Rooted

It’s not something I’ve really posted much about here in this space, even though I have a whole post category dedicated to it – food + wellness. But this is a subject area that has taken up a lot of space in my mind and in my heart for nearly a year now.

Rooted

It was Memorial Day weekend last year when I finally thought to myself that I’d had enough. I’d had enough of my poor eating habits, my stress-induced snacking, and the way I felt as a whole. There was no one particular ailment or symptom, just a blanket sense of not feeling at home in myself, if that makes sense. That’s not to say that I am completely there now, but I am proud of the growth that has happened in the past year.

When I did my first Whole30 in July 2017, it was my hope that it would change my life and it did. Sure, there were physical changes on the outside from the 30 days and from the transition to Paleo immediately afterwards but Whole30 truly changed my entire mindset on food, nutrition, and what it means to truly be well.

I’ve read before that people who are Enneagram 9s (like myself) often feel most at home in nature but also have an intrinsic need to be rooted and settled, in harmony with the world. I definitely have seen this at play in my own life the more that I have studied the Enneagram and as I’ve found myself on this wellness journey for the past year.

The feeling that has been steadily cultivated within me is this deep desire to be connected to my body and truly know it well. We live in our bodies day in and day out but we don’t always know what our bodies are telling us or stop and think about what our daily choices could be doing to it. We don’t slow down enough to pay attention to how we actually feel. My post-Whole30 life has been characterized by a lot of label-reading, research, and intentional reflection on what I eat and how I can best practice self-care. Overall, I would say that I was especially diligent in the immediate days and weeks after July but around the beginning of this year, I began to get slack. Gluten, grains, and dairy suddenly were creeping their way back into my life more and more often but I kept trying to make excuses for it and tune out the ways that my body was trying to tell me that it wasn’t liking the things I was feeding it. Until I couldn’t tune it out anymore, that is.

At the beginning of April, I had two episodes of heartburn in the span of 4 days. If you are a frequent heartburn sufferer, I am SORRY. I can’t even imagine experiencing that discomfort more than what I did. And truthfully, I don’t know that my heartburn experiences were food-related (I had switched an allergy medication in this same time frame) but I’m sure it didn’t help things either. It might sound silly, but it was truly a wake up call for me. I needed to really get more diligent and intentional with my health again.

When I had the second episode of heartburn, I was away in Greenville, SC with my best friend (which didn’t help things) and the next day, we were walking through downtown. I was still feeling a little discomfort from the night before. We came across a wellness store (Pure on Main) and I instantly wanted to go in and see if I could find something that could help me. As I had laid awake with the heartburn, I had searched online for any and every remedy and I had come across many potential avenues. These two episodes were enough for me to know that I didn’t want to feel this way again. The common thing that came up multiple times in my research was aloe vera juice. After a helpful conversation with the employee at the wellness store, I left with a bottle of aloe vera juice and feeling like quite the hippie. But at this point in my wellness journey, natural remedies and supplements were/are so much more appealing to me than pills.

So now each night before bed I mix 4oz of Lily of the Desert’s aloe vera juice with a little bit of apple juice. Sure, I haven’t experienced heartburn again but I’ve also noticed that I just feel better since adding this to my daily routine. Not only is aloe vera juice great for heartburn/acid reflux but it has a whole host of other benefits like digestion support, anti-inflammatory properties, and support for heart health too.

So, all of that to say (since this has turned into a sort of “stream of consciousness”-type of post) – this is where I am at the moment with reference to health and wellness. I’ve come a long way from this time a year ago, but I am definitely trying to be intentional and mindful so that I don’t revert all the way back to old habits. There are a lot of things in life that we can’t control, but when it’s something like our health and the way that we feel each day – there are definitely things that we can do to influence that. And for me, what that looks like at the current moment is aloe vera and looking at getting back in the habit of going to yoga!

It’s my hope to start sharing some more posts on the topic of wellness and healthy living in the future, especially with my renewed interest and passion for it!

The Big Plan

I struggle with what exactly to say here that isn’t super dramatic or super cliche. But lately that’s what the pendulum that’s been swinging in my mind.

On March 23, I learned that I did not get accepted to grad school in Illinois. And in the past two weeks, I have learned that I have not moved forward in the selection process at 4 of the 6 hospitals where I applied for an internship. Even typing that leaves a sort of sour taste in my mouth and I’m realizing that I haven’t really spoken the words aloud very much just yet. Maybe it’s a little bit of embarrassment or maybe just disappointment, but yeah. My thoughts have been swinging back and forth from the super cliche “God works all things together for good”-type of thoughts to the super dramatic variety that has me questioning everything from how could I have misunderstood God to do I even still want to pursue this career. (I hear myself being dramatic, don’t you worry. I’m working on it!) Now, that’s not to say that I don’t think that God actually works all things together – He totally does and I believe that He is doing that here too – it’s just a verse that is used so often in comforting others that it has started to become a little cliche at times.

I think there is a certain sense of mourning, a transitional period, when this vision that you held and felt so strongly turns out not to be the path forward at all. It’s a little jarring, to be honest. For months, I felt so called to Illinois for school. Even my family felt strongly that this was where my next steps would take me. I applied to six hospitals also, sure, but I felt so sure that grad school was in my immediate future. But I am reminded of the words found in Isaiah 55, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (v. 8-9, ESV).”

While it’s easy to think that we know something because we are humans and small-minded, we serve a God who is so much bigger than what we can imagine. A big God who dreams big dreams for us. I think we (meaning me) can get so caught up in knowing the next step and knowing exactly what is coming our way when that is just simply not how life works. Just recently, in a perfectly timed message I might add, Bob Goff shared on Twitter, “What if we found out that God’s big plan for our lives is that we wouldn’t spend so much of our time trying to figure out a big plan for our lives? Perhaps He just wants us to love Him and love each other.”

But truthfully, even as cliche as the typical,comforting verses can be, I still wholeheartedly believe them to be true. As disappointed as I feel and as foggy as the road ahead appears to be, I know in my heart and soul that God is not done. I know that He is good and loving and faithful and that the future is beautiful, even if I no longer have a vision of what or where it will be. A dear friend of mine says often that “if it’s not good, than it’s not done” and this isn’t done.

I still have a few more weeks to potentially hear back from the two remaining hospitals where I applied for their child life internships. These next few weeks will be full of prayer and active listening to God. Lately, it feels as if I’m being directed to make a change in my work environment so that is something I am praying through as well. As someone who plans and thinks (usually overthinking) every detail of something, I think this is why this season and this experience is so jarring. But I can’t plan everything, no matter how much I think I am capable of it.

The big plan for our lives can only be directed by the One who can see the big picture, and that places me (and all of us, really) in the most steady and capable hands.

Waiting Well

Since the start of the year, I have been reading through the Bible chronologically each morning and I have to say, I have truly been loving it. Sure, wading through the Old Testament can be daunting and overwhelming but the timing of what I have been reading lately and the pull to read through the entire Bible this year in particular are surely all connected.

Currently, I am in the middle of Deuteronomy as Moses is preparing the Israelites to enter the Promised Land.

I can’t help but feel that it’s not a coincidence that I have been reading through this particular part of the Old Testament at this moment of my life. It’s not a coincidence that I would be reading of Moses leading the Israelites into the wilderness for a 40 year journey to the land that was promised to them by God while they were enslaved in Egypt.

40 years!

While this journey of mine has (thankfully) not lasted 40 years, it was not without great hardship and struggles along the way. What probably kept those people going throughout the 40 years was a great sense of hope that God would do what He said He would do. Was it a perfect 40 years? Of course not. The Israelites lost sight of the vision multiple times and they wavered. They doubted and they rebelled but guess what? God was still there, ready to fulfill His promise to them at the perfect and appointed time.

Waiting
Photo by Matthew Sleeper on Unsplash

Part of what makes their journey and this story resonate so deeply within me is the use of the word “wilderness.” Throughout these past four years, that has been the word that came to mind most often when describing the state of my life and the state of my heart. So much of who I was and what I knew about life was falling away with each new hardship that came my way and wilderness was just the best word to describe it. Just this week, in Shelly Miller’s Sabbath newsletter, she wrote, “Life is a continual paradox of joy and suffering. We tend to avoid the suffering at all costs, but the wilderness is our Harvard and Yale on the true meaning and purpose of life. Without wandering in the desert seasons, the Promised Land is an idealism.”

Yes and Amen.

The promise found in Isaiah 43:19 that God would make “a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” has been a promise that I have clung to for nearly three years. It’s a promise that I heard God himself whisper to me in the midst of the deepest pain that I have known in my 26 years – the moments after hearing that my Aunt Shelia had gone to be with Jesus less than 48 hours after her mother/my grandmother had. You see, the promise of freedom and restoration was what kept the Israelites moving forward and it was this same promise of restoration that nudged me forward as well. The promise whispered at 1:45am that said that He had been with me through all of this and that He was doing something good with this pain – just wait and see. It was more than enough for me to stand, with a broken heart and shaky hands, and do whatever was needed to move towards this vision of hope and restoration.

And so, now I wait.

The immediate aftermath of that promise was a two year season of preparation and of action. I withdrew from a school and master’s program that no longer held any passion in favor of plans and preparations for a new passion and pursuit – becoming a child life specialist. This two year season held more online courses and assignments and it held countless checklists making sure that I had everything needed to submit my applications this year – both to grad school in Illinois and six children’s hospitals across the East Coast and Midwest. But as of March 2, that season of preparation has given way to what I am sitting in now. A season of waiting.

There are no more applications to write. No more resumes to edit and no more transcripts to copy. The work has been done and I’ve begun to realize this past week just how hard waiting is when you’re not the one holding the timeline.

Sitting in this state of just simply waiting and not doing is incredibly difficult since it’s not really in my nature to rest – at least not this much. But there’s truly nothing more that I can do to affect any part of this next season. The work has been done and while it definitely feels strange, it also feels a little unnerving in some ways and I’m finding that I am having to make sure that I am always conscious of the state of my heart in this time.

You see, it’s in these times of waiting that I feel like I can’t hear God as clearly anymore but that’s just what the enemy wants so that he can worm his way in. I can see in some ways how he has already done that – using the stillness and expectancy of this time to try and get my guard down – getting me to think that the longer it takes for me to hear back from any of these places that God really isn’t working in this. And I know He is, friends, even if it’s not visible right at this moment.

In Habakkuk 2:3 (CEV), we read, “At the time I have decided, my words will come true. You can trust what I say
about the future. It may take a long time, but keep on waiting—it will happen!” and it is exactly the burst of fire that my heart needs right now.

I don’t know when I will hear anything about the next steps in this journey and while just simply typing that sends me teetering on the edge of panic and worry, the next thought in my mind is always of Jesus. It’s a gentle reminder to myself that this God I love and serve has a firm grip on me and will, in fact, fulfill each and every promise He ever makes to me. We don’t have to know the timeline to know this heart that wants nothing but the best for us. And that my friends is good news in this season of no news.

Courage

In the past few weeks and months, I feel as though I am finally coming to a place where I feel like I can hold the things in my life – my career, my stability, my relationships – all with open hands. A place where surrender is the initial response, rather than this clamoring for control whenever a change occurs or something bad happens. But it’s not as though the journey to this place has been easy – or that I’m necessarily great at surrendering to God’s will all the time.

It’s been a hard fought road to get here. And I’m crazy grateful for the growth, the bumps and the bruises, and the faith that has led me to this place.

When my life was turned on it’s head by a two year season of sicknesses, losses, and significant anxiety – my surrender was only born out of necessity. When life began spiraling out of control, I hadn’t stepped into church in months and was honestly the furthest from God I think I’d been up until that point, but I was in desperate need of something to cling to. I couldn’t control the things that were happening around me and I couldn’t make these terrible things go away but through the nudging and whispers that only God could give, I gradually found my way home to Him.

I’m not the same person that I was back then, but still I fight every day to remember exactly how that season of my life felt. I fight for that, not so that I can wallow in sadness but so that I can be revived each day by the pure joy and peace that God granted me through all of it. Because if I don’t remember how I felt, if I don’t remember the promises that were whispered to me as I stood in the front yard of my grandmother’s home, just 48 hours after she went home to be with Jesus, as the paramedics attempted to resuscitate my Aunt Shelia – than I will forget them. And to forget them is to forget the absolute miraculous way that God moved in my life and in my heart that morning.

We have to remember the way it felt to be utterly and wholly broken before we ever knew what it felt to be healed, fully and completely.

Which brings me to today. The present. If there’s anything that God is using this current season of my life for, it’s to teach me and show me the redeeming qualities of both presence and stillness. The gift of stillness has come primarily through the practice of mindfulness and meditation in recent weeks and has been incredibly grounding. God has shown me the gift of presence that has come in the form of both my active presence in my daily life in this season as well as the presence of specific people that God has sent to me in recent weeks. My cup surely runneth over these days….

Read the Post

Love + Ashes

There’s something that continually sticks out to me when I read the Bible, particularly when I read the stories of mourning and of repentance and that is sackcloth and ashes. When we read through stories of tremendous grief and sorrow, those two things are almost always associated.

Bible Gateway says this about sackcloth and ashes, “Sackcloth is a coarse, black cloth made from goat’s hair that was worn together with the burnt ashes of wood as a sign of mourning for personal and national disaster, as a sign of repentance and at times of prayer for deliverance.”

For some reason, the imagery that this practice of wearing sackcloth and ashes in response to mourning and sorrow and in the midst of repentance gives invokes in me this deep-rooted feeling – this deep stirring in my belly that is difficult to put words to but the closest I have is love.

Love + Ashes

It is when we are in deep mourning or deep repentance that we can more fully appreciate the love that is lavished upon us wholly undeserving people. It is when we humble ourselves, die to self, and repent that we can see just how much grace God pours out as a gift we never did anything to earn.

Ash Wednesday falling on the same day as Valentine’s Day could not be more perfectly planned, I think.

At the start of this Lenten season, the ashes that are being spread on foreheads today symbolize to me repentance. They symbolize this incredible sense of humility and smallness and sorrow that comes when we actually force ourselves to confront our sins. When we look at ourselves in the mirror long enough to see all of the ways that culture and society and the enemy have wedged themselves between us and God. And friends, to confront that and stand face to face with this demands our repentance. It demands our grief and our sorrow for all of the ways that we turn from God day in and day out – whether we mean to or not.

But on a day when culture and society are spewing out all of these manufactured tokens of superficial love and spreading guilt and shame to those without “true love” in their lives, Ash Wednesday adds some much needed perspective to the mix that is setting my soul on fire today. When we look at this day and at this season with a Lenten focus and remember why we reflect and repent during these 40 days – this Valentine kind of love just seems so obviously lacking. Lacking in substance, lacking in meaning, and lacking in the perfect love that came at the expense of Jesus on the cross.

The customary practice during Lent is to give something up until Easter and growing up, this was a practice that I truly never gave significant thought to when I was growing up in the Catholic church. My go-to was usually giving up soda or something like that but in recent years as I have grown in my faith, God has really laid it on my heart to consider not just what I could give up to draw nearer to Him but what I could potentially add in order to achieve the same result. That could be adding in the habit/practice of reading the Bible daily or meditating, two things I do already, but I think it also comes down to our posture. Sure, I’m already doing some of the things that can draw us in closer to God but where is the posture of my heart when I do these things? Am I doing them to just check it off a list or am I actively listening and actively quieting my mind in order to be more in tune with God?

As I write this, I’m also reading some excerpts from Pope Francis’ homily earlier today during the Ash Wednesday service at the Vatican and his thoughts perfectly echoes the cry of my heart lately.

”Pause from this compulsion to a fast-paced life that scatters, divides and ultimately destroys time with family, with friends, with children, with grandparents, and time as a gift…time with God,” he said today, before continuing with, “Pause for a little while, refrain from the deafening noise that weakens and confuses our hearing, that makes us forget the fruitful and creative power of silence.”

Silence and stillness have the power to amplify God’s voice and truth and it is my prayer this season that I am able to instill this into my own life. The kind of love that this day marks is not one that can be found on a store shelf or in the boxes of chocolates being passed around. No, it’s not a coincidence that Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. May we all draw nearer to the source of the purest and greatest love there is in this season.

Copyright © 2018 Messy Milestones · Theme by 17th Avenue