My informal life stories...
|Posted on May 11, 2017 at 1:10 AM||comments (2)|
Maturity, I’m finding, is looking at those bible stories you used to scoff at, commenting how ridiculous THOSE people were, and all of a sudden realizing you’re no different.
Eve, girlfriend, I would have eaten that forsaken apple sooner. I would have. I would have taken pride in my relationship with God, taken Him for granted, and craved rebellion.
Oh Israel, please forgive me. I have bluntly hated reading about you. Your stubborn rebellion in the face of the Lord and His miracles seemed utterly idiotic. Wanting to die at the Red Sea when Egypt was behind you, after He had done so many miraculous things to free you, ridiculous.
I felt that way, that is, until I broke with anxiety and the Lord revealed the great log in my own eye. I have seen miracles done in our lives, I have seen Him move in great ways. And I have also seen myself crumble under financial strain, hurt, stress, broken relationships, finding myself wanting to run back to comfort even knowing it wasn’t His plan.
When moved from desolation, into the desert, on the way to the promised land… I crumbled. I couldn’t see the promise and the hope in Jesus, all I could see was my hurt in each day. I would have never lasted as long as you Israel did in the desert. Oh how weak I truly am. How great my anxieties truly are.
I’ve had these great God moments over the last couple years that have stretched me immensely. Moments in church where a story from the Bible is read and God slaps truth into my heart, and the tears start streaming. But the awesome you want to hysterically laugh at your own hypocrisy being revealed, and recognizing your sorrow at the same time, kind of cry.
I have not blogged in so long, and this blog is in no way a commitment to start again. But it is a long over-do follow up. So many of you reached out, empathized, felt understood from my vulnerability and it meant so much. But this past year had many bumps, curve balls, and heartaches that aren’t appropriate to publically share. So my words were few.
This has been on my heart though so I wanted to share it!
Anxiety is a challenging tight rope to waddle through in this bumpy life. Balance can feel so impossible. I’d love to say that I am healed and all is perfect within my body, home, marriage. But that is not the truth. But, I am learning to be ok with that and that is a gift from God. Knowing this life does not magically get easier at a certain age, or after you reach x, y and z goals, is a gift. It’s a gift of rest in Him. It’s a gift of shifting my heart heavenward, but like a stubborn ox, I’m slow to look up. But right there is the greatest gift of unending grace.
When I was younger I felt God’s call on my life. I felt the Holy Spirit convicting and guiding me even though I knew nothing about Him. Later in life in hard times, I looked into the mirror and pledged rebellion from Him, from my conscience, and pledged to run into the dark, into sin. And I did. And it was darker than I thought. At my lowest point he brought a boy into my life who, after sinking me deeper into said sin, invited me to church. I was terrified and certain I’d burn the second I entered the doors. Somehow he convinced me- a stubborn, hurting, rebellious, belly shirt wearing girl, to go with him. And there in the service, just being amazed these people knew all the words to the songs, I heard that still small voice again. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t. He was there, He had always been there, and He was still there calling me. And I began desperately wanting to embrace Him. My now husband and I came to Jesus together 13 years ago, soon after that first church service and we never looked back.
Again, I’d love to tell you that after we came to Jesus, life was incredible. But that far from the truth. The beautiful part of my story that He keeps reminding me of over and over this year, is that HE has been guiding me forever. What more knowledge and beauty is there than that?!
But let me emphasize again, life has been hard.
When my panic attacks started, that was one of my hardest battles and remains the same today. The guilt, the confusion, the helplessness, the very real pain. Simple joys being taken from me in the blink of an eye. Things I loved, things I defined myself as, becoming overwhelming and even terrifying. Truly living in a state of fear and sometimes, most of the time, not having words to even articulate any of it. Before I knew it, my anxiety was back in the awful range. I hit a low one day when I went to refill my prescription with my doctor and he wanted to talk about me taking too much and being concerned that I was too young to be needing it. He recommended looking into a different medication, that I seek counsel and get help, and a pit in my stomach began to grow. My husband and I went to see the psychologist at his grad school and were blessed with his advice and help. But soon after leaving, our marriage hit a very low point. So much was coming to the surface at once and all I kept thinking is how I was going to end up at my doctors needing more medication way too soon and being thrown in a psychiatric ward.
But God is always guiding and is always there.
God used these moments to help our marriage explode out the crud that had been sitting there. He used this explosion to minister to myself and my husband and begin to, or rather continue to, change us in beautiful ways. We always knew part of His will in moving us to the other side of the country was to give us time to heal. But how naive we were in thinking we’d just… you know, heal. He showed us how to walk through healing in a tangible God directed way. It is so hard, and also the best thing we’ve done for our marriage in a long time. He used this low point to prepare me for a women’s retreat where I could go and find rest and conviction and sanctification in Him alone. Not in meds, or in people, but back to purely my God for help. Back to calling on Him to rescue me and not everything else. Back to realizing our move was not a landing in the promised land, that that is only in heaven.
I’m thankful to say that our marriage is honestly the best it has ever been. We have talked out some hard years with deep honesty that’s brought great healing and understanding and restoration. Life’s battles have not slown down and I’m thankful to feel so united as we face each one hand in hand on the battle ground.
It seemed like magic coming home from the women’s retreat that I didn’t need hardly any meds that following week. But it’s not magic, and my anxiety is not gone. But what is being restored are my knee’s on the ground, and pride being lifted that I need my God every moment of every day because He is my protector and my provider. My comforter and my rescuer.
After a good week home, the first day the anxiety reared its head, I started to panic. But God reminded me to run to Him first. I was trying to busy myself to be able to ignore it, but he really stopped me, and I sank into prayer and cried to Him for help. He then reminded me to speak my hurt out loud to my husband. When we hide this inside, satan has us where he wants us. Stuck in our fears. But bringing it into the light, that is where God can heal. Only someone that deals with anxiety knows how hard it is to speak the pains out loud in the midst of extreme adrenaline rushing through your body though. The pain, the dizziness, the fear, the headaches, the body aches, the closed throat. It’s easier to run to meds and busying around than standing still and listing these off one by painfully, one. But I did. I stood in front of my husband and said, “I’m having a hard time. I’m scared, I hurt, my anxiety is rushing through me.” He held me, and prayed for me, and got me outside to take a walk. I have had so many tests done and I know I’m ok, so part of the battle is believing that even when my body feels likes its dying. Saying out loud, I’m not dying, I just hurt, God help me, is a huge milestone for me. That night the Lord helped me battle my anxiety off without my medication. That is not always the case, and on the hard days I am prone to beat myself up over ending a ‘good streak’. But He is teaching me to not forget the victories, that a bad day doesn't mean you have to start back at zero like you're on some checklist, and to meditate on thankfulness over each blessing.
At this women’s retreat, an amazing elders wife had us read the anti-Psalm 23 and 139. Some ladies mentioned how hard it was for them to even articulate sentences like, “God you do not know me, you never know where I am.” Or, “You never lead me beside still waters.” Yet it was all too easy for me to read the anti version. It’s the epitome of the darkness of my anxiety. It’s the fear pumping through my veins that does fully forget that my God had my days numbered and written in His book even before there was one.
What a crazy reminder it was to know I had just memorized Psalm 139 and almost had it tattooed on me before my anxiety hit...
And yet that brings me to my starting point.
Maturity, I’m finding, is looking at those bible stories you used to scoff at, commenting how ridiculous THOSE people were, and all of a sudden realizing you’re no different.
Thank you Lord for your grace. Thank you for your lessons that no matter how hard, are for our good. Please Jesus bring me back to you. Anyone that reads this that is struggling, bring them back to you first! And then guide them, give them intuition, give them good doctors and help wherever they may need it. Thank you Lord for my medications, my natural supplements, for our psychologist, for strong friendships that are safe places and great accountability. And oh thank you Jesus for my husband being my best friend and allowing us to truly get to grow up together these past 11 years! God you are a good, good Father. Thank you for always holding your girl close, my God!
Well God does work in mysterious ways. We prayed a huge prayer before we even had the first prayer of moving out here answered. And God answered that prayer for us this month. Cody has been given a job at the seminary that provides him with free tuition! We are praising God for His provision and perfect timing! For those that have encouraged, counselled, prayed for us- Thank you! Thank you so much! Having such solid peace all year that we are exactly where we are supposed to be has been one of the greatest gifts of all.
|Posted on December 11, 2015 at 8:45 PM||comments (2)|
Our last night in our home was hard. We moved all day long, weren't sure if the kids even ate, boxes were all over our new temporary home. It felt stressful and chaotic and we were all exhausted.
The next day was sweet though. So fun and so sweet. We gave so much away to our neighbors- the best neighbors in the world. A refrigerator, tools and garden tools, a ladder. It was like a free Christmas store as a thank you to the neighbors who have loved us as their own.
Saying goodbye was hard last night, it felt sad walking out of the doors late at night of our beautiful home emptied. But waking up the next morning with so much joy, my happy grateful tears became a sweet gift. Walking through our clean, quiet, empty home; I just thanked Him over and over and over. For giving us this home we never diserved or could have afforded on our own. For letting me raise my babies in this sweet little home. For watching my son take his first steps right after we moved in. For letting us have such a sweet place to bring our Sagey girl home from the hospital to. For allowing us this place to do ministry in. For all the love, rejoicing, tears, etc. that this home has held us through. Thanking Him for letting us sell our home for enough to pay off debt and pay for his masters. Thanking Him for the adventure we get to take. And ultimately thanking the Lord for his reminder that our home is with him, everything here is temporary. As I walked towards the front door I heard happy voices. The new owners were there early. At first I was terrified to walk up to them with all of these emotions pouring from my eyes. "Aly, put your big girl pants on and embrace the moment. Embrace the emotions." As I walked up and welcomed them, the tears began again instantly. I congratulated them. I shared how wonderful their new neighbors are (through lots of tears). And just like that it became the perfect end to this chapter in our lives. Seeing their joy, their little boy that would love that sand box my step dad made us, their daughter still in her belly that would enjoy my little girls room soon... was beautiful. Thank you Jesus for our home and thank you Lord for blessing them with it now.
In the car, as I cried and cried, I realized my kids have never really seen me cry before. I explained my tears to them and asked Carter if he wanted to pray for me. Sage said, "Awww mommy! You sad? Give me a hug!" And Carter rubbed my face and then prayed over me. "God help mommy not be sad, help her have a good day. God you always protect us and love us. Amen."
And as Cody and I drove off hand in hand, I continued to cry in realizing that God had just turned this day into one of the best days of my life. That in itself is a miractle I am rejoicing over.
|Posted on November 22, 2015 at 3:35 PM||comments (0)|
I have been battling this ridiculous cold / allergy issue again and it's driving me crazy. It comes and goes, and then when I think I'm finally over it, it shows up all over again and leaves me exhausted. For the last month I have had so much sinus pressure, on and off sore throat, etc. (Etc.= I'll spare you some nice details). My tension headaches have been gone for quite some time but have come back a bit this week from this. And then last night it was so bad I barely slept. Laying down on a soft pillow feels like thick concrete. My head just hurt, and my neck was stiff.
Through the late hours of the silent, dark night, I tossed and turned and then began praying. At around 3:45am I ended up getting up and lathering my head in peppermint oil and tiger balm, which is like icy hot cream. I laid down and felt like my head was on ice and was happy about it. I still didn't sleep too well, but it helped and I was able to rest with more peace.
The morning came quickly and I actually woke with joy and not feeling too groggy. We all got up and got ready for church and I felt excited to get there. After checking our littles into their classes, we grabbed a seat and began to worship. Soon the singing made my neck and head throb and at one point I considered just going back to the car to rest while my family attended. But as the worship ended, our pastor welcomed up a beautiful woman from Saudi Arabia with a moving testimony about her conversion from Islam to Christianity. I didn't want to miss her story, and sitting down leaning on my husbands shoulder, helped a bit. There is something about a person's testimony that can re-sharpen your own faith and fill you with excitement that we both serve the same incredible God.
When the service came to an end, we stood to worship again and I felt ready to praise Jesus! The throbbing came back rather quickly though and it triggered my anxiety. Something about my head and neck hurting like that makes me feel like my body is falling apart. I kept standing, and closed my eyes to silently worship and pray. And then I felt Him. My hand raised into the air and I began to sing, and I prayed, "God you are my strength, and I will use every bit of strength I have to praise you because you are a good God and you are praise worthy! I won't run away from discomfort, I am staying to praise you." He is a good good Father. My pain is still here but He is changing my heart and giving me strength and that I am thankful for. I want to face my aches with prayer, enter into his house consistanly to praise Him, not turn to fear but embrace His hope and His strenght that is within me.
Our pastor taught on Psalm 100 today and it's one I will work to memorize now...
"Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations."
|Posted on November 6, 2015 at 5:30 PM||comments (2)|
A year ago we entered through a door that left us in a vulnerable position. We didn't have a job or a plan, just conviction and a mustard seed of faith. My husband got one job, and then another after that, and I began working from home, (I got the better half of that deal!). Around that time we started to dream and pray. When all falls out from under you, you have two choices; see destruction or a blank canvas. We were seeing that canvas and praying big dreams. The Lord gave us a massive dream and we got excited! As we talked about it that late night in our living room, it was like one of those football movies where the coach is giving a big motivational speech trying to push his team towards glory! We dreamt and I danced around like a little girl at the thought!
The next day we woke up still with excitement, but also with realization what a miracle it would take for all of that to fall into place. We kept the prayers and excitement going but I have to say, over time, from job to job, running out of money time and time again, having people discourage and encourage... That little light of excitement got close to being quenched.
We then started reaching the one year mark of praying this prayer. Most attempts had fallen through, we had a couple long shots left, and we asked the Lord for clarity and a final answer. With people starting to think we were crazy, and starting to wonder if we should agree with them, we told the Lord we could only hold onto this prayer (that was keeping us from moving forward in a few other areas) another month. We were coming to our end financially and really needed to make a move. And then God answered and continues to blow our minds as he rolls it all into place.
So here are the details!!! We bought our home three years ago through the most amazing city program! But if we sold our home before nine years, the city would get to keep a percentage of our equity unless we had paid their loan back in full. We knew we had enough equity to pay off our enormous load of student loans and that was our prayer- to obtain a private loan with low enough interest to pay off our city loan that would enable us to sell and become debt free. If we could sell our home, and have a fresh start being debt free, what an amazing blessing that would be! My husband wants to teach again so then we added in there getting his masters degree. The Lord directed our whole hearts to South Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in... wait for it... North Carolina! But this loan we needed for all these balls to start rolling was a substantial number! $109k- wide eyed emoji moment. None of this could happen without that loan.
Well towards the end of the last month of prayer, something crazy happened. It was a normal Tuesday night, which meant our home Bible study group was coming over. We have been with them for almost two years and it's been the biggest blessing in our lives. One of the couples had been preparing to move as he was going to start working for his dad and eventually take over the company. We had been very excited for this blessing in their lives! They had planned to rent out their current home as they moved into their new home on the buisnesses property. Well that Tuesday night they came in and announced they had decided to sell their home instead, and that the equity would be the amount we needed, and it was ours to borrow! Just like that. And interest free. And no rush. And full trust. And no contracts necessary. We really could not believe it and we still can't!
They got offers on their house immidiately when they put it on the market, and as soon as they closed escrow, they wired the money to the city for us. Is this real life?! While their house was on the market we worked our butts off to make our house look as amazing as we could to ensure we did all we could do to help it sell quickly. We painted every wall at least twice, redid the kitchen cabinets, laid new floors and baseboards in our master, re-painted all the baseboards in the house, completely redid the bathroom floors and added a new vanity and toilet, worked on the fence, and completed a lot of gardening and planting for curb appeal. Not to mention a lot of scrubbing!
Then it happened! We got the final letter that our loan was paid off and we were ready to put our house on the market that next day. It has all felt so surreal. That moment that we had danced and prayed and had butterflies, is actually coming to fruition. I am so excited and I am so terrified!
And for the most up to date information... We accepted an offer a week after it was placed on the market and closed escrow a few days shy of 30 days and were moved out a day later! Now get this... The offer we accepted is a random number that's over our asking price and it turns out it's the same amount our friends got on their home!!! This was the Lords plan all along and we are so thrilled for this adventure. To our dear friends who have stuck by our sides for the last two years, and have believed in us THIS much... You have changed our lives in so many ways. We love you and are beyond grateful!
We are living at Cody's parents rental home that's vacant and starting our road trip three days after Christmas! We will then be moving onto the school's campus housing.
Ready or not, North Carolina we are coming for you!
|Posted on October 29, 2015 at 10:05 PM||comments (1)|
I wrote this blog months ago. It was during the non-stop, little sleep, stressful hustle and bustle of emotions and prepping to sell our home... Such sweet timing for me to look back on this.
"We have heard it so many times before. Moving is one of the most stressful things a marriage can go through. We've also laughed behind closed doors at that statement a few times. "It would never be stressful for us becuase we are pretty laid back and don't have that much stuff to move anyways." Well, let me tell you, I was naiive! The last three weeks have been so fast paced, that at times I've fallen asleep suddenly on the couch in the worst positions. The knots up my back and neck are probably visible at this point! But today feels different. This morning I woke up and did my yoga and sat in prayer with my Lord. Just thanking Him and sitting in awe of all He has provided. But also sitting and telling Him my fears. This is not an easy move. It's a huge, scary, massive jump, and we pray constantly that He will keep us in His perfect will and protection.
When the kids woke up today, I told them it was a hard work day. Don't expect me to sit, to play, to eat, to brush my teeth or even breathe. Today is the day the photographer comes. The lady who will take pictures of our home that will eventually be on the listing for our home. The pictures that will say, "Look how pretty I am!" And, "I'm for sale!"
Who will buy our home?
For three weeks we have painted every single wall with at least two coats of the most beautiful light gray color; the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, the hall, the kids rooms, the bathrooms, our room. Just wanted to make that clear... yes, the whole house. We painted the kitchen which was a much more tedious endeavor than I expected. (Nikki and Chelsea, your help with ALL the painting was the biggest blessing!) We also painted all the baseboards and many other projects. The week before, my sweet mother in law was over almost nightly to help me clean, organize, and stage the house for the pictures and our upcoming open house, which took much more work then I exptected!
When our sweet photographer arrived, the house was sparkling. Nothing out of place, everything clean, furniture placed perfectly. She took the pictures and then left. Then my mother and father in law left. Then we packed a couple more boxes and my husband offered to take the kids on a date so I could rest. I tried not to look too excited as I squealed how great of an idea that was.
I mean, he could really use some one on one time with them anyways, right??
But as they drove away, I felt the tears coming as I slowly walked inside. Inside my home that was beautiful, clean and quiet. Inside my home that I will always be so grateful for. The Lord handed us this home on a silver platter, there was no reason we should have been able to live here other than Him. Sitting in this home of ours that is filled with rich memories, hoping we are making the right move, I sank to my knees and sobbed. It was the richest cry I have had in a while and I was so happy to get it out of my chest where it had been balled up the last month. We have prayed, and talked, and planned, and sought counsel over this big move for a year. An entire year of going back and forth and always landing on feeling this is what we were supposed to do. I've told my husband a few times that I am so sure that this is what God has for us, but here is the thing... I am going to be a mess until we drive off and it's time to celebrate the adventure He's blessed us with. And tonight, sobbing in my entry way, that all came true. Oh how I will miss this home, how I will miss our parents- our family, how I will miss our best friends, how I will miss the familiarity of this state.
My sweet little home, I am so thankful for you and I am going to miss you. But Lord, I trust you and I can't wait to start this great adventure! We can't believe you have provided us with this opportunity and we are ready to run!"
What a crazy couple years we have had that has brought us to this place. From coast to coast; California to North Carolina. I'm so thankful for this plan that He set deep into our souls, and that He continued to water even amidst the daily struggles we had been facing. I remember having moments of thinking I'm crazy for holding onto this dream. And yet now, I'm writing this from my computer in North Carolina, with so much joy over all the 'new' He has provided. It feels like a competely new life, a clean slate. I feel washed bare like a newborn learning how to walk all over again, taking one baby step at a time with my hand in my Lords. We don't have a long term plan as of yet, and maybe He's "cured" us of that mentality all together and we never will. All we know, is this is 100% where we are supposed to be... and we love it!
Last night, everyone went to bed early but I stayed up. I sat down on the couch and felt butterflies throughout my body. This actually feels like home already. I really love my new home, I love this comfy couch, I love the layout of our home, I love these neighbors, I can't wait to start attending chapel with Cody next week, I love Cody's new work schedule, I love how our love has blossomed even more through all of this.... My list trailed on and on and I just praised Him for it all.
Mourning to Dancing, again.
My God... You are such a wonderful God. Even though those hard times can be so challenging, when you step out of them and see clearly, you can see His purpose and guidance and growth and love poured all over it. Maybe there are parts that you'll never say were fun, but we can feel His perfect peace and joy from the God of the universe. He intimately knows and loves us. If you are in a valley, cling to Jesus. Hit your knees, cry out to Him, read His word that's full of His rich truths, get plugged in at His church- and then keep doing that on repeat. Don't stop, He longs for you.
I love what I read today about Solomon. When he finished makeing the huge, ellaborate temple for the Lord, the Bible says He stood before all of Israel and raised his hands high. Then he kneeled down and raised his hands to the heavens and said, "Oh Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart... You spoke with your mouth, and with your hand have fulfilled it this day... Behold, heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you..."
|Posted on October 27, 2015 at 5:15 PM||comments (1)|
This last month has been very chaotic for reasons I'm not quite ready to announce yet. I started off feeling guilty for not sharing the "why" in this blog until I realized those were my immature, pastors wife, ways. No one taught me these ways, but myself! Being young, naiive, and terrified of having such a large title can sometimes makes you put on certain habits like thick makeup that you get so used to that it becomes hard to leave the hosue without it on. So let me just say, it has been a stressful month, but some really exciting things are coming, and I'm thankful for this tiny lesson of having my privacy with the Lord and my family come first. But in the busyness, I found myself allowing just the supplements to remain consistant, while tossing the rest of my routine out the window. (Refer to my previous blog for supplement info). My anxiety has snuck back in a bit, although nothing in comparison to what it has been. It had been completely gone for over a month!! I have had so many "pinch me" moments over how well I've felt. Sitting in church being able to worship without panic. Grocery shopping in peace... well other than my tantrum loving three year old. I've been so blessed by these amazing results that when this stressful month hit, I just got lazy in all the other area's of my life that had also been bringing me so much peace and strength. (I also had to be on an antibiotic for a root canal which I do think messed with the balance of my body as well. Taking another round of pro-biotics to combat that.)
Becoming overwhelmed looks so different for me now than it ever has before. I've never felt this exhausted by stress as I do now. I am thankful for women who have lovingly reminded me that, "Hello! Not only is it a stressful season for you, but you're the mom of toddlers!" Sometimes you forget how busy life can be with kids because that becomes all you know. All that to say that this month I felt worn down again. My bible study started to decrease, my yoga got tossed in the back dark corner of my mind, waking up early to walk gets shot in my imagination like a bad video game as I hit snooze for the fifth time... and as it all slips, I just feel worse. And I feel guilty. I find myself just wanting to slip back into my little introverted cave of alone time, 'The Voice', and Frosty's ice cream.
And then at night after getting filled up in that marvelous cave, I'm convinced I'm all better. I have energy again! Tomorrow I will definitely wake up early, take that walk, do my yoga, have a deep bible study, clean the house, finish all those projects, do the kids homeschooling like the best teacher who ever walked this planet, make three grade A meals, complete all the laundry that has begun to pile up, oh and clean that dirty car! I've been so stressed, but I'm going to dust it off tonight, and tomorrow will be different! Then I'll feel all better!
Ahhh... What a nice thought.
But we all know what happens. I stay up in that 'cave' way too late, then pass out and sleep so hard from exhaustion, don't even wake to hear my alarm but instead wake up to the sound of my kids yelling from their rooms, "can I get up yet?" Then like a sloth, I move through a sloppy morning routine and wonder how in the world I thought I'd get all that done on my list in ONE day?!
Yet at some point in the day, the Lord stops me in my tracks and speaks to my heart. I take a good look at my life and begin to rest in His grace and know that sometimes life is just hard and my days aren't going to look so pretty. And then He reminds me of how sweet His grace is! So I just keep laughing and praying- and forcing myself to not stop praying even when I feel so undeserving. Just keep praying and thanking. Thanking Him for His grace. Thanking Him that it's never about me. Thanking Him that He somehow loves to use weak vessels just like me. Thanking Him for convictions and guidance and passions that lead me to just take one little step at a time with Him through this beautiful life He's given me. But also just basking in His amazing love. He won't leave me, He knows I'm a mess, and He still loves me.
So tonight, in my introverted cave, I'm choosing to pray, to thank, and to write just a couple things on my to-do list for tomorrow to get myself back on track in this crazy life.
One step at a time... Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
|Posted on October 11, 2015 at 11:30 PM||comments (1)|
Lord, thank you for my birthday. Thank you for this past year of my life, and for this new year your grace has granted me. I'm so thankful for all you have taught me, for all the ways you have held me up, and for the all the ways you have comforted me. Lord I know when I was younger I took my life for granted and even felt immortal, although I would have never said that. All the close calls and bad calls were proof of that though. Jesus, on this birthday I realize more than ever that my life on this earth will not go on forever. We have experienced loss and watched others walk down the saddest roads this past year, and on this birthday it all just clicks in my mind that this life is fleeting. Truly gone in the blink of an eye. And yet so full and rich with amazing depth and purpose. Oh how I want to run this race well for your glory. One day I will see you face to face and I want to hear you say "well done my daughter."
You have held my hand through the green pastures. You have rocked me through the dark valleys. You have grabbed my hands tightly and pulled me up while shouting encouragement into my soul to climb up some steep hills. And you have rejoiced over me when I have conquered. You have heard my deepest prayers and answered some that are pure miracles, gifts, from your hands. You have caught every one of my tears and cared deeply about them, slowly and sweetly turning those ashes to beauty. And even when I feel so weak, forgotten, broken; you are my rock that helps me to stand up tall and run wildly with your joy, knowing you are my God and you have great plans for me. Little ol' me. How humbled and in awe I am of your love.
As my 28th year of life comes to an end, I am just floored by your powerful presence and protection. You have provided and guided me and my family like never before and we are more grateful than we can express. May we grow more and more into doer's of Your Word. And may our family become a tribe of thankfulness baskers- a people that just sun bathes in Your goodness all the days of our lives. You are at work in our lives and I can not wait to see all you do this next year. Thank you Jesus for the gift of not just life, but life abundantly with You. Bring on year number twenty nine!
|Posted on September 29, 2015 at 3:00 PM||comments (3)|
If you have followed my blogs the last few months, you know that I have battled this out of body experience that has been labeled as anxiety, or even social anxiety. It has been uncomfortable and at times, scary. If you read through my previous blog appropriately named, “un-cute life events”, you can see all the appointments I had gone to at that time. In short, I was having headaches, had a loss of energy, temporarily lost hearing in my right ear, was very dizzy, and beginning to experience panic in basically any social setting. My doctors seemed helpful, but at the end of the day, I felt confused and was handed xanax with little information or instruction on it, and told I was ok.
The last doctor’s appointment I went to my doctor noted that I needed to be on antidepressants for 1-2 years daily, and then she would attempt to wean me off it after that time. I didn’t accept that prescription and left in tears and more confused than ever. I’m in no way against doctors or medications. We have been dealt some hefty medical endeavors in our life and without our truly heroic doctor’s, my husband and I both would have not made it through. I think that depression and anxiety are very real things, and at times need more serious medications. I just knew that I was being brushed off from my doctors this go around. All I kept hearing was that it was “just anxiety”, but no real advice on what to do with that other than to medicate. I had so many aches and pains that were new each week, tension headaches that lasted weeks, very little energy, and I wanted to feel more confident in my medication decision but everything I read pointed me in a different direction. And quite frankly, I didn't have the energy to research on my own.
A family friend of ours is in medical school and read through all my blogs. He then emailed me his sympathy, encouragement, and advice. I am beyond grateful for the way he took the time to read my story and offer so much advice and ultimately a health plan to combat my anxiety naturally. We in no way are endorsed by this email!!! This is just his studies mixed with my anxiety that resulted in the hugest blessing! I am ecstatic to say, it is working. Like… Really working! Before I started this natural plan, I was on .25 xanax almost daily, if not daily, and if not more. That has been the case for the better part of this year. I’m now coming up on my 3 week “anniversary” of taking these supplements and I’m ecstatic to say that I’ve only had ONE .25 xanax in that entire time! I am praising the Lord for feeling like myself again, for these natural supplements bringing my health back, and for Jon taking the time out of his busy studies to care enough to help! Having a personalized “doctor” is pretty nice, so here we go sharing all the info with you! Welcome Jon…
Thank you Aly! It’s been an honor to be part of this rollercoaster of a healthcare adventure, and I really appreciate the opportunity to help share what we’ve done with others. Since we’re talking about health issues I do need to state for the record that I am not a doctor. I write this as a health and preventive medicine enthusiast who also happens to be in medical school. With that said, I can point you all to excellent resources and medical doctors who are more than qualified to cover this topic in detail. And that is my main goal. To share what seems to be helping Aly, answer/address any questions that you all may have, and most importantly point you towards some information that may be of great benefit to you or someone you know.
To further research all of the herbs/supplements mentioned here, www.examine.com/supplements is an excellent site that will tell you everything you could ever want to know, from how they work to clinical studies that have been performed.
Ok, first question for you Jon! I really love my doctor's and have always had so much respect for them. This seems to be a tricky topic though and I was frustrated by the responses I heard. What is your take on that?
Ya, before we get into the heart of this I definitely want to say to everyone who has been frustrated in their search for help from the medical community, I empathize with you. The medical community can do much better, especially when it comes to treating anxiety.
Most doctors are great people who work extremely hard to provide excellent care, but they are limited by a couple key things. First, the large shortage of primary care physicians in the US means that most need to see dozens of patients every day. They’d love to spend an hour fully exploring your unique story, but the constraints of the system make that nearly impossible. I assure you, many of them are discouraged by this reality as well. Most of them went into medicine to help people, not constantly live under the pressure of the clock. Second, doctors receive very extensive training about a vast array of diseases and medications, but little about nutrition, which is both sad and ironic because the majority of their time is spent addressing issues that are caused by nutrition and lifestyle problems. Though to be fair, especially since I will soon be one, by the time most doctors see a patient, immediate intervention is needed so that means they must spend most of their time focusing on those kinds of treatments.
The challenge with anxiety is that many factors can be involved and this makes it difficult to treat given the limitations I described. That is why I strongly believe that nutrition should be the initial focus. Once that is addressed, then we can start considering other options. But if we don’t correctly identify the root cause then we’re treating symptoms with powerful drugs that often come with significant side effects, and then it’s easy to get into a situation where more drugs are being prescribed to treat the side effects. So, nutrition first.
To further reinforce this, consider the following for a moment. Our bodies were beautifully and awesomely created, with millions upon millions of cells working together to allow you to be here right now. Your thoughts and emotions are the result of nearly unfathomably complex actions occurring every second. You and everyone you hold dear came from a couple microscopic cells. If you think the creation of the universe is amazing, consider yourself. It’s truly stunning. We are the result of nearly countless actions that happened in exactly the right order and magnitude. Your body knew how to do all of that. It’s kinda smart.
The practice of medicine is about stepping into this truly awesome world and modifying it. There are definitely times we must do this (genetic diseases, infections, trauma, etc.), but I also think that one of the best things we can do to heal the body is provide it with the resources, the nutrients, it needs to function as it was designed.
Such great insight! Thank you for shedding that light so that we can keep great appreciation for our doctors. I know with me, even though I felt like my "gut" (not a girly topic) was fine, you insisted we start there to help my anxiety. Can you explain that? And also explain what supplements you suggested I take?
Of course. My first goal with you was to see if your anxiety was related to not only your diet but also to the health of your gastrointestinal system. It may seem weird to link this to anxiety, but the medical community is quickly realizing that this system has a significant impact on overall health, especially the mind. The work in this area is largely being pioneered by Dr. David Perlmutter, a renowned neurologist who also has a background in nutrition. I encourage everyone to read his book, Brain Maker, in order to better understand this relationship. He does a much better, and more thorough, job than I can in explaining how nutrition issues can be related to not only anxiety but allergies, migraines, inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, and more.
So the first step was to add a really good multivitamin, a probiotic supplement, and a prebiotic fiber which is essentially a food source for the good bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal system. The purpose of these things is to ensure the body is receiving what it needs, and to restore the bacterial composition within the gut to healthy levels. For more information on this topic I again encourage people to read Dr. Perlmutter’s book, but the key point is that both good and bad bacteria live within our bodies and they can greatly impact our health, so it’s important that we consume foods that promote good bacteria and minimize the ones that tend to generate disorder and inflammation.
Second, we incorporated several herbal supplements that have been shown to help the body repair the damage that can occur with chronic anxiety from things such as excessive release of cortisol and other hormones. The herbs/supplements we used are Ashwagandha, Rhodiola Rosea, and Theanine. Most of these are categorized as “adaptogens”, substances that essentially help the body adapt to physical and mental stresses. I’ll explain a bit about each, and include links for each to an excellent site that will tell you everything you could want to know about them, including clinical studies.
Ashwagandha has been shown to decrease cortisol levels as well as boost levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is the main inhibitory/calming neurotransmitter. Of the three herbs I just listed, this one probably has the greatest anti-anxiety effect.
Rhodiola has been shown to be a potent anti-fatigue herb that also has the ability to reduce the biochemical markers of stress such as cortisol.
Theanine has been shown to have a calming effect without causing drowsiness. It’s mostly known for being found in green tea. It can also help boost levels of the neurotransmitter GABA.
To recap, my goal was to address possible root issues with nutrition, and help your body to essentially calm down. The body really is an amazing thing, and it’s usually incredibly good at regulating itself, but sometimes it gets out of balance and starts doing dumb things such as not correctly differentiating between minor everyday stressors and life-threatening situations. Adrenaline is great if you need to run away from a tiger; terrible if you’re simply in church with your family. My hope was that if we could get those physiological things under control, then Aly could more easily focus on addressing any psychological factors involved without fear that her body was going to freak out every time she left the house.
Are there any other supplements that could help?
There are definitely at least a couple more that have been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of chronic anxiety.
The most important is probably magnesium. Studies have shown that up to 80% of Americans are deficient, and it’s likely higher than this in those dealing with heightened anxiety because the increased cortisol release, among other things, can cause magnesium loss. It’s probably the most underrated mineral out there. Your body uses it for hundreds of essential reactions and even those who are very health conscious struggle to obtain the desired levels without a supplement.
The best form of magnesium is probably magnesium glycinate. The form is very important. The worst form, which is found in most magnesium supplements, is magnesium oxide. It’s often used as a laxative because the absorption rate is so terrible. Magnesium glycinate is absorbed very well, and even better, the magnesium is bonded to glycine which is another calming neurotransmitter. The recommended daily allowance is 300-400mg a day. If you start noticing the levels listed on nutrition labels you’ll likely find that you’re getting much less than this. Though magnesium glycinate has a really good absorption rate I wouldn’t go crazy with it. Start with 100mg morning and evening, with the goal of getting to 300-400mg a day.
Bacopa Monnieri, another “adaptogen”, has also been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety as well as improve memory after 2-3 months of use. The two most popular, and effective, herbs for treating anxiety are probably Bacopa and Ashwagandha.
I definitely suggest that all caffeine sources be eliminated until the symptoms of anxiety are completely under control, but if/when you reach that point and would like something with a stimulant effect, I think that green tea will probably be your best friend. The theanine that it contains is probably the reason why many people, including myself, prefer it to coffee. It helps keep me awake and focused without the jittery feeling.
Lastly I will have Jon list the links to each supplement he has shared about. For the last 3 weeks I have been on the women’s multivitamin that he shares below, (2 in am, 2 in pm), one scoop of the prebiotic mixed in juice every am, ashwagandha, (1-2 in am, 1 after lunch or before bed), rhodiola rosea (1 in am, 1 after lunch), one Theanine in the morning, and one probiotic every morning. I have also been taking two magmind every morning, a magnesium supplement, but am switching to the one Jon suggests below.
I’m shocked by the lack of panic and gained energy I’m experiencing. Before, shopping was an overwhelming task, and just this last week I went into two different stores without even thinking about anxiety and praised God when I left and realized it! Truly thankful and excited about all my results! Thank you Jon for taking the time to share all of this information with me, and with any readers who have also dealt with anxiety! Please feel free to comment below with any thoughts or questions you have for me or Jon. He would be excited to answer those for you! God bless everyone!
You are so welcome Aly! And to everyone else, I will do my best to address all questions posted in the comments section. In watching how anxiety has affected Aly and her family I have a much better appreciation for how much this can affect nearly every area of life, so I will make the time to help and at the very least point you in the right direction.
Can you share the exact links of the products you have shared about?
Multivitamin – Garden of Life.
Prebiotic – Now Foods.
Probiotic - Hyperbiotics
Ashwagandha – Organic India.
Bacopa Monnieri – Swanson.
Rhodiola Rosea – Now Foods.
I suggest starting with these before adding additional supplements. If you feel good/stable after 3-4 weeks then you may want to try the magnesium. Here is the one I suggest.
Magnesium Glycinate – Doctor’s Best.
|Posted on September 22, 2015 at 2:05 AM||comments (1)|
And there I was, right where I needed to be. Anxiety dull, but heart happy. Soul clinging to this moment and pushing all else away with every bit of strength the Lord equipped me with. Tears wanted to run wild, but I just breathed the emotion, the gratitude, in deeply. Closing my eyes, my hands pressed high, I worshipped my Jesus. My Father. My protector. My comforter. I looked over at my friend and the tears did begin to lightly fall, just sweet tears. She knows my story and I know hers, and stepping into this womens bible study was a hurdle. But there we were, in the midst of a room full of women, telling Jesus together that we were ready and our hands are open to Him. Ready to connect, to love on, to learn, to study together again. Moments of holding hands in prayer, lightly weeping in song, and smiling with joy and excitement... I knew this was a good thing.
That night ended and we filled out cards to join the weekly study that began the following week. She said she was in, asked for us to do it together, and without thinking I just knew I needed to say yes. This woman, my friend, has always amazed me and I just felt so blessed to be in church by her side again. I do know her story and yet after she jumped that hurdle and swung open those doors, it was as if she had been there forever. As for me, I still felt a tad bit like a cat in water trying to pretend I looked and felt ok, but with wet sticky hair flying in every which way as I panted through it. But right as we entered the sanctuary, she made a B-line to our friend who was sharing her testimony that night and said lets pray over her. And we did. Then we sat and got ready for worship. When the music began she said we need to stand, so we did. What a blessing to know someone like that.
The second week came and there she was in my driveway picking me up again. This time my anxiety felt thick. I was tense. I wanted to go, was even excited, but my body didn't agree. I fought through it, tried to focus, tried to ignore some familiar panic like triggers, and remembered the restful state I've learned through yoga and tried to melt into that pew seat. As the message ended and the group time began, I pictured myself having to run outside for fresh air because my throat felt like it was closing up. I told the Lord, just one step at a time. So I grabbed a seat and sat down. It was the last seat available and right next to the leader. That was not the comforting back row, hidden behind a taller woman position, I had imagined. But something funny happened next. I was asked to introduce myself, and then to answer the questions, first. That had every scoop on ingredients to make me run. And yet the Lord reminded me of how he had equipped me to lead a group so similiar to that one before. I loved that group and was with them for a couple years. It was a place of peace, not panic. And as I opened my mouth to speak, I felt like myself. Like my old self, my true self. Not like this scared, claustrophobic, new self. But like, me. I not only survived the group, I really loved it. I really loved getting to know how I could pray for each woman. I was thrilled over the homework they gave us. I left excited for the next week to come and I would have never imagined that would be the case.
The last question I answered was what my prayer request was and I answered with, "Well... if I was being very honest... I've been dealing with anxiety and I hate it and would love prayer for that."
Flash forward to the next day and I was at the park with another friend that I hadn't seen in months. She's also a woman I deeply admire, and no matter how much time passes, we just pick up where we left off. As I shared my struggles with her about this season and anxiety being emotionally draining, she poured wisdom and love into my life. We talked about chemical imbalances, stress, spiritual warfare, etc. I deeply appreciated her insight and her understanding without judgement. But one thing that made me feel so empowered was when she said how great it is that I'm talking about my anxiety because satan loves for us to feel alone, scared, trapped, stupid, inadequate. He loves to keep us in the dark. But in sharing, I'm bringing this struggle into the light. Giving it room and oxygen to heal and grow from the Lord and through prayers from my friends and family. I do actually feel like my anxiety is getting better, (more info coming on that in my next blog), but it's still there and just the fears it has revealed to me and left in me, need bathing in the Lords word and grace.
The night I got home from my bible study I went straight to my husband and said, "Please pray for me. I want to do this study and not have anxiety anymore. I want to be used by God and I don't want to be afraid. I want to love whole heartedly." We prayed. And then soon after he said, let's get down on our knees and really pray, and we did. And it was perfect and fun and beautiful. Just hope... sweet pure little bubble of hope, you are still there and my heart has missed you.
|Posted on September 12, 2015 at 11:05 PM||comments (1)|
Trying to keep going, trying to keep moving. Don't stay still. Is it possible to feel like my head is not attatched to my body? No, just keep moving. Don't think about it. Read my Bible, pray, homeschooling, yoga, did I forget to eat? I feel happy and accomplished and yet my head is somewhere else. Why today? At least it would make more sense if it came on the hard days.
As my husband walked in the door I finished up dinner and shoved spoonfuls of raviolis in my kids mouthes. "Mind if I take a bath?" "No, that would be good for you!" I busied myself still as he reminded me twice to stop and go relax.
Water, epsom salt, and a few drops of essential oils. I slipped in and turned on my current favorite song that is on anxiety, and is also linked to the front page of my blog right now. Finally- relaxing. Just allowing me to be me, and to breath in and out. When I first started doing yoga I swear the hardest part was the breathing exercises. Today I was proud that I got through it a tad bit easier and patted myself on the back for really starting to enjoy it. I really hate feeling anxiety rush through my skin and make my head feel like a computer that is about to crash. I feel convinced in moments that if I stop to think I will realize that my head is moments away from shutting down and turning off. And I know if you don't have anxiety this sounds absolutely ludicrous. It sounds that way to me too, to be honest. I wish it was just me being dramatic of poetic with my words, but unfortunately this is the bazaar way I feel too many days.
But as I sat in the hot fragrant water and attempted to pray and wash away this virus within my muscles, the Lord put the sweetest reminder upon me. Sometimes going through a trial can be difficult on a marriage. You may feel one way, mourn one way, fear something, etc., that your spouse isn't experiencing. That can seem like distance between the two of you which is not a comforting emotion. I heard a while back that it takes 7 to 9 years to go from a 'me' to a 'we' marriage. Seven to nine years?! I wonder if that makes you feel as self centered as it made me feel! Of course when you first hear that you think you're above the curve and would never fall into that category, but as life goes on and the seasons change, sometimes those fall leaves hit the ground and you realize you're just like everyone else.
When I asked my hubs what he thought when he first heard that stat, he said, "I thought we were totally above that curve." We both laughed at that! His definition of a 'me' to a 'we' marriage is, "Full maturity of dying to self."
The sweet reminder that the Lord gave me was that husbands are made to be our heroes. When we feel weak we can feel like a burden. But at the end of the day, most men are built up by experiencing their wife cheer them on and by being the hero in their home. That simple act of my husband pushing me out of the living room, and telling me to wash the pasta sauce out of my hair in a warm bath, was absolutely heroic.
Through this season we both have had some low points. There are times where he isn't on his 'A' game and can come off frustrated or just uninterested and exhausted. A 'me' marriage says, "I diserve better than this." A 'we' marriage says, "I will be by his side forever and I will lift him up when needed regardless of how I feel." I am beyond thankful that even though we fail at that "test" often, that that area of our marriage has been tested and strengthened with time.
My husband is my best friend and I genuinely love him more each year! Thank you for all the love and encouragement you have given me this year especially. When I feel like a failure, you are always right there to lift me back up.