant (which I have done for seven years) has created as a result of my availability and the flexibility it offers. I get to do all the things I responded with above during my free time, and I get to enjoy myself while I’m at work.
I have made some mistakes in my life based on selfish ambitions and short-sighted grabs for pleasure that have squandered dreams and efforts towards achievement. A few blatant examples of this include a few attempts at school that were ended abruptly and a relationship that offered me second chance after second chance, only to be ended in great pain. What was the end result of all of these losses, all of which were tied to my addictive and alcoholic behavior?
The Gift Of Desperation.
I admitted I was powerless over alcohol and that my life was unmanageable. With the help of many others, I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I (slowly and imperfectly) turned over my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood him.
In short, I found God. I found that a life run on my own will was leading me nowhere and that God still had great plans for me regardless of how much I screwed up the things I wanted so badly. It turned out God had greater plans in store for me than I had for myself. Confidence – not in myself, but in the love and strength God has been guiding me with – came back. I started to realize that the people who truly care about me are less interested in what I’ve done and care more about what I’m going to do, and that they’re willing to help me get there.
This has been my experience. We all experience varying degrees of insecurities and the unhealthy defenses that accompany them. When those appear, we have options.
One is to stay in self-pity, resorting to being the victim of the show that we’re doing our best to direct. Sometimes it feels good to stay stuck in self-pity. It feels familiar, and for some reason that offers comfort, albeit short-lived. When those shame-based emotions of being “less than” are triggered by another, it’s common to think that the world is against us. In reality, though, this can be very toxic and instill great anger and resentment towards others. In his book, Healing the Shame that Binds You, John Bradshaw notes that this reaction is formed very early in life. “Since the earliest period of our life was preverbal, everything depended on emotional interaction. Without someone to reflect our emotions, we had no way of knowing who we were.”
The better option is to ask God to direct our lives and accept our role as actor in His Divine Script for us. Sometimes the will of God is made painfully clear by the closing of doors and opportunities that can seem vital to our existence and hope for a bright future. It can feel that way in relationships – whether romantic, friendly, or familial. As in my example highlighted above, it can feel that way regarding the educational and career ambitions that we have in life. Furthermore, it can feel that way as we embark on a progressive spiritual life. It’s quite common to be fed up making the same spiritual blunders that we feel should be behind us (which can sometimes be God’s way of regaining our attention and renewing our sense of desperation). Be sure that God will use what you perceive as a failure to bring you closer to him or to strengthen you in some way.
As virtue can often be found in the middle of opposite extremes, it’s critical to ensure that the opposite of shame does not seep it’s way into our psyche. Upon receiving that job, relationship, or spiritual achievement, let us not be caught in the trap that we have all-of-a-sudden “made it.” It can be quite tempting to think that God’s mercy and love is greater when we’ve achieved a level of notoriety or a position befitting of glory. That’s just not true.
“Giving and receiving unconditional love is the most effective and powerful way to personal wholeness and happiness,” Bradshaw writes. Surround yourself with people who love you as you are. Love others as they are. Use the insecurities that surface as an opportunity to re-evaluate the values that are truly important to you. You’ll probably find that there are a lot of good intentions and motivations behind them, but that somewhere they got twisted.
Hearing someone say “I love you no matter what” must be the greatest words that can pass through the ears. Hearing God say “I love you no matter what” must be the greatest words that can pass through the heart.
P.S. You are enough.