I Cried Today

I was laying on the couch with Ellie when I got this text…

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My heart sank and my eyes filled with tears as I read those words.

Someone that I love was hating the body they were in. Feeling disgusted and discouraged because of numbers on a scale.

I’ve written before about my experience with disordered eating here, and am all too familiar with the ways these unhealthy patterns can creep up on you and overtake your life. So as I read this text all I could think was where these thoughts could lead. In short…..it was no where good.

This person is a mother. A daughter. A friend. A counselor. A dream-chaser. An entrepreneur. A homemaker. A wish-granter. A caretaker. A trip-planner. And so much more than that number on the scale.

But when you’re surrounded by fat burners, detoxes, cleanses, wraps, and every other quick fix/skinny solution/your life is incomplete without this product, how can you expect to focus on anything else?

It’s hard to look past your imperfect physical appearance, which everyone and their brother is trying to sell you a “fix” for, and appreciate all of the things your body can do perfectly.

Like climb out of bed each day, fix lunches for your children, get them off to their activities, go to work, buy groceries, cook dinner, provide comfort for tears and cheers for celebrations, and celebrate another day of living.

When you have 800 other things on your plate, sometimes eating healthy, exercising regularly, and maintaining your weight all get pushed to the back burner.

I’m not advocating for or promoting pursuing an unhealthy lifestyle. I majored in Dietetics, and I’m working on a Master’s in Nutrition.

Obviously, I’m passionate about healthy living.

But what I’m more passionate about is living. Really, truly, LIVING.

And when you’re so caught up in how much weight you’ve gained, how little you’ve exercised, or how disgusted you are with your body, you have less time to enjoy all of the wonderful things your body continues to allow you to do.

I recently dug up these pictures to show someone as I was sharing with them about my experience with an eating disorder.

Do you know what I remember most about each of these moments?

Who I was with, what we did, the fun I had…..none of those things are among my most prominent memories.

What I do remember is how much I weighed and the things I ate. Not kidding.

How sad is that? My most prominent memories of a two year span of my life is the number on a scale and the amount of calories I ate each day.

I don’t want anyone else to live like that, especially not those who are close to me.

So mommas, daddies, college kids, grandparents, retired folks……whoever you are and whatever stage of life you’re in, please, please, please keep everything in perspective when it comes to weight and body image.

Should you try to eat healthy and get some type of activity everyday? Absolutely. Those things will help you live a full, happy, healthy life.

But should you let the weight you’ve gained dictate how you view your life? No.

Whether you weigh 120lb or 210lb, you have the power to enjoy your life. Soak up every moment. Give yourself grace. And keep everything in perspective.

Don’t waste valuable time you could be happily spending with your family on hating your body and loathing that number on a scale. Let it go.

You won’t look back and regret sharing that sundae with your son, but you might look back and regret skipping the moment all together.

Even if Your Knees Shake

As I began getting things ready for my move to Birmingham and my start at UAB, I had to take a minute to catch my breath. I was overwhelmed by the surrealness of the moment.

Four months earlier I desperately wanted to withdraw my application. Not because I decided dietetics wasn’t for me, nor was it because I didn’t want to complete a Dietetic Internship.

I wanted to withdraw my application because I was scared to death of the possible rejection I was facing. From the time I submitted my application on February 14th to finding out I got accepted at UAB on April 2nd, I was a nervous wreck. I must have told Preston at least 1,000 times that “the national match rate is LESS THAN 50%! There’s no way I’m getting in”.

Honestly, I was absolutely horrified each and every time I said those words out loud. I wanted to believe I would get in despite my predictions, part of me still had a glimmer of hope, but the larger part of me wanted to avoid any possible disappointment and just withdraw. I asked myself almost daily if I really wanted to be a Dietitian.

I tried to think of 800 different paths I could take to avoid this whole ordeal, but something inside just wouldn’t let go. Still, I faced everyday during those 2 months with severe anxiety over what was to come in the next few months. My whole life, it seemed, was resting on whether this worked out the way I planned or not.

My professors, friends, family, and classmates all looked at me, each mentally reviewing my resume, and wondered why I was freaking out. It seemed like I was a shew in for each of them. I had good work experience, decent extracurricular, several volunteer hours, an above average GRE score, and a GPA that could rival most.

But to me, it still seemed like everyone else was so much better in comparison to what I had to offer.

Four months later, as I sat corresponding with my Internship Director, I couldn’t help but think about all of the things in the past I’ve been scared to do, but pressed on anyways.

In sixth grade, I looked at Scott’s pre-algebra textbook and almost started crying. I didn’t think there was anyway I could ever understand all of that. I had never seen letters mixed with my math problems before?! But, 2 years later, there I was understanding pre-algebra everyday.

At the end of eighth grade, I was scared I wouldn’t be smart enough to handle high school. I was convinced the work load would be so heavy I would never keep up……. Four years later I graduated Valedictorian.

Senior year of high school our teachers told us all kinds of things to “prepare” us for college. Like how professors would never put notes on the board for us to copy (false). How we would have to write everything in pen for it to be accepted (this really messed with my OCD/perfectionism and I literally cried thinking about having to scribble out things everyday) (also false). And college would be intensely harder than high school ever was and we would probably not succeed in the same ways we did in high school (mostly false). Before I ever even started college, I truly believed I was going to flunk out. Yes, a high school Valedictorian worried sick about flunking out of college.

If you can’t tell, I’ve always had a small problem with imagining my “mole hill” challenges as Mt. Everest and deciding I will never be successful at making it through.

Luckily, I’ve had family and friends throughout my life that have refused to let me quit. So, with each challenge I faced with tears in my eyes, I would continue pressing through until the challenge was conquered. And each time, the challenge was, in fact, conquered.

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This blue slide is a little thing called “The Kamikaze”. Every year that we went to Gulf Shores, from the time I was a tiny tot, we would go to Waterville, home of that blue slide.

For years, I would watch people come flying down this “free fall” slide and dream about going down it. But each year, I would start up the steps and decide my knees were shaking too bad for me to do it. “I’ll do it next year I promise” became my famous line. As each year came and passed, I was still waiting on “next year.”

Finally, I worked up enough courage to climb the steps to the top and wait my turn. As I walked to the edge of the slide and looked down, tears immediately filled my eyes. I had intense regret for what I had just decided to do, but I was also too shy to get up and make a spectacle of myself chickening out. So, I went with my only other option.

I clinched my teary eyes shut, took a deep breath, and let myself fall.

At the end of that slide, my only regret was that I had waited so long to try it out. It was terrifying the whole way, but it was exhilarating and insanely fun.

As I’ve gone through this application process for the next step in my career, I’ve started to look at the different opportunities I’ve been given in life the same way I look back at “The Kamikaze”.

I don’t want to realize one day that I spent half my life putting off the adventure of a lifetime because I was scared of what could happen. So I’ve made a commitment to myself to do more of saying “yes” when opportunities are thrown my way.

With every chance I get, I want to be able to climb those stairs and take that leap of faith. I have a feeling that a full life truly begins at the edge of that slide.

So keep climbing, friends, and get ready for adventure……….even if your knees shake.

She’s a Runner

She’s a runner.

No, not the athletic kind. Far from it, actually. But a runner in the hypothetical sense.

A runner from problems. From conflicts. From the unknown. From confrontation. From hurt. From anything big and dressed in scary clothes.

Why? Because it’s easier.

Or….

So she thought.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with things being perfect.

I always had to have an A for every subject on every report card growing up. I VIVIDLY remember being in 7th grade history and being on the verge of a “B” on my report card. I was worried sick for weeks just thinking about it. I just “couldn’t handle” having a B.

Really, I would have lived to tell the tale all the same, but it felt impossible to cope with. So, I did everything I could do to make sure I didn’t have a B on that report card.

Senior year, I thought about running cross country to spend more time with my friends, but I knew I was a terrible runner. Like really, really, really slow. I also knew I wasn’t joining the team to win any medals, I just wanted to be with my friends and have fun.

But the thought of finishing a race last was paralyzing. I could barely stand the thought of doing something that I wasn’t great at….but doing something I was bad at? That was a foreign concept I absolutely didn’t plan on getting comfortable with.

So I went as a spectator instead. Safely saving myself the embarrassment of failing.

Because, naturally, when things start getting a little dicey, it’s time to bail, right?

Or when it starts getting time to make tough decisions or take a leap of faith or put yourself out there to possibly be rejected. When you’re paralyzed by the idea of failure, it seems easier to run away than to attempt something you might publicly fail at.

But as a perfectionist who also experienced a wide array of emotions, life got even more confusing.

Somehow crying in public, facing failure head on, admitting I can’t do it on my own, talking about my problems, verbalizing my fears…..all of these things felt like accepting defeat and admitting I wasn’t perfect for everyone to see.

I felt all of these emotions so strongly, but I couldn’t figure out how to deal with them without looking like I couldn’t handle everything on my own. So, instead of dealing with problems or emotions or conflicts, I ran.

Ironically, that’s how I ended up in Nashville.

After a senior year full of different hurts and, what I perceived as failures, I was ready to get as far away as I could. If I could just run far enough and fast enough and long enough, eventually the problems would dissipate and I wouldn’t have to deal with them.

Right?

Wrong. That’s not how it works. That’s not how it will ever work. But sometimes, it feels like it works.

It feels like if you can just get far enough away you can start over without dealing with any old problems or hurts.

But really, those problems just pile up for you to deal with later.

As I was talking to one of my oldest friends about everything going on in life from friendships to relationships to work to grad school to everything in between, he asked me what I was going to do.

I just stared blankly at him and didn’t give much of an answer.

He looked at me with a smirk and said, “You’re going to wait until you find out where you’re going to grad school to make any decisions aren’t you?”

I sheepishly replied, “That was kinda my plan. That way I’ll know where I’m running to.”

He chuckled because he knows me well. But I think we both knew that wasn’t my best plan.

I’m a runner. I’ve always been a runner.

I hate confrontation. I hate disappointment. I hate failure. I hate conflict. And I hate dealing with anything that doesn’t look like a big package of success wrapped nicely with happiness and perfection.

So I run from it.

But I’ve realized recently that eventually, you can’t run anymore. One day, you’ll run out of places to run to. And on that day, you’ll have to sit down and deal with all of the hurt, disappointment, conflict, and failures you’ve been running from.

And that day will hurt. Man, it will hurt like crazy. And you might feel like the biggest failure.

But that day brings with it new life. It brings the freedom to apply to that dream job you were too scared to go after. Or the grad school you didn’t think you were good enough for. Or the move you were too scared to make.

It brings the freedom for you to put yourself out there and deal with the outcome without feeling like  you have to run away before you can get hurt.

And after you let go of the hurt, you have room in your luggage to refill that space with happiness, success, healed relationships, hopes, dreams, and a future you don’t want to escape from.

Life is hard. Failures are inevitable. But running is a choice. And its a choice that’s labors have proved unfruitful.

 

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Finding Joy in Normal

As Toria and I were discussing our NYE plans, we both commented on how uneventful our nights were probably going to be. The idea of spending a night at home doing nothing was rather appealing after a busy holiday week.

But then…

I started to see pictures all over Facebook of all the fun events everyone else was attending. Suddenly my night at home seemed less than appealing. I wasn’t really satisfied with a “normal” night when it looked like everyone else was enjoying something more extravagant.

As we were both discussing the dissatisfaction with our “normal” nights, I realized how less than excited I seem to be with “normal” life. Not to say that I’m unhappy with my life, because I’m not.

But those ear-to-ear smiling, can’t contain my joy, overly excited to experience life moments seem to be few and far between. It’s as if I’m waiting for something to happen to spark that excitement. As if the mundane day-to-day living isn’t worth being excited over.

For a lot of us in this weird, post-grad stage, it feels like we’re constantly in a stage of waiting. Waiting to start our dream career. Waiting to be engaged. Waiting for the next big trip we can post about. Waiting to plan a wedding. Waiting to start a family. Waiting for anything to be more exciting than where we’re stuck now.

Because somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that our lives are stagnant if we aren’t actively passing through each of these stages. And with stagnation comes mundane. And who finds overly ecstatic joy in the mundane?

Maybe waiting for “big things” to spark happiness is only a problem I have. Or maybe I’m right in thinking others struggle with that too.

But one thing was certain, I didn’t want to keep waiting for “big things” to experience that bubbling over happiness they seem to bring with them. Because those big things seem to occur few and far between. And with each big thing, comes a long period of waiting after the moment fades.

It’s true that happiness is a fleeting emotion, but that’s all the more reason to search for that happiness every day.

I don’t want to be thrilled with life just when I’m skiing down the mountains of Colorado or lying on the beaches in Jamaica.

I want to be thrilled with life when I wake up to Ellie running around the bed, when I walk into work and get to hear about other people’s lives, when I go to the grocery store and find mangoes on sale.

I want that ear-to-ear smiling, can’t contain my joy, overly excited to experience life feeling to be present in my daily life.

Why?

Because I’m tired of waiting for “life” to impress me enough to feel that. It’s too great of a feeling to only experience a few times a year. That’s ridiculous.

Life is so cool when you choose to see it. And there are so many things daily that should spark our excitement to be alive.

So my goal for 2017 is simple:

I want to experience joy in everything. And find happiness in the small things.

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Will you join me? Let’s make everyday the next best day of our lives.

My Sister’s Shoes

Several nights ago, as I was taking Ellie outside at my apartment, I heard footsteps coming down the stairs behind me. I looked up and saw a guy walking down the stairs towards us.

As he got closer, he looked up and remarked, “Uhh this was a bad idea.”

I assumed he was referring to the Labrador puppy without a leash he was holding in his arms. Everyone else but you, sir, understands that dogs should be leashed when you take them outside at an apartment complex…

But, to my surprise, his unleashed puppy was of no concern to him.

Instead, he looked down at his feet and said, “These are my sisters shoes. I just grabbed the closest ones I could find. I don’t normally wear these.”

So, of course, my eyes went directly towards his feet to see what he was talking about. Sure enough, his feet were sporting some sparkly gold, strappy sandals.

I tried not to chuckle, since it was obvious he was already embarrassed, but I assured him I hadn’t even noticed until he said something. And I probably never would have noticed.

And then it got me thinking.

So what if I did notice? What would that have meant to a stranger who didn’t even know my name?

How many times do we stress about something because of what what we think other people might say or think about it?

How many times do we notice the pimple that just popped up on our face and feel as if it’s the only noticeable thing about us? Or how many times do we avoid buying an outfit because somebody might think it looks weird or its not in style? How often do we avoid going somewhere we really want to go because someone might question if that was a good use of our money or not?

Daily, most of us, make decisions with the thoughts of what someone might say or think in the back of our heads. We don’t always wear or eat or go or say what we really want to, because we have to think about how that looks or sounds or appears to other people.

What if they think I’m weird? What if they think I’m uneducated? What if they think I’m lazy? Poor? Selfish?

So, what if? No, really.

What happens if they think any of those things?

Does it change who you are? Does it change what you stand for? Does it change what you know to be true?

It doesn’t. Other than causing anxiety for yourself, the opinions of others don’t really affect you on a grand level.

Sure, your reputation matters. Your name matters.

But what doesn’t matter is what so & so thought of you for eating 2 cupcakes when you should have eaten just one. Or what he thought of you for spending money on a vacation instead of investing in a 401k. Or what she thought of you for buying a floral dress to go with fluorescent patterned leggings. Or what they thought of you for taking a lower paying job to spend more time with your family.

And what matters even less, is the assumptions that they draw about you based on your actions.

My neighbor knew why he was wearing those shoes. I didn’t.

So what if I did notice them, and then wondered why he was wearing those shoes? Or what if I decided he was weird for it? Who’s in the wrong?

Me. For making an assumption based on actions I knew nothing about.

People might see what you did, but they don’t know why you did it. And, honestly, your “why” is none of their business.

So let them talk. Let them draw their own conclusions and form their own opinions. But let them do that completely absent of you. Don’t waste your time and energy wondering what their opinions are. Make decisions that will better your life, and actually work to better your life by unapologetically making those decisions.

Because in the grand scheme of things, what other people think about you doesn’t hold much water.

And lastly, as my mom always told me, don’t be so arrogant to think people are always talking about you, thinking about you, or noticing you. When everyone else is just as worried about what other people think, they don’t have time to worry about judging you.

So wear your sister’s shoes proudly if that’s what you decide to do. But don’t go pointing it out and explaining yourself to people out of fear of what they may think.

Live your life boldly. Be true to yourself. Be you. Wholly, completely, unapologetically you.

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I Know He’ll Come

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This, as most of you already know, is my furchild Ellie. After 8 weeks together, we’ve grown pretty close. Really close actually. I’m rather obsessed with her.

And amid the early morning wake-up calls, naps in the car, runs around the house, and meeting lots of new faces, we have somehow found time to get this little stinker potty trained.  After 4 weeks together, at only 12 weeks old, she was mostly potty trained. I may be bias, but Ellie is the smartest puppy I’ve ever known.

Taking tips from more experienced dog trainers, we decided to use the “bell method” for training Ellie. Basically, we hung a bell on our door for her to ring when she needs to go outside.

After seeing this image several times, some things started to click.

When Ellie decides she wants to go outside, she runs to the door, rings the bell, barks, and sits down, continuing to stare up at the door. If I don’t respond immediately, she goes through the routine again, continuing to ring the bell and bark until she hears me coming.

No matter how long she has to continue barking or ringing, she sits there by the door, knowing I will come.

She is persistent. And she is trusting.

As I listened and watched her, I was reminded of the story Jesus told in Luke 11:

And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.

His friend will not rise just because he is a friend, but because of his persistence he answers his call.

There have been many times that Ellie has rang her bell at inconvenient times. Sometimes, I’ve continued in what I’m doing, hoping she will stop ringing and barking, thinking she must be ringing it simply to go out and play this time.

But because she continues to bark and wait at the door, I stop what I’m doing to let her out. And she continues to sit and wait, because she knows I’ll always come.

If we, as humans, adopted this attitude in our relationships with God, it could radically change our lives.

If we ran to Him with every decision and hardship and complication. If we sat at His feet, continually knocking and seeking. Not praying once and hoping He’ll answer, but beating down the gates of Heaven continually, knowing He will answer us. Knowing He will come to our rescue.

This is the very attitude Jesus calls us to when He tells the parable above. In the verses following the parable Christ proclaims:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

What would our lives look like if we ran to Him, knocked repeatedly, and continued knocking because we knew He would come?

What if we went to Him boldly and confidently, rather than timidly, as if we aren’t sure if He’ll be thankful or annoyed that we’re asking again?

What if we prayed continually, trusting He will answer in the right way at the right time?

Even though Ellie knows I will come, she doesn’t stop after ringing her bell and barking once.

Sometimes, I think we feel like once is all it should take. Almost as if we think repeatedly asking God for something makes us seem like we think He isn’t listening or isn’t willing to answer unless we beg.

But asking, seeking, knocking, pleading repeatedly is exactly what God asks of us. The repetition shows dedication. It reveals how pressing the issue is on our hearts. And it shows commitment to wanting His help and a willingness to wait for it.

We continue asking, seeking, and knocking, not because we are doubtful that He hears us, but because we are confident He will come in response to our pleading.

 

Don’t Feed the Wolf

“It’s really true what they say. Every person is half sheep and half wolf. Half good and half evil. It’s important to be careful about what side you feed.”

Several weeks back (ironically, before the recent surge in violence and malicious attacks) my dad was talking about the nature of humans. We were discussing how each individual, essentially, has the same potential to be a shining light or a darkening shadow.

With every confrontation, we, as humans, seem to have an equal surge in desire to gain revenge and dish out hurt as well as to maintain grace and show kindness. Perhaps, in the moment, the desire for revenge becomes overwhelming to the point that it’s the only emotion we recognize. But later, when the situation has fizzled out, we often look back, wishing we had handled the situation better. And in moments before confrontation arises, we hope and pray that we will be able to handle these situations gracefully, rather than dreaming of the next opportunity we will have to be unkind. Yet, in the moment, we still experience those desires to behave poorly.

The cartoons that depict an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other pretty accurately depict the inner struggles that we face as humans. Paul even wrote about these struggles in Romans 7:

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” Romans 7:15, 19

Paul experienced the inward struggles of the flesh and the Spirit. He desired to chase after that which was good, but he found himself still practicing that which was evil.

A while back, I encountered a picture of a conversation on Tumblr that pertained to this topic.

The original poster wrote,

I’m a bad person who thinks bad thoughts like “ew what is that girl wearing?” and then remember that I’m supposed to be positive about all things and then think “no she can wear what she wants, forget what other people say, dang girl you look fabulous!” and I’m just a teeny bit hypocritical tbh

That comment alone resonated with me. Maybe because we, as females, have a bad habit of thoughts like these. It seems socially acceptable to critique other women daily. For some of us, maybe thoughts of criticism have even become our first thoughts more times in a day than we care to admit. But like this individual, I often catch myself. I try to correct my thoughts, thinking how I would feel if someone said those things about me. And then, I get disappointed, hating that my first thoughts are of criticism rather than admiration.

But the part of this post that made me really love it happens to be the commenter’s response.

“I was always taught by my mother that the first thought that goes through your mind is what you have been conditioned to think. What you think next defines who you are.”

What you think next, defines who you are.

As always, I think the wisdom of a mother rings true. In many cases, I agree that the first thought we have often stems from what we have been taught to think. But more than that, our first thought stems from the things we have been feeding ourselves.

45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6: 45

“Above all else, guard your heart,
For out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:21-23

Paul’s struggles in conjunction with these verses may make the struggle of good versus evil seem hopelessly against us. But, thankfully, we have a God on our side who is willing and able to help us.

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38

The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. But, as Paul said, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The fight of good vs evil requires effort on our part, but it also includes a God who is willing to offer help when we struggle and grace when we fall. Our responsibility, ultimately, is too monitor the things we allow into our hearts and minds.

I think Paul summed it up pretty nicely in Philippians 4:8,

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Meditate on these things. Put forth effort into feeding your heart praiseworthy things, and produce actions that will flow, effortlessly, from a heart that is seeking to be like Christ.

In light of recent events, it is more obvious than ever that we need people acting out of good hearts. Hearts that have chosen everyday to be fed by good and to nurture the sheep within.

To lead people to Christ and achieve peace, we need more hearts that are revoking the evil and drinking in the Holy.

So, with every choice you make in what to watch, or hear, or see, or speak, or do, remember….

BE CAREFUL NOT TO FEED THE WOLF.