Chronicling 40: Day 38 of 365

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James 3:13-18

How do you show wisdom?

  • a good life
  • deeds done in humility
  • not envious
  • not having selfish ambition
  • pure
  • peace-loving
  • considerate
  • submissive
  • full of mercy
  • good fruit bearing
  • impartial
  • sincerity
  • peacemaking

#BeAPeacemaker

 

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Chronicling 40: Day 30 of 365

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This picture serves as a reminder for me, it represents hurt and release.  It also reminds me to be proactive about protecting my own heart and mind.

It represents hurt, because it contains papers filled with things that cut deeply, probably one of the most hurtful moments of my life.

It represents release, because I knew that if I kept it around… I’d keep reading it.  Any forgiveness or progress toward reconciliation would be thwarted by these words lingering about.

Which is also why it reminds me to be proactive about protecting my heart and mind.  I need to discard anything that steals my peace, that makes me question my value, that causes me pain.

I can no longer read the words that are on those pages, burning away.  I can’t replay them in my mind.  I can’t dwell on them.  I have cast them away from me.

You might ask why keep the picture, doesn’t it bring up negative feelings?

On the contrary, it brings me so much peace knowing that I have the strength to let go and move on.

Chronicling 40: Day 27 of 365

I really wish these were better pictures, sorry Faith!  However this was too great a meeting not to share.  Faith had no idea as she was speaking to us about branding, that she was going to have such a major impact on my activities for today.

 

For those who don’t know Faith James, she is a Branding Expert… with incredible credentials.  I’ve been attending her lunch workshops as our ministry has entered it’s next phase, which includes national expansion.

A few workshops ago, we were instructed to score our brand based on her index.  I turned this index into a to-do list, which has grown quite a bit.  One of the things in the index was to volunteer to serve on the board of an organization.  Well, I checked that off and will be serving officially on the board for YouMom, a ministry that serves women facing unplanned pregnancy.

Yesterday, at the lunch, Faith was extraordinary as always.  But, there were a few key points that was so important to the work in store for me today.

  1.  Everything you put out into the world needs to reflect the core of your brand.
  2.  It must be consistent and clear.  It is our job to make sure our clients get it.
  3.  Articulate the why behind your brand, as well as why you are the right choice.

But also, she shared her heart.  How much she enjoys what she does, serving others, helping others.

Today, I was with the founder of YouMom serving the ministry by helping launch a new website, full of content, pictures, etc.  It was such a joy to work with Aimee today, and help her vision come to life.  To take the knowledge that Faith was gifting me yesterday and pass it on to Aimee’s ministry is beautiful.  When we do not hold on to our gifts and talents but instead share them; we get to watch it reach further than we could ever imagine!

So, there I was today… basking in the joy of helping others with my gifts and talents… which were fined tuned by Faith’s wisdom and experience.

That, is a good day.

I say all of this not to toot my own horn… but for two important reasons…

  1.  Thankfulness.  I am thankful beyond measure for God’s intersection of my path and Faith.
  2.  Affirmation.  Those who gift of their hearts, skills, and treasure don’t always get to see how it is used.  I want Faith to know that her investment in me is not wasted, but fruitful.

I encourage those of you who have someone investing in your life, helping you to bear fruit…

Do not just give a passing thanks, but instead show them the fruit of their labor.  Let them see what they have sewn into fertile soil.  Let them know that you have not hoarded their gift for yourself, but graciously shared it with the world, investing into others.

This brings to mind the parable of the talents.  Do not bury in the ground that which you can multiply.  Use your gifts, share your talents, and spread the wealth that is love, compassion, encouragement, and equipping!

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 13 of 365

UNITY

A friend of mine posted the following on Facebook, yesterday:

When people say they know the Lord & are filled with the Spirit, but lack humility or unity, I wonder what they are filled with.

That question has been on my own mind recently.  The ministry I work in was founded in uniting women who are leading in the church together.  The scriptures talk so much about unity (uniting us to God, uniting us to one another, etc).  I love Ephesian 2:14 where through Christ the two groups are made one destroying the barrier wall that divides.   It continues on to share how in this unity we find peace, hostility is crushed, fellow citizens, joined together.

So, when something comes along that seems to divide that work… I must wonder what is really happening?  What I do know is that as a ministry walks strongly forward in it’s calling, as it moves closer toward the destination God is creating the pathway for… the more it will be under attack.  The enemy seeks to destroy, divide, and discourage.

The good news is that we are told to expect these things, and so we put on the Armor of God.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.   Ephesians 6:10-13

What is this armor?

The belt of truth:  The Truth of the scriptures is secured around us.  We also have the truth of our lips, as we do not use the tools of the enemy such as lies and deceit.

The breastplate of righteousness:  The breastplate protects our heart, and we are covered by our reputation as being moral and just.

Our feet are fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace:  We are prepared to walk forward confidently because we know that we are walking in the pathway He laid before us.  We move at His pace, and in His timing.  We step out in peace because He is not a God of chaos or confusion.  He directs our steps.

Shield of Faith:  Our faith protects us against the arrows that the enemy will sling at us.  We can stand strong against the blows because we hold to the promises that the Lord has made to us and hold fast to His promises of a future.

The helmet of salvation: Our minds and ears are protected against the lies of the enemy that would tickle our ears with what sounds like truth.  We know that our salvation does not come from anyone but Christ and was given at the Cross.

The sword of the Spirit:  We know what the Lord says, we know His character, we know His heart, we can test anything that is presented before us against the Word.  It is a weapon that shines light upon the darkness, and slays the enemy who has no defense against it.

Praying in the Spirit:   Our final defense, and offense, is praying all kinds of prayers and requests that are in alignment with the will of God and praying for all of the Lord’s people.

As we march forward, dressed in our armor, we know that we do not need to worry about the plans of the enemy because we are equipped to stand against them.

I know that our ministry work has been affirmed, and I know that the Lord is not going to divide it.  It is not in His character to destroy or fracture something He has created.  There is a difference between expanding territory and dividing.  Thus, we proceed in confidence that His hand is directing our steps and that His will is being done.

Whatever comes against us, what ever stands in the way, whatever confusion tries to be set us… has zero power.

Chronicling 40: Day 12 of 365

creation

In full disclosure, I’ve lived near the beach my entire life.  Always within just a mere few minutes of a drive.  I don’t understand the concept of going on vacation to the beach, when I live there.   Don’t mistake me for failing to see the beauty of the beach.  I love the beach, the water, even the sand.  I respect the beach, the depths of the ocean, the dangers just outside of the shore, and the riptides that seem invisible to the naked eye.  I even, to a degree, long for the beach.  It holds great memories, invokes feelings of peace, and there is nothing like the smell of the salt air.

I can count on two hands the number of times I have been in the last year.  In part, it is because of my fair skin.  I have two shades white and red, period.  I do not tan, or get a little color. I have had sun poisoning a few times in my life.  I’d much rather take an evening stroll than sit and bake in the sun.  As my dermatologist reminds me… I am the textbook case for getting skin cancer.  Joy.

So many of my friends love the beach because it is an inexpensive place to take the kids, and we have access to it year long.  I remember going to the beach as a teen, a tote bag and a towel.  As a mom, we are lugging chairs, towels, umbrellas, toys, sunscreen, snacks, lotions, changes of clothes, etc.   It feels more like work than pleasure, especially here where you can finally get settled and 30 minutes later a storm rolls in and you need to quickly pack up and run to the car.

I absolutely recognize that I am making excuses, there is no reason I can’t go to the beach with the kids and expect them to carry all of their own stuff.  I know that I can go on my own when the kids are in school, meeting up with a friend or two (or being a big girl and staking out a spot all on my own).  I can ask my husband to go with me on a walk at night.  I’ve even considered having a bike rack put on the jeep so that we could take our bikes for ride along the shore.

The truth is, like many things, I have taken the ocean for granted.  I have assumed it will always be there, exactly as I remember it.  I’ve also assumed that I will always been in driving distance, or health, or whatever other assumption I’ve adopted to validate my excuse for saving beach trips for another day.  This beautiful environment that the Lord has created, I put off enjoying for no real good reason.  Procrastination, distraction?  Maybe.

What about other aspects of God’s creation?

Our marriage?  Our relationship with our children?  Our health?

Do we take these things for granted?  Do we assume that these too will always been the same?  That there will be time for us to enjoy these relationships later on when life “life slows down”?

I made some assumptions a long time ago, that I’ve learned were far from true.  I assumed once my kids were all in school, I’d be less busy.  That I would have time for so many things that it turn out are still evading me.  I assumed my other stay home mom friends and I would get together all of the time.  Hardly.  In fact, I count myself lucky if I can see them three times a year.  I’m busy.  They are busy.  Life happens.

I now wish I would have made more of an effort to pack up the kids, when they were younger, and go to that play date or meet that friend at the park.  I wish we went to the beach more.  I wish I didn’t take things for granted, assuming that nothing would change or that things would get easier.

Something 40 has taught me is that my life isn’t over, there is still time to enjoy all of these things.  It will take effort for some things, compromise for others.  I may have to plan to make things happen, and reroute those plans when life intervenes.  But, there is still time today, tomorrow, and all year long to change things from being taken for granted and into taking advantage of the blessing and opportunities before us.