Chronicling 40: Day 144 of 365

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Not that long ago, I wrote a series that surrounded the theme of “Never Confuse a Deborah with a Jezebel”.   Today, I want to spend just a moment and add to that thought with:

Never confuse a broken woman with a Jezebel.

When she first appeared on the scene, she was shy and timid.  Gifted.  Talented.  Hard worker.  Quiet.   I figured it would take a bit for her to become comfortable around us and then she’d come out of her shell.

In just a matter of a few encounters later, what I saw was a completely different woman.  Unhinged.  Out of control.  Loud.  Boisterous.  I was so struck by her behavior, that I thought to myself that this woman must have been under the influence of something.

By the end of the evening I thought I had encountered a Jezebel.  Perhaps her reserved nature was simply as way to slink into the group, to get people to like her… before her true nature and intentions would be exposed.

Truth be told, my instincts were right… something was off.  But, my interpretation of those instincts was off the mark as well.  This wasn’t a Jezebel, this was a broken woman.  She was wounded.  She was treading water.  She was trying to keep it all together, and it was falling apart at her feet.  Grasping to maintain a sense of normalcy, building up a wall to keep people from seeing how badly she was hurting.

She was like one of those viral videos you see where the animal is trapped in an icy lake, and even though there is a person trying to rescue the poor beast… it thrashes and flails.  Screeching out in terror, winging its limbs about, and even becoming a danger to the very thing that is trying to rescue it.

This animal is already in a bad situation, fight or flight has set in… there is no logic or reason.  We watch from the outside thinking… “if you would just stop fighting, let yourself be saved”.  We can see the hero coming to the rescue.  We know that even though it’s probably even a bit painful in the way the animal is being round up, it is for it’s own good.  But none the less, the animal is panic stricken.  It doesn’t know.

We don’t always know, when we are in the thick of things, those who are actually trying to help us.   As believers we know that God is with us, but we don’t always have the clear discernment of knowing who He has sent to help and who is out to harm.  Our fight or flight has already been set into motion.  We see threat everywhere, and we respond by fighting… yelling… flailing about… even to the point of making the situation harder for ourselves and those who are trying to help us.

We must be wise.  But that is hard when we lack clarity.

I’ve never been so glad to find out that I was wrong about a person.   Now, instead of seeing a person I needed to be wary of, I saw her differently.  I responded differently. It also served as a lesson to me about being to quick to judge circumstances at a superficial level.  Had I gone to the Lord first, perhaps He would have opened my eyes to her pain and brokenness sooner.

Every day I learn more and more about the wounded people that walk my city streets every day.  I realize that not ever “disgruntled spirit” is someone who is out to hurt or destroy.  They are not all Jezebels.  They are the woman at the well.  They are the woman accused of adultery.  They are the woman who had just two coins to her name.  They are broken women, wounded men.  They need to not be cast aside as Jezebels, but instead introduced to the Savior.  Even, if they are kicking and flailing as He mends their heart.

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Chronicling 40: Day 28 of 365

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This is a picture of my to-do list.  This list is not for my whole life, but the ministry in which I work.  Some items are crossed off, I continually add items to it.  I imagine a 114 point to do list probably seems daunting, particularly when I already shared that I still regularly add to it.

So why is my to-do list so long, and will I ever finish it?

There are goals in life that are finite.   Set a goal to travel to England, accomplish the steps to get to that goal, and viola… it’s done.  Finished.  Toss the list away and move on.

There are goals in life that are infinite, meaning always in motion.  Set a goal to build a corporate empire?  I hate to bear the news, but there will never be a day where you sit back and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  Even if there is no where left to grow, there is always maintenance and fine tuning.  You may have a staff that does 75% of the work for you, but 25% of your efforts are still in strategy mode.

An infinite goal is going to have a growing to-do list.

I also choose to not write out broad term goals, but instead action steps to get to that goal.   Which means a single goal could have multiple actions steps listed to get from point A to point B.

I keep this list, and add to it for two reasons…

  1.  It has the complete vision of my goal.  Everything I want to do, need to do… now and in the future.  Some things may take years to get crossed out, others mere minutes.  You might even question why bother writing it down if I can knock it out quickly.  The answer is point 2.
  2. It is a measurable accounting of my time, efforts, and successes.  I not only see what needs to be done, but what has been done.  When I feel like things are moving slowly, I am reassured when I can look back on all that has been done.  When I look through the list of crossed off items, I can see where and how I spent my time.  It becomes almost a business journal of bullet points to reflect on.  I know what tactics I have tried, and what I haven’t.  I can review what worked and what didn’t.  I am looking at my work in a full view of past, present, and future.

Don’t just make a quick list of goals.  Break it down into real actionable steps.

Don’t throw away completed lists.  Keep them, this is the documented evolution of your dreams and goals!

Chronicling 40: Day 18 of 365

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If you haven’t noticed, there is a link at the top of my site for Hashimotos Awareness.  This link is there for a few reasons:

  • Several family members, including myself, have been diagnosed with this disease.
  • It is incredibly common in women, and many won’t realize they have it as the 300+ possible symptoms can easily be dismissed as age catching up with us and any number of potential ailments of varying severity.
  • I know how long it took me to feel the way I feel today, and I wanted to share my path with others who are trying to navigate their way toward health.

Today’s post is not going to revisit everything that I put on that page, but as a reflection of what it is like to live with a chronic illness for those who don’t have one.  First let me start with a story, from when I was first diagnosed.

By this point I had three children, and certainly I was no spring chicken any longer.  However, I could sense something was not right.  I was not recovering from this last child like I had the previous two pregnancies.  I was exhausted, all of the time.  I mean literally all of the time.  Physically, mentally exhausted.  I couldn’t seem to function like I once had.  My energy was gone.  My brain was clouded in fog most of the time.  My memory was a fragment of what it once was.  No matter how much I watched my diet or exercised, the weight was packing on.

I mentioned this to my obgyn, who did a blood test for thyroid disorder because she herself had a thyroid disorder and recognized some of the symptoms.  Nothing alarming came back.  We figured I just needed a bit more time, being older… three kids… made sense.  A year later, I felt worse and this time the thyroid blood tests indicated I should see a specialist.  Within just a couple of weeks I had my diagnosis of Hashimotos Thyroiditis.

I remember feeling such relief that I had a name for it, and a treatment plan.  A treatment plan, which according to my doctor at the time, would run the rest of my life.  Over time my dosage of medications would be adjusted to compensate, as my body actively works to destroy my thyroid.  Hashimotos is an auto-immune disease in which my body attacks the thyroid as if it is a foreign invader.

I was excited to see how my life was going to improve with this treatment plan.  I remember sitting at a coffee shop with a friend and as I started to explain my symptoms and my diagnosis… she cut me off.

“You are just getting old.”, she said with a laugh.

This would not be the last time someone would try to dismiss or normalize the symptoms of my disease.

“You do have three kids now, of course you are tired.”

“You are just making excuses.”

“You need to exercise more, and eat less.”

“Sometimes, when someone begins exercising more frequently they think they can cheat more often on their diet.”

“You don’t even know what tired is, I have…. “

“But you look fine.”

It is so infuriating to have an illness which can literally control your day to day living and have someone else dismiss as nothing.  I once spoke with a woman who has Hashimotos and she told me:

“I wish I had cancer.  At least then people would believe that I am sick.”

Think about that for a second.  When have you ever heard someone wish they had cancer?  But, I knew all too well what she meant.  When you have a chronic illness, it’s also usually called an “invisible illness” because regardless of how you feel you look just fine.  Not only do people get tired of hearing about your illness, you get tired of talking about it too.  Eventually you stop, and just respond with a cordial “fine” when someone inquires about how you are feeling or doing.

You don’t want to hear another audible sigh, or watch another set of eye rolls from those you call family and friends.  You don’t want to hear your symptoms dismissed because of your age or growing family, when you know your own body and this is not how it works.  Nor do you want someone to tell you that you are going to have to accept this as your new normal.

I remember working out 5-6 days per week.  Yoga.  Zumba.  Gym membership.  Curves.  Personal Trainer.  High Impact Training.  Body Combat.  Walking.  Biking.  Weights.  Running.  I remember working with nutrionists and trainers on my diet.  Protein shakes.  Energy boosters.  Fat blockers.  Keto.  Paleo.  Atkins.  Weight lifting diets.  Custom diets removing certain foods.  In one blood draw trip I gave nearly 20 vials of blood to test my thyroid levels, hormone levels, food allergies, vitamin/mineral deficiencies.

Yet, I wasn’t feeling better.  I kept feeling worse.

Imagine sleeping a full night and never feeling rested, but instead exhausted.

Imagine your skin hurting to the slightest touch that it would feel like serrated knives being drug across your skin just putting on your pants.

Imagine having your body ache like you had an amazing gym day the day before, and the reality is that you physically haven’t been able to get to the gym in weeks.

Imagine that just taking a hot shower will wear you out to the point that you need an hour nap afterwards.

Imagine that despite all your efforts to work out, watch your diet, and take your medications result in your weight going up, your body swelling, your hair falling out, your skin drying out, and so many other little things.

Imagine forgetting important dates, even when you right them down.  Losing everything because you really can’t remember where you set it down.  Telling the same story over and over again because you truly don’t remember telling it the first time.

Not getting better, getting worse, and everyone just dismissing it because of age.  I was thirty three.

As someone who has battled this for 7 years, let me key you into a few things.

I am as annoyed and inconvenienced as anyone by my disease, more so in fact.  I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  I don’t want to blame my illness for my lack either.  But, more importantly than that the things I needed the very most was for people to simply BELIEVE me.  Believe me when I say that I have an illness that I have no control over.  An illness with no cure, only management and that is only partially effective.

Believe me when I say that how I feel is symptomatic of my disease, and not dismiss it away as an excuse or minimize it because I look normal.  Those with chronic health issues are doing their very best to just exist some days.  Treat them kindly, with compassion.  If you are a nurse or a doctor, believe me when I tell you that I am doing everything in my power to control my diet and exercising versus making excuses or lying.  Have a willingness to try out of the box treatments if what we are following today is not working.

We don’t want a “new normal”, we want to be “normal”.

It was just a couple of years ago that a friend from high school and I reconnected.  She had been diagnosed with Hashimotos too.  She was in remission.  No symptoms, off her meds.  I was never even told this was possible from the doctor I was with at the time.  So, understand that we are working with doctors who truly don’t understand our disease and how to treat it properly.  For my diagnosis, sadly, not all treatments work the same for all patients.  Lots of trial and error to find what works.  Be patient with your loved ones as they try to understand their disease and find the right treatment plan.  Take time to learn with them, go to a doctors appointment and hear it from the doctors mouth.  Understand the struggles they will face, and the options set before them.

A couple of years ago, I knew something was off.  I was swelling horribly.  I would mention it at doctors appointments, but not taken very seriously.  Someone else recommended that I start taking daily pictures of myself, so I could show the doctor what I meant.  I still have those photos in my phone, a reminder to myself that this was not all in my head.  I remember my doctor looking at the photos, confirming the dates they were taken, what seemed like millions of questions to try and determine what may have been causing the swelling.  It was the first time I was taken seriously about the swelling I was dealing with on a near daily basis.

When even our doctors don’t fully understand our diseases, those with chronic illnesses… invisible illnesses are even more in need of the support and understanding of their loved ones.  It is hard being sick in a way that only you can see and experience.  Please don’t discount those in your life with chronic illness, don’t forget that they are working extraordinarily hard to appear normal… something you may take for granted.

 

 

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 17 of 365

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2017 Collaboration Piece… painted by myself and my 10 year old daughter. 

Make art with your children.  I beg of you, do this.  You will not regret it.

Maybe you are not artistically inclined, if so… there are options for you.  There are those Sip & Paint style studios were you are directed on how to paint any number of subjects and styles.  Some are even classes designed for 2 people, where you each paint half of the finished product.  There are ceramic studios where you can paint precast ceramic pieces… work independently on a series that goes together or contribute equally to a larger piece.

Make art.  Make it often.  Display it proudly.

For several years, I’ve worked on art projects with my kids.  Most are hung up in my house, but some have been given as gifts to family members.  It brings me such joy to walk by these pieces that my kids have contributed to.

The picture at the top, that is part of this year’s project.  That was a collaborative piece with my 10 year old daughter.  Next week, my 14 year old and I begin our piece, seahorses.  We are working on a series, that will be hung in my house.  My 18 year old and I still need to figure out our piece.

If you were to come to my house, you would see a lot of art on the walls.  Almost like living in a gallery.  What you won’t know right away is that almost every single piece (minus 2 in the living room, and 2 in the bathroom) are made by members of our family.  I love being surrounded by the creative styles of my family members (on both my side of the family, and my husband’s side).

But, I am sure you are wondering how to do so in a way in which it flows with your decorating style… and that my friends is simply answered by controlled creativity.

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This was the family project from 3 years ago.

What do I mean by controlled creativity?  I mean that we approach every project with a plan.  Since the kids know it is for the house, they expect it is going to be coastal/beach/sealife related.  So, we discuss what each one wants to paint before we even begin.  I layout the color palette (pre-mixing if need be), give suggestions and guidance along the way.  This isn’t just about creating the final product, but also about teaching them color theory to technique.  We talk about how colors work together.  We talk about the rules, and then sometimes we break them.  It’s a lesson on patience, and a process.

I also allow them to complete a more personal project in the process.  This can be anything they want, and it will end up in their bedroom or they can gift it away.  It allows them to express their own sense of creativity beyond the project for the house.

I’m not just creating art, I’m creating memories.  I’m also encouraging their creativity, confidence, and sense of style.  I’m spending hours with my kids on a focused project, from concept to execution.  I love every second of it… even when the paint spills… and she wipes her messy hand on her brand new shirt.

I also help them break the bonds of perfection.  We embrace the oops… as Bob Ross would say, they are just happy little accidents.

Create with your kids, you will not regret it.

Chronicling 40: Day 16 of 365

JEglutenWe spend so much time talking about what we put into our bodies that we tend to forget about what we are putting on our bodies.

Have you ever wondered if those things you are allergic to are ingredients in some of your favorite skin care products.  I haven’t.

I’m supposed to minimize my exposure to gluten.  It’s not so much that I’m allergic to gluten, but I am mildly reactive to a protein that accompanies gluten.  If I avoid gluten, I avoid that protein.  It’s the simplest way for me to minimize my exposure.  As much as I have paid attention to what I was eating, I hadn’t put much thought into the products I used on my body.

One product line that I have been loyal to using for years, it turns out is gluten free.  I didn’t think we had skin care products on the market that contained gluten.  Which means all the months of being gluten free in my diet may have meant diddly squat because I was still exposing myself to gluten.  So, when I realized these products were gluten free… I was relieved.

All of this to say… when you have an allergy to food items, you may want to make sure that those are not ingredients in other things you are using in or on your body.

Make sure your vitamins and pills are gluten free.

Bath and body products should also be gluten free.

Flavorings (such as vanilla) that you use in baking, should be gluten free too.

Think beyond the plate.

Chronicling 40: Day 11 of 365

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What is better than a strong cup of coffee?  A strong, faithful friend.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an

abundance of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 11:14

40 has already put a strong focus in my heart toward community, but not just any community.  Intentional community.  Those who lift up and encourage, respect boundaries, have beneficial conversations full of love, and safe boundaries.

Grateful for conversations, like the one I had this morning.  Where you walk away feeling up lifted and encouraged, enjoying time with one another.  I don’t have the energy to be weighed down with negativity, frustration, et’al.

Building a community of strong, faithful, honest, and positive women is paramount to living a good life.  We are not meant to walk alone, but the live in community.  Bearing one anothers burdens, standing in the gap for each other.

Chronicling 40: Day 10 of 365

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I love food.  I love the presentation of food, the smell, the texture, and the taste.  I don’t mind getting my fingers dirty because of a great slab of ribs on my plate, nor do I mind using special tools to eat unconventional foods.  All of these senses coming together in an experience that is supposed to be satisfying and enjoyable.  In fact, I love food so much that I am willing to try just about anything once.

I have sat down to a plate of food that looked anything but appetizing and ended up having one of the best meals of my life.  In contrast, I’ve also been presented a plate of well crafted foods… artwork on a porcelain plate… and barely able to take a second bite.  There have been foods that smell amazing, but the flavor was lacking (my husband feels this way about coffee, it’s ok… I’ve forgiven him).

Here is the thing, because I have an openness toward trying different foods… cuts, cooking styles, seasonings, etc… I know GOOD food.  A few years ago, I was at a cookie exchange and two women were commenting on how they brought the exact same cookies and they tasted so differently.  They compared their recipes, nothing was amiss.  So, I sampled them both and replied:  “One of you used salted butter, the other used unsalted butter.  That is what made the difference.”  Sure enough, I was right.

I know that it is not just about the ingredients but also how we cook it, you can do everything right in the preparation but then flub it up in the execution.  It happens, to the best of us.  There have been a few meals over the last 20 years that I have tossed right into the trash, as we waited for the pizzas to arrive.

There are so many pieces of scripture that compare words to food, or eating food.

Matt 4:4 says that we can’t live on bread alone but the Word of God.  Jer 15:16 speaks of the joy of drinking in God’s Word.  1 Peter 2:2 compares the Word to milk.  Hebrews 5:12,15 compares it to solid food.  Psalm 113 calls it “honey in my mouth”.  Psalm 119:11 we read of storing up His word (akin to how we store up food).  We are told that it is good for us, nourishing to our bodies and souls, we are told to keep it on our lips, to consume it.

We are also warned to be careful about the words that come out of our own mouths.  How do you words taste when they come out of your mouth?  Are they bitter?  Does it sting or burn?  Are these words that destroy and divide, or tear down another?

Delivering bad news, it is so hard to do.  Yet, it amazes me how gentle we can be when pushed into that circumstance.  The words may be hard, but they are spoken with sweetness, compassion, and love.

We can also take harmful words and try to envelop them in words that sound sweet.  It may look good, it may sound good, but the words are bitter to the taste.  We know they are harmful words and we do everything we can to hide that fact.  This reveals so much about our intentions, of wanting to say something that isn’t beneficial but also trying to avoid ownership for those words.  When we encase them to make them appear harmless or sweet, good intentioned… we can then claim ignorance, blame misunderstanding, or even try to convince the recipient that it is their perception of our words that is off.

There are other times when our words sting, and we mean them to sting.  When we are purposefully lashing out at another person.  It’s that old cliche saying of “hurt people, hurt people”.  Whether it is spoken in revenge, anger, jealousy, etc… these words are sharp and there is no mixed message about it.

I’m sure we can all agree that these three points are obvious, we’ve all encountered them.  But recently, I was made aware of another example that wasn’t quite so obvious.

If we are called to use our words to build up, encourage, unify, strengthen, in love, for peace, etc… than any use of our words otherwise is counter to that call.

The enemy seeks to destroy, to discourage, to divide, to weaken, to hurt, to cause chaos, and confusion.  He is also a liar and manipulator, who can camouflage his plans to look and sound like a good idea or path.

Would God present you with an opportunity that would cause division among your friends?  Would He call you down a pathway that would become a stumbling block for your family?  Would He call us to a purpose that would intersect and cut off the work of another ministry or organization that He has ordained?

Sometimes these ideas and opportunities sound good, Kingdom worthy, and they may “feel right”.  These opportunities may not be bad, evil, or destructive.  In fact, they can even be a blessing to the community (God makes beauty out of ashes, and redeems all things to be used for His glory).

How much of this has to do with our own desires impacting our perception of truth and calling?  I remember reading something to the effect of “God will never give you another woman’s husband.”  This guy may be our knight in shining armor, and everything could feel so right… so much so that you could almost catch your self thanking God for bringing this man in to your life.  No matter how wonderful it feels, the truth is that God would never destroy one marriage or divide a family in order to bring you a husband.  That is a slap in the face to the very character of God displayed in the scriptures.

It would not be of God’s character to give you something that He intended for someone else.  We must be very careful not to credit God with orchestrating things in our lives that are actually of our own doing, our own desires, or that contradict who we know Him to be.

I believe one way to flesh these things out is to taste the words of your intentions.  Do they taste sweeter than honey or are they bitter.  Do they flow easy from your mouth, or do you struggle to speak?  Are your words working toward something or against someone? Are these words that are surrounded in peace or are they littered with chaos and confusion?  Are you confident in the calling or are you trying to convince yourself that you have been called?

If we are leaning in close to God, praying for clarity and discernment, then I believe the Holy Spirit is going to reveal the truth.  I believe that if you have to struggle and attempt to justify yourself, you will taste that those words are not good.  You will feel it in your heart, mind, soul, and even body that you are going in a direction that is not right. You will feel weighted and burdened in a very negative way, even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is that you feel so bad.

But, when you are in alignment with God’s calling on your life, you will feel freedom to move forward at His pace.  There will be excitement and you won’t need to justify it to anyone (including yourself) because you will know deeply that this is the way you should go, and you will walk in it confidently.  You will not be weighted down with burden, but soaring!

So taste those words that come out of your mouth.  Before you make that phone call, or send that email, or even schedule that face to face meeting…

Say it out loud.  Don’t embellish it with fancy explanations and trying to justify it.  Speak it in plain simple facts.  Then ask yourself, how would I feel if I was the one receiving this message.  Would I feel hurt or betrayed?  Would I feel attacked or discouraged?  Do these words sound divisive or damaging?  Do these words taste bitter, are they unsavory?  Would I not want to receive this message?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then pull back and pray over this situation.  Ask for His peace and clarity over your steps.  Remember He is not a God of chaos, disorder, or confusion.  He does not change His Word or character to bend to the will of one person, He is consistent and constant.  He will not give you peace over a decision or direction that He does not intend.

If the words are bitter, if the mind is clouded in confusion… do not rush into anything but the arms of God.