Personal Faith View

Why The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Matters to Me (And Why There’s No Excuse Not to Participate)

It started with a phone call to plan our vacation. My mom got off the phone, turned to me, and said “Something isn’t right with Faye.” Puzzled, I asked what was wrong, and she voiced concern that Faye was slurring her words. We both speculated, worrying Faye had experienced a stroke or some other issue.

When we actually went on vacation, it was more prominent. There was no doubting it, Faye was slurring, and her hands were a bit tense. I think we all had an idea of it, but none of us wanted to say the words, that acronym. After all, we’d already lost at least one family member to the horrible illness, and the thought of another going through the same horrible, trapped fate was terrifying.

A diagnosis confirmed it… Faye had ALS, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It meant that, over the coming months, she’d lose her ability to speak, her ability to eat, her ability to move normally. She’d resort to writing what she needed to say, and eventually, she’d lose the ability to do that, as well. If someone baked cookies, she’d be unable to enjoy them. If she was craving a bagel, she couldn’t eat it. Her mind would function, but she couldn’t turn those thoughts into spoken words. She would literally become a prisoner in her own failing body before eventually succumbing to the disease.

Faye was at least the second person to be affected by ALS in our family. My great grandmother Lena also had ALS. Some types of ALS are more prevalent within a family, people predisposed to it based on genetics. Having more than one person in our family diagnosed was not a positive sign.

ALS is relatively unknown and rather underfunded. Unless you call it Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a lot of people don’t even know what you’re referring to. Essentially, people either have no idea what ALS is, or they know the horror of it because they’ve seen it or been affected by it. There’s very little in-between.

Or at least, there was until around July 29, when the ALS ice bucket challenge began. People around the country, and soon, the world, started dumping buckets of cold water on their heads to raise awareness for this terrifying condition. More and more people joined in. Celebrities started participating. Politicians did it. Kids did it.

Searches for ALS on Google increased greatly. Donations did, also, with people rushing to fund research for ALS. People finally were finding out what ALS was and why it needed to be funded. A lot of us who had seen ALS firsthand were relieved, excited, and ready to participate.

And then, like any viral sensation on the internet, the haters started in on the ALS ice bucket challenge.

“ALS kills fewer people than (insert cause here) so it isn’t worth donating to.” Great. Donate to another cause. Or donate to ALS and another cause. But just because it doesn’t kill as many people, or even affect as many people, it doesn’t make it less valid of a cause. While you may not be intending harm by saying this, to someone who has experienced it and seen it first hand, you’re basically saying “Other loss is more important than your loss because it affects more people.” To me, their loss is significant, and so is mine. Let me donate to the cause I support, and you can do what you please with your time and money.

“The Ice Bucket Challenge is a waste of water.” Only if you let it be a waste of water when you participate. If you’re concerned about wasting water, there are several options. 1) Donate, but don’t dump water. A lot of people have done it this way. 2) Do what the awesome Peterson Farm Brothers did in their Ice Bucket Challenge, and water your crops while you’re at it. 3) Do what Matt Damon did and use toilet water. 4) Do what one of my Facebook friends did and make your donation to ALS research, then instead of dumping water on your head, donate water bottles to a local homeless shelter. Her family made their ALS donations, then donated 30 cases of water to the homeless. It’s only a waste of water if you’re letting it be one, and you can participate while getting creative if you choose to.

“ALS organizations use their money for embryonic stem cell research, and I’m not okay with that.” Great. Neither am I. You can donate to another ALS research charity that doesn’t use their funds for embryonic stem cell use. One good option is the MSCTC, which only uses adult stem cells, with another being at the Mayo Clinic, also using adult stem cells. Christian bioethicist David Prentice recommends both of these charities as good options. Additionally, 501(c)3 guidelines say that you can specify your donation anywhere not be used to fund embryonic stem cell research. The organization has to comply and use your funds in other ways, or they’ll risk losing their tax-exempt status. Sidenote: I do not recommend donating to JPII Medical Institute, where funds are not going to research ALS, but instead, being used to build a clean room and lease laboratory space. There is no confirmation of intention to use these funds for ALS-specific research. Finally, you’ll want to know that Carrie Munk from ALSA says that they primarily also fund Adult Stem Cell research, and that, while the ALSA has one program using embryonic stem cells, it’s funded by one donor who very specifically is dedicated to that line of research.

“ALSA tests on animals.” Yes, The ALSA does test on animals. Significant advances have been made because of this fact. However, unlike many believe (possibly thanks to Pamela Anderson), the ALSA doesn’t do primate studies, and if you’d like your funds not to go towards animal testing, you can specify that when you make your donation, and they will honor it.

“I cannot do it because I work for the government.” There are some government agencies that are saying that participants cannot do it by identifying themselves as part of that organization (specifically military). That said, most military members are able to participate as long as they’re not doing so while in uniform or identifying themselves by their military status. Additionally, there are some government officials who are strictly barred from participating in the ice bucket challenge. That said, none of those people are barred from donating their money where they’d like, including to ALS research. So, just because you can’t dump water on your head if you work in certain fields, well, you can still put your money where your mouth is and give a little bit.

“I don’t have money to donate.” If you absolutely cannot donate money to ALS research, and if you don’t have the money for ice, that’s okay. Participate in the challenge. Film yourself dumping water on your head. And then, explain what ALS is and why research for ALS is important. Beyond the donations, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a great way to help more people learn about ALS. While obviously, donations are very beneficial and I love that people are choosing to donate, I also recognize that some people can’t. Awareness is also important, and I think that people can participate even without donating.

To be honest, with all of the hate that the Ice Bucket Challenge is getting, I simply have yet to find a single valid reason why someone could not find some way to participate at all. Perhaps it’s because the cause is very personal to me, but I see that a lot of the reasons not to participate really don’t make sense when you take the time to see what options are out there.

Obviously, I can’t force anyone’s hand in doing the ice bucket challenge, and I wouldn’t want to. I want people to participate because they want to participate. But I also don’t want some of the louder voices that are shouting why participation isn’t a good idea to shout louder than the truth behind those statements– that to every side that says don’t do it, there are still ways you can do it and reasons you should do it.

If nothing else, do a little bit of reading on what ALS is like, what it feels like, how it affects people. Think about the experience of being absolutely trapped in your own body. And then decide whether or not you feel like it’s worth putting a few dollars towards or dumping water on your head. To me, the ALS ice bucket challenge is an opportunity. And if you don’t plan on participating, please don’t tell me how bored you are of it. I sit silently during Movember, even though the cause isn’t as relevant in my life. I watch other charities, diseases, and causes get their time in the spotlight. For once, ALS is in the spotlight. It’s got the attention of the world, and more people than ever now know what ALS is and what it’s effects are.

I implore you… let ALS have this spotlight, just for this little bit. It won’t last forever, and you’ll be back to browsing videos of kids taking selfies and news about the atrocities going on in the world. But for now, let ALS have it, even if you don’t plan on joining in on the fun.

And trust me… participating can be pretty darn fun.

With that, I’d like to issue one final challenge. Readers, I challenge each and every one of you to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Whether you participate by donating, but dumping water on your head, or in any other capacity, I’m nominating you.

Have you done the ice bucket challenge? Link up your video in the comments below! Not participating? I’d love to hear why!

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5 Ways to Pray for Your Community

With today being the National Day of Prayer, there’s a lot of interest in focusing our prayers on the National level. It is so common for us to get into our bubble and pray for our family, ourselves, the leaders in our own church, or close friends and family who have a need. What I love about the National Day of Prayer is that it’s reminding us to pray for our government, for our leaders, and for the things that affect us as a whole, nationally.

However, I also think that it is incredibly important for people to spend time praying for their local communities, not just on one specific day, but in the same way as they’d pray for family, friends, themselves, their job, their stress, and the other things on the prayer list. Not as a duty, but as something that comes naturally, like breathing.

But when it comes time to pray for your own community, it can be hard to think of what prayer the community really needs. Where is there a prayer need? I decided to take a walk and think about how I could best pray for my community.

As I walked, I realized a natural way to do this was to pray for neighbors. I encourage you to try this, as well, walking past your neighbors’ homes on a prayer walk and praying for those who live near you. Maybe you live in an apartment, where you have lots of neighbors all in your building, or maybe you’re in the country or on a farm where your closest neighbors could be even miles away. Either way, pray for those who are around you. If you know of a specific need your neighbor has, pray for that. If not, pray that God will be present in whatever needs they may have, or whatever they may be facing. If you don’t know what prayer needs they have, it’s a good opportunity to get to know your neighbors and see if there is a tangible way you can serve them.

From there, you can pray for the leadership in your local community. Ask God to help your town’s leadership and put his hand on the leaders in your town, in all of the various roles, from the Mayor and the City Council, to the School Board, Superintendent, and Principals, to the local community boards. Our town, for example, has a Fall Festival Committee, and that’s a specific leadership group that needs prayer right there alongside those who are working on the day-to-day needs of the town. It’s important to pray that God put his hand on those who are making decisions for the town, and praying that they will make decisions that honor Him.

As you pray for the leadership, pray for the local schools, as well. Pray that the teachers will raise up strong children who become future leaders themselves. Pray for the bullies, that their hearts will soften, and for the bullied, that they can stand strong in the face of adversity. Pray for the principals as they make decisions running their schools, for the nurses to have a healing touch, for school law enforcement and school resource officers to keep kids safe, and for the students that their minds and hearts will be open to education, and to the Lord. Pray for the safety as kids are at school, and pray for the students’ home lives, as well.

One area that sometimes gets overlooked is praying for churches in your community. Often, we all feel this tendency to pray for our own church or our own pastor, or our own youth or leadership teams, but we forget that there are many churches that work together in a community to spread the Gospel. Pray for other churches in your community, and your own church, that these churches reach out, practice active outreach, serve others, and welcome the community with open arms. Pray that the Youth in each church are being shaped and led into active, spirited followers of Christ, that the leadership in the church is sound, and that each church in your community is an active and loving representation of the Body of Christ. Pray for each church that their needs are met and that they are able to serve the Lord well.

Finally, pray for the service programs in your community that they are reaching those in need. If your town has a local food pantry or clothing closet, pray that the people who need those services are getting them. If your town has a multiservice center that helps with various needs, pray they’re meeting the needs of the community. Pray that even groups like library storytime are meeting the families who need it, that if even one mom needs that connection with someone, or if even one child needs a meal, or if even one person needs a warm coat, that the service programs in the community are touching those who need each program the most. If you feel a tug on your heart, consider contacting these programs and finding out where you can personally serve beyond prayer, but start praying that each of these programs is helping exactly who they need to help, and that each has the resources, donations, and volunteers to sustain their program and continue serving in the community.

When a community has individuals praying for it, or even a group of people praying for it, that community can become stronger. When those prayers are put into action and service, it helps even one step further to strengthen the community and make it a better place to live, not just for those praying, but for everyone in the community. And I think we can all agree that a community that has people praying for it and serving it is a community that will be blessed again and again.

 

Can you think of a way to pray for your local community that I might have missed? Please share it in the comment section below!

Finding God in Robin Hood

Growing up, my favorite movie was easily Robin Hood. I could’ve watched Disney’s Robin Hood on repeat. In fact, many times, I did. I remember the little squiggles on the TV screen as I hit rewind on my VCR so I could watch the adventures– and love story– of two foxes and their friends. I adored the element of danger in Robin Hood standing up to the government, the excitement as Maid Marion and Robin Hood fell in love again, and the sweet children and people of the town who rooted for Robin Hood and his love the whole time.

So, when this beloved classic became available on Netflix, I knew Zach just had to watch it! I was certain he’d love it… after all, he loves animals and music, and Disney’s Robin Hood had both. It was sure to be a classic we’d both love… right?

Wrong. I’d turn it on, and within 30 seconds, Zach would exclaim “No! No no no!” and turn it to something mindless like Pingu. Again. For the millionth time. I’d let him watch his show, of course, but then, next time, I’d direct him right back to Robin Hood, turning it on, letting the first whistles on the minstrel ring out, and once again, I’d be greeted with the resistant “No!” from Zach.

Why couldn’t he watch the movie? Maybe I didn’t get him far enough into it… I’d try next time starting it in the middle, or someplace exciting, and let him see the cute, fuzzy little animals singing and dancing along.

And each and every time… “No.” No matter what I tried, “No.” Eventually, I resigned myself to the idea that Zach was never going to watch Robin Hood, and that my life would be filled with endless sounds of “Nook nook!” and gibberish as his eyes glazed over during Pingu.

Then, two days later, I handed Zach the Kindle before nap. I went to get drinks and a snack for him, and returned. I said “What are you watching, sweetie?” “Hood!” I glanced down, and to my surprise, Robin Hood was playing on the Kindle. He watched it, and watched and watched and watched it. For about 3 days straight, everything was Robin Hood.

I kind of feel like this applies to my faith journey sometimes. I feel like sometimes God puts something in front of me and says “Here. Read this Bible.” I inspect the cover, then set it aside… “Not now, God. I’m reading Divergent, and it’s at a really good part.” “Here, Jenni. The Bible.” “Not now, God. I just got this great book on my Kindle!”

“Jenni. Why not listen to this great song?” “Um, yeah, that’s great… but I’m really into listening to Lorde right now. It’s super catchy.” “But Jenni, praise my name with singing!” “Yeah, but, God… Tennis Court. It’s a fun song.”

While obviously, I don’t think God is pushing every praise song and Bible verse at me on a regular basis, I do think that sometimes, I’m ignoring God’s wants because I’m really in to something else. It’s like giving up Robin Hood for Pingu. What he’s offering is probably really great, and I’d likely love it, but I’m too busy stuck in my rut of what I know I like to give in and listen to what he’s trying to get me to watch, listen to, and do.

In many ways, Salvation is just like that. I’ve seen so many people, myself included, in the past, blatantly ignore the salvation God was offering, that promise of life everlasting, not because they didn’t want it, but because they were fixing their eyes on something else instead of God. I feel like, as a culture, we get so wrapped up in what’s right in front of us, whether it’s marathoning Breaking Bad on Netflix, or reading the latest and greatest from James Patterson, that we’re neglecting to notice what God has right in front of us. As a culture, we’re forgetting to sit down and get lost in the Word, forgetting to listen to a new praise song, or pay attention in church. We’re tapping our toes to Get Lucky by Daft Punk, but just barely mumbling out the words to the songs the praise team is singing in church.

Basically, we’re turning down a great classic Disney film, and choosing some weird, gibberish-speaking penguin… except on a much more important scale with far greater benefits and consequences.

I think that, even though Robin Hood is completely insignificant when it comes to something major like Salvation, little things like this serve as a reminder. It’s not Zach saying “No! No no no!”

It’s me. I’m saying it. I’m turning down that time I could be spending with God, enjoying something so much more amazing than I can comprehend. And it’s time for me to decide, just like Zach did when I left the room, to start paying attention to the great things right in front of me.

 

Do any little every-day life things make you think about your relationship with God? I’d love to hear more about it in the comments below.

One Little Word 2014: Determination

I’ve talked about One Little Word here before, about this time last year. A trend in the scrapbooking world started by Ali Edwards, One Little Word (or OLW) has branched out far past the initial One Little Word year, the initial project.

Last year, I’ll remind you, I chose the word Capture. Essentially, by choosing that word, I wanted to learn about that word, and then use that word as an inspiration for the things I would do in 2013. I feel like I accomplished that greatly. When I look back at 2013, I photographed more. I wrote more posts. I scrapbooked more. I printed more photo albums. I lived more to provide more things to capture. I detailed more events and more life happenings both on AND off this blog. I feel good about that.

As 2013 comes to a close, I’m realizing that OLW isn’t necessarily a word that follows you for the year. It’s a word that can follow you for life. I know that, as 2014 opens, I’ll continue to have Capture in my mind. I believe if you practice the One Little Word you select, truly practice it, not just pick it at the beginning of the year, then I think it is something that will be a part of your life long-term. Some words will fade over time, obviously, but others will stick with you.

I knew I wanted to go in a different direction for my One Little Word 2014. While my 2013 word was fairly broad (after all, capture can mean more than just photograph or write), I wanted something that would cover all of my goals for 2014. And, well, I have several of them. I have some Bible studies I’m going to be working on, focusing on in 2014, and those were very influential in selecting my OLW.

I chose Determination.

(Layout created using Nettio Designs Goal-Tastic 2013 Template, and Erica Zane’s Fresh Start, both available from SweetShoppeDesigns.com)

I was recently working on a lesson out of my Made To Crave Bible Study I’m working on, a study from Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs31 ministries. She talked about determination, not self-determination, but true Holy Spirit determination that happens when you get God’s support in your goals and lean on him. Her comment was mostly motivated about food struggles, talking about how she would use cravings as an opportunity to pray instead of eat. However, I think they reply to anything you’re setting your mind to. If it’s something that is pure and holy, and if you’re using it as an opportunity to pray, and asking the Holy Spirit to give you determination, then you can achieve it. I have no doubt in my mind about it. It may still take a lot of time and effort (prayer alone won’t make you drop 6 pant sizes… healthy eating and exercise in conjunction with prayer can, though).

I found myself having so many goals for 2014. I don’t want to use the word resolutions, because resolutions are rarely kept. Goals are something that have a specific, measurable outcome and a time frame. Some things, of course, are easier to measure than others, but they’ll all be something where I can see changes in my life, and the others around me should be able to see them, too, if I’m doing it right.

For 2014, I need Holy Spirit determination to help me, and I’m determined to achieve my goals when it comes to losing weight, being less moody, dedicating more quality time in my relationships, with my son, my boyfriend, and my parents and brother. I am also determined to be more organized, both in my home and in my work. While I won’t share my full, specific, measurable goals in this post, that gives you an idea of the things I’m hoping to achieve this year.

All of these things take Determination. I can’t think of a better umbrella word for them– determination is what’s needed to make it happen. True Holy Spirit determination, that is.

 

 

Do you have a One Little Word for 2014? Are you going to focus on anything specific to get you through your year? What are you hoping to achieve in 2014? Any goals or resolutions? Share them in the comments below!

So much to be thankful for…

I saw a post online the other day, essentially mocking this girl, during that whole 30 days of giving thanks thing that everyone on Facebook is doing, for saying that she was thankful for TV during one of her days.

I think it’s kind of silly to mock her. Sure, TV is kind of a response people don’t expect to hear when they’re talking about the things they’re thankful for, but I’ve seen more people than that say they’re thankful for things like Starbucks, because they can’t get through a day without it, or for their Cell Phone, for keeping them in touch with people. So, why is it so outrageous that she’s thankful for TV?

Because, in my opinion, society seems to have this constructed idea of what we “should” be thankful for, and because of it, we forget that it’s okay to be thankful for other things, too.

It’s a given that all of us are likely to be thankful for our family, our church, our closest friends, the people that we turn to every day, our pets, and maybe even our co-workers. And, outside of people, it seems to be culturally acceptable to say that we’re thankful for a great church service, a favorite charity, or an object that means a lot to you, like an heirloom tablecloth you’re setting out for Thanksgiving, or a mug that was given to you as a gift from your spouse.

We have these ideas that what we can be Thankful for fits into this little box. So, what I’m really loving is that this girl broke out of that box and gave an honest answer, that TV was something she’s thankful for. And come on, it was day 19 of the project. I’m pretty certain her other 18 responses weren’t TV. The person who shared the image mocking her was likely ignoring the fact that the rest of her responses were probably very normal responses that everyone could identify with.

But I’m going to go out on a limb and say “I kinda see this girl’s point, actually.” Outside of the whole “everyone can be thankful for what they’re thankful for and no one should make them feel bad for their choice there,” I can say that I get why someone could be thankful for TV.

This summer, I was VERY thankful for Big Brother. I’ve always hated the show. Truly, just hated it. But for some reason, this year, I had some favorites (and some that I couldn’t stand). But see, outside of the show, I was thankful for the fact that it meant a few nights a week that were earmarked for nothing other than sitting on the couch and spending some time with my mom. She and I spend a lot of time together, but this was just uninterrupted time where it was she and I, geeking out over a show. And it meant time spent reading articles and talking about and discussing whether or not it was rigged.

Sure, we could have spent that time doing anything else, but the chance we would have had as much time together is slim, and so, for this summer, I was very deeply thankful for Big Brother and the time that we got to spend together because of it.

When I lived alone for awhile, and was working from home, going to school from home, literally home all the time unless I made myself get out, I didn’t have a TV, but I had Hulu and DVDs of TV series checked out from the library. And for those, I was very thankful. It helped my apartment feel a lot less lonely because I filled it with laugh tracks that killed the silence while I worked, and filled it with shows that reminded me of my childhood, like I Love Lucy. At that moment, I was thankful for those, because it made a hard time in my life a lot easier by making me feel a lot less alone.

I think if all of us dug inside a little bit, we’d find that, beneath the surface answers that EVERYONE is Thankful for (not that they shouldn’t be– they are REALLY important things to be thankful for, and to continually give thanks for), I think we’d find some answers that would surprise people. Some of us might be thankful for TV. I know that a lot of my friends would be thankful for a favorite hobby. I’d personally be able to say I’m thankful for soccer. There’s a lot to be thankful for. So many things that 30 days isn’t really enough to give thanks for all of those things we’re thankful for, I’d reckon.

While I haven’t taken the time to share about my things I’m thankful for on Facebook, here’s a list of 21 things I’m Thankful for (since we’re at 21 days so far in the month of November).

1. I’m thankful for puppy, who provides my son so much comfort, that even though he’s a stuffed animal and inanimate object, he plays a role in Zach’s life as a movie buddy, a confidant, and a cuddle partner. It’s a good thing to help Zach feel secure.
2. I’m thankful for a boyfriend who is always so willing to help out, to give his time and his energy on the weekends to help me finish my work. I’m thankful for his willingness to drive all around the area to help me get everything I need for my work for the month.
3. I’m thankful for an extra hour, because, even though I’m still exhausted and Zach woke up the same time as always (despite the fact that time shifted and he didn’t shift his schedule accordingly), it’s nice having that extra cozy time at night now with him getting sleepy earlier.
4. I’m thankful for BlogHer, and how much going last summer has helped me find my place in the blogging world, and for the support of my family, who said “You’re going or else.” when I was too panicked to go. And also for friends like Jen from LifeWithLevi who let me be a +1 to an event she was invited to, and for all of the people willing to smuggle me into other events.
5. I’m thankful for bathtime and the grin my son gets as he exclaims “BATH! BATH! BATH!”
6. I’m thankful for Sporting KC, and the way they’ve helped my entire family rally behind a single passion, a single game, a single love for soccer.
7. I’m thankful for the words my son has learned in the past few months, and the way his vocabulary has changed and grown.
8. I’m thankful for programs that help me be the best educator and mother for my son that I can be.
9. I’m thankful for the United States Marine Corps, not just for their service, but for the friends that were brought into my life because we happened to be connected to Marines at the time; those friendships I made seem to prevail, even if each of us have moved on from our time with the Marines we knew then.
10. I’m thankful for Advil, that helped my son get through the day during his yucky illness, and the fact that being sick happened to make him extra cuddly.
11. I’m thankful for HootSuite, which helps me feel more organized in my every day life, and helps me plan ahead for days that I know will be less productive.
12. I’m thankful for small town life, and the way that everyone knows everything about everybody. It’s humbling, kind of scary, and helps you realize that there’s nothing else like small town life in the world.
13. I’m thankful for a warranty on car batteries, because otherwise, my new battery would be way outside of my price range and emergency funds.
14. I’m thankful for scrapbooking and the way it helps me preserve my memories for the future, and helps me stay grounded in telling my story; I’m also thankful for the people it brought into my life.
15. I’m thankful to have a working car after having it basically be a paperweight since May. Finally having it working again is an awesome feeling. I’m also thankful for tow trucks.
16. I’m thankful for parents who are willing and able to help out with my son on my hardcore work days, who love to spend time with him and play with him, whether I’m working or not, and who are so generous with their time.
17. I’m thankful for my church family and their giving spirit. I love that we were able to exceed our goal for Operation Christmas Child because of the generous nature of our church body.
18. I’m thankful for my son, who I couldn’t live a day without, and who has such a creative, fun, and sweet spirit that makes my days so much brighter as a result.
19. I’m thankful for Duncan Hines and the people and experiences that Duncan Hines have brought into my life. I’m a much more confident baker because of the contest win, and a much happier person with the people I’ve met through my time at Duncan Hines. It’s truly something life changing and I can’t express that enough.
20. I’m thankful for quiet mornings at home with coffee and people I care about, and for the times when a drum set and a toddler make my mornings a lot less quiet through music.
21. I’m thankful for my voice, my writing voice especially, that allows me a chance to be heard through my blog, a chance to share my thoughts, my creativity, and my life with my readers, and I’m thankful for the people I’ve met because of my blog.

But you know what I’m really thankful for? That we live in a place where we can be thankful for ANYTHING. That we can be thankful for the amazing gifts God has given us, but also for those awesome comforts in life like TV, and cinnamon rolls, and coffee, and that song that gets stuck in our head all the time.

I’m thankful for the blessings I have in my life, and the fact that I even HAVE a life with which to experience these blessings. And above all, I’m thankful for the relationship with God that allows me to know that, as awesome as this life can be at times, it’s not my ultimate goal, my ultimate home, and that there’s so much more to be thankful for even when this world and these comforts pass.

I’m just really, really thankful for those things. And I’m also thankful for the fact that, while I was writing down what I was thankful for each day, every single day, I had more than just one thing to be thankful for. I had so many things that I am genuinely thankful for, even if they didn’t get written down on this list, and that’s awesome.

What are you thankful for?

Love Yourself First

When I was younger, before all of the stupid stuff with my cartilage happened and I was actually more mobile, I was a dancer. But, even then, 13 year old me realized that there was something different about me than the other dancers, and it was hindering my ability to dance.

I had boobs.

I had a butt.

And, when you’re in a room full of mirrors and no one else has those, it becomes painfully obvious. The older I got in the dance world, the more I realized that I didn’t really have the body for it. And the more I realized that, the more I shrank into my shell, the less I wanted to dance, and the less I liked who I was.

I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin, and I certainly didn’t feel comfortable in a leotard. Not when mine was two sizes bigger than the other girls and I had to wear some supportive bra-ness underneath to keep things in place.

After my disability came to light, and I started to become painfully aware that working out would be a lot harder for me, my appetite stayed the same, but my movement didn’t, and the weight came, and came, and came.

I didn’t like myself. And I certainly didn’t love myself.

When you get into that cycle, where you don’t love you, you let other people say all kinds of horrible things about you and to you. You begin to believe lies, you begin to feel like you aren’t good enough, and you begin to doubt yourself.

For me, the cycle was obvious. The more I’d eat, the bigger I’d get. The bigger I’d get, the more people would talk. The more people would talk, the worse I’d feel. The worse I’d feel, the more I’d eat.

I’m not my goal weight. I’m nowhere near it. I have memories of ways people have made it clear to me that I wasn’t something desirable or pretty. I remember one morning when I was married to my now ex-husband, one of the first mornings of our marriage, the morning after one of the first times he had seen me pretty bare-skinned (I know, this is a family blog, and I know, this is a blog my mother reads, but seriously, it’s important to the story). He got up before me, walked to the store, and bought me a pack of Slimfast.

I was devastated.

He knew what I looked like before we got married. What was underneath a couple of layers of clothing couldn’t have been that much of a shock, could it?

It makes me think of that J.J. Heller song, “What Love Really Means.” I listen to that song about a thousand times on Spotify. There’s this verse that says “Her office is shrinking a little each day. She’s the woman whose husband has run away. She’ll go to the gym after working today, maybe if she was thinner, than he would have stayed. And she says, who will love me for me, not for what I have done or what I will become? Who will love me for me? Because nobody will show me what love, what love really means.”

I’m not saying my ex-husband left me because I was overweight. Not even close.

But I am saying, I know how it feels to ask myself “Who will love me for me?”

In the past week, I’ve been reading, and thinking, and pondering, and staring at the ceiling, and I’m reaffirmed.

God loves me. He loves me overweight. He loves me skinny. He loves me happy with myself and when I’m not happy with myself. He loves me and wraps his arms around me, no matter who I am, no matter what I’ve done, and no matter what I look like.

And because of that, I’m challenged. I believe I need to love my enemies. What I forget sometimes is that I tend to be my own biggest enemy.

If God loves me, I need to love me. If my family loves me, I need to love me. And honestly, I can ask myself a million times why I’m still single, but the biggest answer I’ve found is… because if I don’t love myself, why do I expect anyone else to?

JJ Heller sums it up in the final chorus of her song, showing God’s love for me.

“I will love you for you. Not for what you have done or what you have become. I will love you for you, I will give you the love, the love that you never knew.”

A friend of mine stated it pretty well online this week, saying “Girls try so hard to look so good for those few idiots who make them feel like they aren’t good enough. Most guys will tell you there is nothing sexier than a girl who is confident with herself and natural, doesn’t try to be more than herself.”

I’m going to challenge you, as we head into a weekend, and a lot of us are out and about, running errands, going on dates, spending time enjoying nice weather at the park with families, whatever it is you do on weekends…

 

STOP. Stop overthinking your flaws. Stop worrying about what is wrong with you. Stop feeling like you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not special enough.

I’m telling you right now…

You are.

You’re pretty. You’re special. You’ve got amazing qualities. There are so many reasons people like you. And trust me, people do like you.

Smile. Let your hair down.

Love yourself first.

Heartbroken

I don’t even know how to begin putting my thoughts into words. This tragedy in Connecticut has me captivated, in all of the worst ways. I just feel sick to my stomach.

I am that mother. That sister. That cousin. It could have been my son, my brother, my cousins, my friends’ children… it could have been any child I go to church with, any child I knew from when my mom did daycare for years and years.

That town in Connecticut is like my own. It’s small. Many people who live there are relatively affluent. The school is about the same size as my school, the town about the size of my town. The type of area is so much like my own. It’s my town, really, only in Connecticut.

The tragedy they are going through could have unfolded here just as easily as it did there. It could have been the next town over, a town in the state next to mine, a town in your area. It could have been anywhere.

It’s easy to rationalize tragedies that happen to adults. When an NFL player in my area killed his girlfriend, then killed himself, I was stricken with how horrible that situation was, but at least that is something I could comprehend, that he went through such a delusion, such a struggle, that there was domestic turmoil. But what causes someone to kill that many innocent children? Who goes and kills 20 5-year-olds?

That’s not to say that any violence is okay, or justifiable, or understandable. It’s not. It’s all beyond the grasp that people understand.

But I just feel like there’s always been this line that wasn’t crossed. Shootings happened in schools, but, it was high schools, colleges… those deaths aren’t okay, it’s NOT okay, but this line, it was crossed when someone decided to go into a school and kill very young children.

I know it will hit me even harder in the coming days, that media will show the images of these children. I will see the similarities, maybe a boy with blonde hair much like my son’s. Maybe a young soccer player, like my brother. Maybe a young girl who played with dolls, much like I did as a child. There are presents under those peoples’ trees, waiting for Christmas celebrations. Others are in the midst of Hannukah celebrations.

It’s senseless. It’s terrifying. I can’t comprehend it yet, let alone know how to share that with others.

I find myself turning the television back to the news. I find myself being afraid to head to the mall to shop this weekend. I see myself hugging my son a little tighter. And I see myself sitting there, tissue in hand, wondering what if it happened here? What if this was in my town instead of that town in Connecticut? What if it was my brothers’ friends involved instead of those people there?

It could just as easily happen here. There’s a strong chance there will be copycat shootings following this; there almost always seem to be.

So the question is, where do we go from here?

I’m still not sure. All I can do is pray. Hope, pray, and keep going. Hold my son and brother tighter. Remember that God has his hands on the situation, on our country, and on my family. I have to remember that God is in control. I have to hold strong to that faith, absolutely.