January 31, 2013

Thriving Not Surviving

Today is the day I start my three month journey through spinal therapy. A lot of people have asked what exactly that consists of, so I want to take the time to explain a bit.

Basically, just like physical therapy, my therapists will use release tactics, pressure point therapy, etc. and will also supervise me "working out" (if you want to call it that) on machines that will specifically strengthen my spine.

I've been experiencing a lot of anxiety over today and the next 6-8 weeks, at least. My doctor said that they tend to be painful. In other words, things have to get worse before they can get better.

Honestly, those are NOT the words that are going to make me want to try something. I definitely think it would be awesome to have this pain go away completely... On its own. ;) But, because that's not realistic, I'm going to fight through these next weeks and I'm going to do it with a smile on my face and hope in my heart.

I'm holding onto what God has said about health and I'm taking hold of the courage and confidence I have in my faith...

2 Timothy 1:7~ For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Joshua 1:9~ Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Hebrews 15:5~ For the Lord has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

Jeremiah 30:17~ "For I will restore you to health," declares the Lord, "of your wounds I will heal you."

I'm focusing on thriving, not just surviving.

January 29, 2013

Hebrews 6:19

On Saturday, after a relaxing day of cleaning, laundry, laundry, and LAUNDRY - my best friend Amy and I headed into town for a little shopping and coffee action. Naturally, I picked up two scarves while we were there. One of them just so happened to be an anchor print and reminded me of a simple quote that I hold dear to my heart...

"I refuse to sink."

Amy tried to intervene and insisted that I didn't need it, as a GOOD friend of a girl with 40 scarves should do, but I just had to have it.

On Sunday morning, I woke up for church and got dressed for the day. Of course I wore my new anchor printed scarf and I was feeling on top of the world. 

I don't need the right pair of shoes to conquer the world... I just need the right scarf. Honest.

When I got home, I went to check Facebook to see what everyone was up to. Typical, being I had an English story assignment to write and I was looking for any possible way to procrastinate.

The first thing that popped up in my newsfeed, though, was a post by Kari Jobe and just kinda... Well... Full out slapped me in the face.

The past week was another rough one for me. I haven't been able to do much of anything due to the pain I've been in. One night, I even had a complete meltdown and tried telling God I wasn't cut out for this life.

HA! He loves to prove us wrong. He really, really enjoys that. ;-) I believe so, anyway.

I have two verses that I refer to as my "heart verses." Ya know, the two that I can just completely identify with and vow to hide in my heart for the rainy day that I absolutely need them...

Well, one of those verses {for me} IS Hebrews 6:19...

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul; firm and secure..."

The other is Jeremiah 30:17...

"For I will restore you to health," says the LORD, "of your wounds I will heal you."

Funny how those verses go hand in hand, huh? Funny how both the verses I've hidden in my heart for years suddenly had more than just the purpose of memorization.

I love that. 

God truly does prepare us for the future nonchalantly. Without us even noticing a bit. THAT'S how hard He is at work in us.

I'm crazy, crazy, CRAZY thankful for the all-loving Lord we serve. 

Without Him, I would have definitely - without a doubt - drown a long time ago. (Cause first of all, I can't swim...)

 But with that anchor? With HIM as my anchor?

I will not sink.

January 28, 2013

January '13 Cara Box Reveal

I found out about the Cara Box link up hosted by Kaitlyn @ Wifessionals immediately following Christmas and knew I had to join in the fun! Honestly, this has been one of the best months in my blogging career so far because I've formed so many NEW friendships! I love that!

Cara Box

This month, I was matched with Brooke, who sent me a package. And Amanda, who I sent a package to.

Ironically, Amanda and I have known eachother for about a year already and just so happened to get matched. I found that so exciting. Because I know her so well, she was super easy and just plain fun to shop for! Nothing like sending one of your besties a package "just because!"

Brooke and I, however, had never crossed paths. But when we did, the two of us really hit it off. We e-mailed back and forth for days getting to know eachother and she has been nothing but a blessing to my life since! She is a sweetheart with a HUGE heart and I could not be more grateful that we were matched!

One of my favorite things about Brooke is how thoughtful she is! She wrapped each item individually and wrote a little note to me on each one. I was literally grinning from ear to ear the entire time I was opening the package. Her thoughtfulness blows me away!

The other thing that meant a lot to me was the heartfelt card she wrote. You see the part at the bottom when she says: "While shopping, I thought of all your talents, your heart for children, your courage, and I prayed for you."? Yeah. That. THAT made me cry. It was a huge blessing to hear those words from such a dear friend!

Inside all of those thoughtful packages were 5 things that have been missing from my life for far too long:

- A waterbottle to keep me hydrated and to help me stick to my resolution to drink more water!

- Dry shampoo, hair curlers for perfect waves, and pretty bobby pins to help me stick to my resolution to try some new things with my hair and get the heck over my hair challengedness!

- A notebook with my initial on it to stick to my resolution of listing my blessings day in and day out!

The package she sent me was encouraging, sweet, and so beyond thoughtful. Like I said, I've gained a DEAR friend through this link up and absolutely adore her. :-)

My favorite part of the package, though, was what she had written on the package containing the notebook...

Thank you so much for being there for me, Brooke. And thank you for speaking my many love languages. ;-) You are a doll! XOXO!

January 14, 2013

January Sponsors // Part 1

It's a true honor to be able to connect with and feature some of my favorite ladies who just so happen to be on my sidebar throughout this month! Take some time getting to know them - I promise you won't regret it! :-)

Jen @ The Adventures of Our Army Life

Blog // Facebook // Twitter
"I'm a 27 year old Army Wife, been married to my husband for 4 1/2 years. My blog is our journey through life, the army, infertility struggle and everything in between. I love my husband, our pets, the beach, and photography."

Jen is one of the most genuine bloggers I've had the opportunity to connect with in this online world. She is constantly supporting and encouraging those around her and her energy is infectious!

Heather @ Live. Love. Laugh.


 "I am a 30 year old wife and stay at home mom. My son, Brayden, is special needs and has Cerebral Palsy. I live in the Chicago suburbs. I have Celiac Disease that will keep me gluten free for life. I love life, I love being a mom, and I try to write as honestly as I can. I also enjoy traveling, cooking, and Starbucks!"

Heather is an incredibly inspiring mother and friend. I have yet to meet anyone who runs across her blog and isn't immensely blessed by her honest writing and heart for her sweet son.

Tarole @ One Haole Girl

Blog // Facebook // Twitter

"Aloha! I am Tarole and I blog about daily life living on a rock in the middle of the ocean. You'll find a little bit of everything from recipes, to health/fitness tips, to fashion. I co-host a fun, nerdy link up once a week called My Harry Potter Fix and also host a weekly Saturday Style where I feature YOUR favorite college team game day looks! I hope you drop by and say "Aloha"!"

Tarole is an outgoing sweetheart that never fails to cheer me up! Her blog is constantly filled with fun, new material and her sense of humor is one in a million. She is absolutely beautiful inside and out... I am so darn blessed to call her a friend!

Jess @ JMN Way

"I love the Lord, He has changed my whole life and given me so much more than I could have ever imagined. I am married to an amazing man and we do youth ministry together at a small church plant in AZ where my husband is the Student Ministries Director. I love to bake, I can never drink too many Chai tea lattes from Starbucks, and I love to cuddle my fur baby, Gizmo."

Jess has a heart for Jesus like no other and her ability to reach out and speak truth is unreal. She represents her honest and caring heart for youth in her blog and isn't afraid to speak and live out her incredible faith. She serves as an encouragement to me daily!

Mia @ The Chronicles of Chaos

Blog // Facebook // Twitter

"Hi there! I'm Mia from The Chronicles of Chaos! I'm a wife, a mom to 2 boys, and a daddy's girl.  Lover of Coke, Justin Bieber (don't judge!), hot wings, corny jokes, and Embracing Chaos. 2013 has really inspired me to make some changes to my life and I hope you'll stop by, check out my blog sometime, and say hi!"

Mia is a kind, sweet, and considerate friend of mine with an adorable blog. Her writing is sweet and cheery all the time and I can always stop by her blog expecting to leave with a smile!

Go say hello to these girls, read, comment and follow along with their journeys!

 There's even some incentive today! I truly want YOU to connect with us! 

I'm giving away ONE "Totally Fab" ad space - entries are SIMPLE! Go visit these girls, leave them a comment, and head back here to submit an entry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

January 13, 2013

The Growth I See Within Myself

Today, I was looking through some of my old writing from back when I was first diagnosed with arthritis. I'm talking 2-3 years old. Never "published" old. For some reason, this one stuck out to me among all the tear-stained pages of my journal. It's amazing to me because I don't ever remember feeling this way, exactly. I just remember being drained, exhausted and frustrated at everything that was happening in my life during this time.

That's why I love writing - why I always have. There's just something so freeing and liberating about getting those thoughts out on paper or in a blog post.

Looking back at it now, 2-3 years later, I'm completely blown away at how far I've come and how much I've changed and grown. It's really pretty amazing and I owe it ALL to God for changing my heart.

- - -
"I’m a giver. It’s who I am. Better yet, it’s who God created me to be. I enjoy giving my time to the families I babysit for. I love giving my time to my family in friends whenever they’re in need of a listening ear. I adore giving my time to Jesus while reading the Bible, praying, and living for Him each and everyday. I’m a giver. It’s who I am. It’s who God created me to be.
I love being just that...a giver. But sometimes all too often, I get frustrated because I am this way. I get upset because even after all the things I sacrifice for certain people...they don’t give anything back. I get frustrated because I'm drained, exhausted, and want so badly just to worry about myself for one day. 

But today, I am making a vow to myself and God that I will improve on this particular habit of mine, because I recognize that GOD has ever so graciously placed this heart inside of me...and this heart? This heart is like no other. It's strong willed, it's passionate, and it's God-given. God's set me on a mission that's compatible with my heart and personality strengths.

You know what else I recognize? That those feelings of ‘What will I get in return?’ are Satan trying to turn me into the opposite person God has destined me to be.

However, there is One bigger than any mountain that I face...and that same One is the One who died on the cross for my sin. The One that loves on me even when I've made my biggest mistakes. He’s the same One who first loved me and He’ll surely be the last.

With this in mind, today is the day it ends. No, Satan, don’t get your hopes up...I’m not talking about the giving. I’m talking about the negativity you are bringing to the glorious task God has entrusted me with.

And to You, Jesus, lover and creator of my soul. I thank You for continuing to challenge me. I thank You for the comfort, hope, and strength You've given me...every piece of my heart is YOURS! I will serve You – and if that means giving to others even when it's hard, even when it doesn't seem worth it, I’ll do it...and I'll do it for Your glory."

- - -

I can't even imagine myself as the person I described myself as in some of these seemingly ancient words...right now, 2-3 years later, I go crazy if I go half a day without GIVING something. My time, words, energy. Why is that? How is that even possible?

It all goes back to the day I wrote these words...the day I took that step of faith and that stand against negativity. What it actually boils down to, though? It's ALL God. It's me finally accepting the person He's called me to be. It's growing in faith. It's perspective.

I love that. I love seeing the results of Him working on me, my heart, and my life. I'm so grateful that He cares enough to work on me - but loves me just the same as He did before. That's the love I'm living for. :)

2 Corinthians 5:17~ "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"

January 11, 2013

I Don't Understand

My heart's been overwhelmed this week as I get closer to the new season of life I'm about to enter independently. That's why I've been MIA, yet again.

Things are going to be okay, I know that. But, I've been worrying myself sick about how hard  physical therapy's going to be, especially while I'm in the pain I'm in... There's just an uneasiness and the fear of the unknown. 

I always try to imagine where I'll be in 6 months. I like to kind of skip over the tough stuff - the journey - and just imagine that one day exactly 6 months from now. It never really lasts long because reality has to hit, but it's a good thing to try and forget for just a minute and look ahead to all of the good things that are to come. 

The reason it disappoints me so much is because when I was first diagnosed with this disease, I saw hope. There was an upward staircase and I was on it. I think what I expected was to be "better" by now. Or "get better soon." However, today, I can't even tell you what better even means. All I know is my definition of the word has absolutely nothing to do with what God has planned and chosen for me.

I guess today, though, I just don't understand it. I don't understand why I was chosen to walk this path or tell this story... I don't understand why I can't sleep because of the pain I'm in. I don't. I don't understand it at all.

This is an "I'm trying my hardest" statement. I just need to have something out there that reminds me I'm trying. That I'm doing OK.

And it's also a big, fat THANK YOU to everyone who's supporting me along this bumpy road. I honestly don't know where it's taking me, but I know the journey wouldn't be worth it without you and the love and support you so freely give. I simply don't deserve all I've been blessed with.

I don't understand and I don't think I ever will... Which is why I'm so glad that my understanding is NOT essential to God's plan for me. Not in the slightest.

“I could not comprehend God's plan, but my understanding was not essential; only my obedience was.” -Alice Gray

God's plans are bigger...

January 06, 2013

Sunday Fun Day! {A Giveaway!}

Sunday has arrived! It's cold here in Minnesota, but the sun makes the snow glitter... And as long as there's a pretty view, I guess I'm okay with these chilly temperatures! ;-)

My sweet bloggy friend Jess just reached 100 followers on her blog this past week and being the sweet, loving girl she is with the BIGGEST heart, she put together a giveaway for all of her followers and asked her sponsors to join in!

I'm thrilled to be apart of the giveaway and can't wait to see who wins! If y'all have a minute, please go check out the lovely Jess and leave her some love on her precious and encouraging blog! I want all my followers to know about her and the blessing that she is! Plus, there's 4 days left to enter and I want my followers to have a shot at winning, too! ;-)

You can enter over on her blog or right below this text in the Rafflecopter! Best of luck! 

January 04, 2013

I Am Not "Fine"

** This post was written December 23rd.

I'm going to start this post with a confession: I have a full plate right now. A plate so full that I cannot manage it anymore.

I want to be transparent at all times on this little ole' blog and honestly, I think it's very helpful if I am. But, nonetheless, it's still pretty stinkin' hard for me. Here I am...posting this two weeks after I had it written because I was worried, afraid, and quite frankly - a bit ashamed. I want to be the girl that everyone looks at and says, "wow - she's got it all together!" I want to be independent. I want to be normal.

But what I want even more than all that set aside? I want people to know about the struggles and worries other children and teens just like me deal with on a daily basis. I want them to understand. I want to play the cards I've been dealt - and I want to play them well. And to all the children and teens who suffer from arthritis, chronic pain, or any semi-related disease, I want them to know that they're not alone. That there are options. That there is hope. That someone gets them.

I truly want to be an advocate for this disease more than anything. In order to do that, I have to be real, honest, and unafraid to share my struggles and feelings of inadequacy. It's pretty simple...because I feel called to do just that - I'm going to do it and I'm going to do it wholeheartedly.

Just days after my doctor found signs of abnormal disc degeneration in my neck, we discussed physical therapy. Spinal therapy, to be exact. She said it was my "best option right now" so that we can continue to strengthen and maintain the mobility I do have. And as for the excruciating pain - we're continuing to use the "band aid" method - lots and lots of aspirin, heating pads, pain relieving patches/gel, massages, extra rest, etc. etc. etc. I could go on all day. For real.

And so, as I'm sitting in that chronic pain office, I start crying. My doctor reaches for the box of kleenex and sets them nearby because she knows in about two seconds, my nose is going to be running something awful and the tears aren't going to stop at the surface.

It seems almost robotic by now. All too natural because it happens at every specialist appointment. I cry even harder.

Let me just say - PT is hard. I don't care what anybody says. Regular PT is HARD. It's tiring, it's time consuming, and it's challenging. It forces you to use ornery muscles that refuse to behave and it kicks your assets good and hard. I've been through 10 weeks of it and I'm exhausted. I don't want to repeat any part of it.

Now, spinal PT? That's 10 times harder. When you suffer from inflammatory arthritis and chronic pain - the last thing you want is to work out SPECIFICALLY with the muscles that are red, swollen, hot, and angry at you 24/7 for no apparent reason.

"The first 6-8 weeks are going to be hard, hon. I'm not gonna lie to you. You're gonna feel like complete s@% ! - but I promise you, the 6 weeks following that - you WILL see improvement."

After some other tidbits of information and discussing steroid injections again - we agreed to try spinal PT for 3 months starting at the end of January. My mom was there to encourage me to do so, my doctor made some great points, and I know that the God I serve will be with me each step of the way. That's reassuring to me. That's a promise I can count on and trust in.

I slept so well that night. So well, naturally.

The next day, I trudged into school despite the snowy Minnesota roads and the fact that my joints literally freeze up from the low temperatures. In my first hour class, I was told to report to the student counselor.

Great. Might as well pass the kleenex now.

My counselor talked to me about the 504 plan schools offer to students dealing with medical issues and are struggling emotionally/mentally/physically - you name it. The 504 plan can be completely designed to fit your schedule, wants, needs, etc. It's essentially a plan that aims to make you a "normal" kid even though you're dealing with a lot more than your peers are. He also suggested that I consider dropping a class next semester to ease my stress load.

Right away, I jumped on the defensive.

"I don't want to be treated differently."

"My grades are fine."

Both of which are so very true. But, the one thing I couldn't muster out this time was the notorious...

"I'm fine."

Because guess what? I'm not fine. I'm gonna throw that out there for everyone to see today.

I am not "fine."

Honestly, I don't remember the last time I was. That should be enough to make me eager than all get-out about finally receiving 'help,' but of course, I tried to rationalize in my head and come up with every excuse in the book not to change a thing.

I've had some time to think, though, and pray {mostly}. I've finally come to that conclusion and I've finally made that decision. I'm going to listen. I'm going to let go of the high stress situations I'm constantly putting myself in. I'm going to step back, fight through this spinal PT like a mad woman, and I'm going to adjust to my new schedule. I'm going to accept and tell myself DAILY that this does not make me any less of a person, student, daughter, or friend. Starting today - I'm going to remember that taking care of myself and making the right decisions for my health is top priority.

It's going to be hard - but I trust that everything is under control by a God who knows me better than I know myself and I trust that with Him - everything IS "just fine." It's better than "fine." He's got this 100%.

January 01, 2013

13 Resolutions for 2013

It's officially 2013, friends! I cannot believe how fast the past year has gone! It's incredible, really, how time flies.

Naturally, I had a resolution post scheduled for today - so why not link up with Sarah and Andrea!

1.) Drink more water everyday.

2.) Keep up with physical and occupational therapy.

3.) Stick to the "She Reads Truth" plan!

4.) Become a ".com" blog.

5.) Finish at least 5 more books in the Bible.

6.) Get a treadmill and an exercise program planned.

7.) Reach 500 blog followers.

8.) Get accepted at Bethel for their PSEO program.

9.) Fly down to visit my southern family again.

10.) Actually learn HOW to ice skate!

11.) Meet at least 3 of my "bloggy friends" in person! 

12.) Get re-baptized and let God shine through me even more.

13.) Write in my "Thankful journal" every night.

I'm excited for what 2013 has to offer and what God will bring to my life! So thankful for a fresh start and beginning again!

Happy 2013!