I’m a Winner! DaySpring Friendship Gifts

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It’s not too often that I actually call myself a winner. Perhaps it’s a practice I should take up! But, today, I can say I really and truly am a winner!

Since I started my journey into bible journaling recently I have fallen more and more in love with the products and gifts offered at DaySpring, not to mention their Illustrated Faith line and site, which is absolutely the bee’s knees, in my opinion. (I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that!) I love following DaySpring on Instagram and receiving email notifications about their upcoming promotions and new products. Everything is so uplifting and focused on what I want to be focused on…living an abundant life as a follower of Jesus.

While I have been doing all of this following and sometimes buying (more than I should actually admit) I entered a giveaway along the way. I’ve been entering quite a few giveaways in general recently since this mommy is on a budget and well, who doesn’t love getting things for FREE? I never really expect to win because SO many people are entering and what are the chances? But I take my chances when something stands out to me and lo and behold, I won something!!! I didn’t just win anything though. I won a beautiful collection of gifts. All the gifts are so wonderful and happy and completely lifted my spirits. I’ve been pretty sick recently and that has taken a bit of a toll on my overall mood. These gifts are so great that I wanted to show you here because you can get them too on DaySpring.com plus they are all great gifts for girlfriends or the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday.

Before I go any further, I’d like to let you know that DaySpring is not paying me for this post in any way. I received these gifts as a winner of a contest and I’m so thrilled that I wanted to share them with you!

Have a look at all the goodies and make sure to read to the bottom of the page because I have a surprise for you!

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How adorable is this little sign? And I totally need the reminder!
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Isn’t this journal beautiful and inspring? I just want to write in it right now. The desk calendar is full of inspiration, too!
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The timing of receiving this cup couldn’t have been any better. I bought an insulated tumbler from DaySpring last week and I broke it (by dropping it) the first day I went to use it. Now I have a replacement!
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Okay, who doesn’t want to wear this? It’s a little piece of perfection to wear around your neck!
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Oh my goodness! This bag is perfect for bible journaling supplies or cosmetics. Bonus, it’s an adorable print with such an inspirational piece of gracing it.

I hope you didn’t suffer too much viewing these not so perfect images, but I am certain you could tell what a wonderful collection of gifts I received. Thank you, DaySpring!!!

Now, for my surprise! I’m all about passing on kindness. I love making the day of a friend or loved one with a little gift or surprise. If  you’re reading this, I’m considering you a friend and I want to share a friendship gift with you! Since I currently have several journals on hand all empty and waiting in a drawer for me, I’d like to pass on the beautiful journal above because “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created!” I love the design and this mantra.

If you’re interested in receiving this gift please leave a comment below sharing why you would like this lovely journal along with your Instagram or Twitter username (watch for my follow and please follow back so I can contact you via private message on the platform of your choice). You’ll get an extra entry if you decide to follow the blog. And, that’s it! I’ll pick a winner at random by end of day Friday April 15th and send you the journal on my dollar. US residents only, please.

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Waiting Not So Patiently

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Funny how quickly a year can pass, even if it’s one of the most difficult years you can recall, you always arrive at some point where you say to yourself how fast the year flew by. At least, that’s what I’m doing right now…as I worry and reflect and try to keep perspective.

One of my very first posts on this blog (and that wasn’t all that long ago) was a post titled “Where it All (Sort of) Started” detailing an event that I now realize was a big red flag alerting me that depression had stuck its claws into me again (bad monster). That event involved the discovery of a spot on my lung and the process of going through finding out what it was and that it wasn’t something to be concerned about. There’s a lot more meat to it than that, but that’s the short condensed story so that I can get you up to speed.

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That’s the read flag that totally should have been more obvious than it was at the time.

Now, here we are and I’ve been sick recently. Quite sick really. Pneumonia. A shot in the rear, breathing treatments, steroids, antibiotics… I’m doing the drill, ya know? Trying to rest as much as I can during the days while the kids are at school and my husband has been awesome and super supportive in the evenings. And then today, I get a phone call from my doctor.

It’s a new doctor and I like her a lot. She wants to know if I know about this spot on my lung that their radiologist saw on the X-ray they took a couple days ago. Naturally, I said “Yes! That was scanned last summer (turns out it was actually last May) and they thought it was benign.” She proceeded to ask if I had the report…and while I have the CD from the scan, I couldn’t locate the actual written report. Dang it. She wanted to know if I remembered the size of the spot (lung nodule) and I couldn’t accurately recall. We formulated a plan that I would obtain the report and since I was going to see her in a few days for a follow-up I could bring the report with me then. And… she mentioned that the radiologist measured it at 9mm currently.

I was instantly alarmed because I knew that wasn’t the size it was almost a year ago, but I still couldn’t recall the exact size. I got off the phone and my adrenaline started PUMPING. I could feel it coursing through me as I got a wind of energy like I haven’t had in many, many days. I looked and looked through the CT scan report I have on CD but it didn’t tell me anything in actual words, it was all pictures, the black and white kind. Not helpful at all.

I am bad at waiting. Like really bad at waiting. This is ironic because I posted about waiting on the Lord on Instagram this morning. I spoke of how if we wait, His way will always be better than ours. You know, we need to try not to act on impulse and not seek out instant gratification constantly. That went out the window as soon as this event arrived. In fact, I didn’t even recall that post until right now as I’m writing. (hangs head)

I called the imaging center and all I needed to do was drive over, show my id and I could get a copy of the report. Guess who couldn’t wait until Monday but had to drive over during rush hour on a late Friday afternoon? Yep, me. I got that report in my hands as soon as I possibly could and now, I know the answer. The answer is that my spot was measured at 7mm 11 months ago. And, depending on the actual size of the spot now (which may or may not be 9mm because X-rays aren’t nearly as accurate as a CT scan) it’s either grown, or it hasn’t. Either way, I’m sure I’m going to need another scan…this will require waiting. Waiting for the insurance company to pre-authorize the scan, waiting for the scan appointment itself and then waiting for the results. See a theme, here? Then there may or may not be more waiting…I could go on.

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This is so NOT me right now, but who doesn’t love a picture of a bride? And she is obviously annoyed about something, much like me.

I’m trying really hard not to jump to conclusions but meanwhile I read a whole lot of articles and reports tonight that I somewhat understand. They discuss growth rates of nodules in the lung and what they may or may not mean and all kinds of other tidbits about lung nodules that you really don’t need to know…most of which I already read last summer!  I’m trying not to worry. I’m trying to give it all to God. I’m trying to understand that waiting patiently for Him and the answers is the only way to go if I want peace of mind. 

All this to say, it really could be nothing. And God wants me to be brave and courageous and just wait for Him…so I’m going to do my very best.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be Bold and Courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14 NLT

 

 

To Be Seen Again

One of the hardest things I have been dealing with these last few months is a sense of not wanting to be seen. I don’t want to be seen by the world, by the people in it, by even friends of mine and sometimes by my own family. It’s as if everyone is going to see all my pain and shame just by looking at me and even worse, they will see how much I’ve failed.

In my mind it’s like nobody has anything better to do than to look at me and judge me. Which we all know is a complete fallacy, a trick of the mind, but a really good trick because it feel so true.

The real truth is that I don’t go out in the world judging people. I’m not sizing anyone up. If I ever do it’s because of some sort of envy or admiration, which can be both good and bad. But in my heart, I don’t want to judge anyone and I believe a lot of people feel the same way. Additionally, most people are really only interested in their own stuff, their own life, their own weight gain or loss, their own hair, their own makeup, their own outfit and just so focused on themselves that they really aren’t looking at me.

On several occasions recently I’ve shared with my husband that I feel unable to do something because I just don’t want to be seen. It’s an undeniable feeling, it’s intrusive, it’s anxiety producing and just plain sad. He tries to understand. He’s good like that. But I don’t think I fully understand it. It’s part of this depression, anxiety, bipolar goop. It’s part of a shame I’ve lived with for too long. It’s actually quite self-centered. I’m truly not the center of the universe, or am I? 😉

I know a large measure of this is due to body image issues as well. Can anyone relate? I’ve gained A LOT of weight over the last year due to poor diet, inactivity due to depression and medications. For all the wrong reasons, when I am overweight I feel under-lovable. The more the weight, the less worth I have. And during this time, I need to feel loved more than ever. It’s as though if I’m not pretty on the outside, then you will know I’m not pretty on the inside, either.

Whether it be society, childhood trauma or self-sabotage, it doesn’t matter the cause because I’m stuck in the feeling of wanting to disappear, regardless. But somehow, deep inside me, I have to find the love. I have to find the love for myself, I have to find my identity in Christ and the courage to bravely face the world despite how much I feel like shrinking back inside myself or under the covers.

So, I’m working on that. I’m facing the world when I have to and sometimes when I don’t. Like when I went to the Go Blog Social conference several weeks ago, or when I went to a bible journaling meet-up this past weekend anticipating a small crowd (turns out there were only two of us there). And when I go to church on Sundays, I’m facing it. And I’m spending time in the Word again. I’m listening to worship music and spending time in devotionals and Bible study. I’m bible journaling. I’m listening to faith based audio books (never have done this before) and surrounding myself with His message. (If you are struggling with feeling beautiful and lovable I highly recommend the “You’re Beautiful” devotional that comes in the “Beautiful” devotional kit by Illustrated Faith. I’m working through this now and it’s touching me right in the most tender places of my heart.)

I’m doing these things and more (like starting to incorporate healthy eating habits into my life again). I am taking action. And I’m working to really embrace the fact that my worth is not completely tied to my appearance. I am seeking the knowledge that it can be okay for my pain to be visible and it can be okay that I am visible again. Maybe the world wants me in it? Maybe the world will be a slightly better place if I participate in it? Maybe, it will be good to be seen.

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”.png

Confessions of a Bible Journaling Beginner

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You know I talk about messy stuff around here and let me tell you, bible journaling can get messy.

I recently (very recently) began journaling in my bible as a way to spend more time in the word and as a way to utilize my creativity to help me study, express my thoughts, feelings, emotions and prayers through art. While I went through a period of severe depression recently, I found it particularly difficult to connect with God. Once I found myself in this “recovery” phase of things (I’d like to think that’s where I’m at.) my natural instinct to draw near to him became apparent again. This was a joyful discovery for me after these past few months of feeling so far away.

But like most things that I do, it’s been a messy adventure. Both good and invigorating and, I hate to say bad, but well…just a little messy. Messy can mean a lot of things. Try to think of it, in this case, both literally and figuratively. That said, I’d like to share my confessions with you about what this beginning process has been like for me. Perhaps you can learn something from me. And maybe it will even encourage you to dive in to bible journaling yourself. You will find an amazing and rich community waiting for you on all social media outlets, but you can first look here  and follow the #biblejournaling and #biblejournalingcommunity hashtags on Instagram to find fellow journalers.  I think you will undoubtedly find that bible journaling is a beautiful (and sometimes messy) way to express your faith.

Confession No. 1

I’m kind of a scaredy cat. I am timid when it comes to writing and making art on the pages of my beautiful new journaling bible. (You can find the one I have here, if interested. I’m not getting paid to tell you about it and there are lots out there.) I totally hesitate to try new mediums and to really take over the page. I’ve discovered that I’m terrified of getting my pages wet now. This is because they wrinkle and crinkle easily (although there are methods that supposedly help with this (like using this stuff called Gesso), I have not mastered these techniques fully yet. I have ruined pages on the flip side by getting a page too wet and causing my work to run or smudge.

I did this here:

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And here:

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Confession No.2

I’ve spent way too much money on my new hobby. Like most people who get excited about new things, I wanted to try out all of the goodies and tools and well, everything. I still do, in fact. But if you can try to use some restraint it will probably serve you well! (Your bank account will definitely be happier.) It’s really hard not to indulge in all of the great products you see others using, but time and time again I hear bible journaling experts say to just start with the basics. I certainly have the basics now…and then a little more. In the hopes of helping another beginner out there I would recommend getting a journaling bible, some Sakura Pigma Micron pens, a couple regular pencils and some good colored pencils, but even Crayola Twistables work great. You can work your way up from there, perhaps a little bit more slowly than I did. I have to recommend Illustrated Faith as a great resource for bible journaling supplies, tools and treats, simply because I love them. They also have super fun ways to embellish your page (I’m waiting on the arrival of some stickers and die cuts I ordered from them now) if you aren’t that into drawing, painting or lettering pages all by yourself or if you just want to fancy things up. I’d show you my stash of stuff, but that would be embarrassing.

Confession No. 3

I’m totally insecure about my pages. This is the confession that is a little bit harder to put out there, but it’s true. I can rob myself of the joy of journaling by comparing my work or end results to others – others who have some mad art skills, training or have been doing this for a long time. None of this comparing business is good. It takes away from the whole point of why I’m doing this in the first place. I have images in my head of the greatness I could create only to fall way short of that expectation and then I feel all sulky and gloomy. That’s not what God would want for me to come away with after spending time in the word and it’s not of Him. To combat this, I intend to work diligently on spending more time in prayer and devotion and allowing my bible journaling to reflect that, not what I think the finished page should look like. There’s a real battle here, and I think other beginner bible journalers can relate to that.

Here’s wishing you a happy bible journaling adventure and don’t forget, it’s okay to get messy!

If you’re a beginner, tell me what your confessions are? If you’re not a beginner, how about sharing what obstacles, if any, you had to overcome when you got started? And if you’re not either of those, say hi anyway?

Small Victories Sunday Linkup

Guest Post: Grace for Your Constant Struggle

I am honored to share a post with you by a new and dear friend of mine, Liz Lalama. This post spoke right to my heart and I knew that it would to others as well! Liz graciously gave me permission to share it with you here. Enjoy!

It’s a new year, yet I find myself back where I was before. It’s time to turn over a fresh leaf, yet I know that the underside of my leaf is just as brown and rotting as the top. I’m frustrated, as I find myself not quite fully experiencing victory over a depressive episode from this past year.

I’m in a similar place that I was four years ago. Honestly, I find that hard to admit. It was only a few months after writing a blog series on recovery that my depression flared up again. I feel uncomfortable saying that. I’m humbled by that fact that I don’t (and never did) have it all together.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’re feeling the same struggles and pressures that you were a few years ago, or that you do every year. Maybe you have that one issue you’re embarrassed to say is still a struggle.

In all the talk of moving on, becoming better people, and making resolutions, it’s hard to face the fact that sometimes we just don’t. The reality is that most of the time New Year’s resolutions don’t succeed. It’s been a week … maybe yours has failed already. But I’m not even talking just about the new year. I’m talking about those deep struggles. The ones that we like to hide under the bed and pretend don’t exist. The ones that come back to haunt us after we thought we had won.

As a teenager growing up in the church, we would often have emotional moments on youth retreats where we would write down a sin, struggle, or addiction that we wanted to give up. We would then take those papers and either throw them in a fire or nail them to a cross to show that God had forgiven these sins and they were gone. It was incredibly meaningful and probably overly emotional. But it was very uplifting … until I became discouraged from writing down the same thing year after year.

It’s been years since I’ve thrown a struggle in the fire, but I find myself dealing with doubts about the fact that my struggles still exist. The truth is they didn’t actually burn in the fire. (I think that’s why they call it a “metaphor”.) But even though I’m no longer a teenager, I still find myself wishing I could throw the same old parts of me into a fire. I wish it was that easy.

Maybe like me, at the end of yet another year you find yourself realizing that if you were totally honest, not much has changed. Sure, maybe you changed your hair or moved or made a big life decision or made healthier choices. But you realize that your deepest, darkest fears are the same. Your body still isn’t as healthy as you’d like. That chronic ailment still exists. Your mental illness is still a daily battle. You still lose your temper. Or conversely you fail to speak up for yourself. You still haven’t reconciled your relationships. Even if you have conquered that addiction, you realize that you still have the potential to go back to it.

What are we to make of that? Am I a failure? Are you a failure? Am we a bad Christians? No. We are human. We are broken. We struggle. And that is exactly what a Christian is.

I’m afraid this isn’t a how-to blog. I don’t claim to have all the answers or even just one. But two things I know: We’re not alone and there is grace.

It’s too easy to think that everyone else it all together and we are the only ones who so often end up dealing with the same struggles we dealt with years ago. But if our fellow Christians were honest, we would soon find out that they struggle just the same. And through everyone’s struggle, there is grace every day and every year. There is grace every time I realize I’m still throwing that same struggle into the same fire.

Even the apostle Paul had his constant struggle. He refers to it as a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12). We don’t know what his struggle was, although scholars have made a few guesses. I think the fact that we aren’t told makes his thorn in the flesh more relatable. It doesn’t allow us to specify what is ok for Christians to constantly battle and what is not. By leaving the idea of the thorn vague, we are able to understand that Paul’s struggle is everyone’s struggle. I know very clearly what my thorn in the flesh is, and I’m guessing you know yours too. We might pretend otherwise, but truthfully we know the darkness of our own hearts.

Vicious thorns on bush. Sharp and threatening thorns on a plant in black and white

I do not struggle in the same ways as the apostle Paul, but like him I have cried out to God to take it away. Sometimes He has said yes, and sometimes He has said no. But I still have the questions. Why am I left with depression? Why do I deal with this illness that will likely go in and out of remission for the rest of my life? I have been left wondering if God hears my cry … if He even exists.

I often feel broken because I do not handle my thorn in the flesh as well as other people. But I don’t think it was easy for Paul either. He said, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” Three times he pleaded. He pleaded with God, over and over again. We easily skip over this verse and miss the pain Paul was in, the discouragement he felt in his struggle, just as we do. Even Jesus was so stressed in Gethsemane that he sweated blood as he pleaded with God to take the cross away from him. It wasn’t easy for him either. The pain and discouragement felt when we plead and yet hear “No” is not a lack of faith, it’s part of the human experience.

Paul then goes on, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I can hear some of you that are feeling very discouraged saying, “Yeah, yeah. Paul’s thorn in the flesh. His grace is sufficient. I’ve heard that.” I said that too. Sometimes I still do. But I failed to really understand the significance of God’s grace being sufficient.

God is not saying, “My grace is enough for you so just deal with this issue.” He is not saying, “My grace negates the need for doctors and seeking support and change.” It’s a gentle phrase, not a harsh one. It’s said in love, and is a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect.

God’s grace is sufficient for who I am. Jesus’ grace says, “It’s ok that you’ve failed. It’s ok that you find yourself in the same place you were before.” This world is broken.  We are broken. Yet we are God’s children and we are loved unconditionally, regardless of how often a thorn in the flesh haunts us. Even if I deal with the same struggle for the rest of my life and only see small and intermittent victory, Christ’s grace is still sufficient. I am still beloved. And so are you.

When we are weak, He is strong. When we fail, His grace is sufficient … unendingly and continuously. Not just once, not even again and again, but constantly, in every breath we breathe and in every second of our broken lives. There is grace.

 

This post originally appeared on Salad At Midnight 

Liz LalamLiz Lalamaa is a blogger and freelance writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. She has a vision for fostering community and always loves a good chat at the coffee shop, on a walk, or at the playground. She writes honestly about life, mental health, faith, and society at her blog saladatmidnight.com. Find her on facebook.com/saladatmidnight or on twitter, @lizlalama.

 

I Felt Joy

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The other day something strange happened. It almost alarmed me.

I was in the car with my two youngest children. I had just picked up my son from school. Many days he is grumpy and tired after school. He tends to be a bit moody. But this day, he was in a quite pleasant mood and I was grateful. As we began to make our way home I noticed some things that I had not seen in what felt like an eternity.

There were blooms on trees. They were pink and white and a deep rose color and on some they were just beginning to burst out. There were trees in full bloom that I had not noticed the day before. It was a stark contrast to see these beauties next to the many trees without leaves that line our streets right now. The colors were beautiful and almost glowing. I pointed out the first one I saw to my son. I said, “Look! A tree is blooming. Spring is really coming!” And he smiled.

I never thought that Spring would come. I got lost this past winter, lost in clinical depression. I was lost in a big dark deep cavernous hole. The hole got so deep that absolutely no light shined through. All I could see was darkness and all I could wish for was escape. It became so dark that I thought there was no escaping and that things like flowers, trees and plants would never come to life again. The darkness took over me and I tried to end my life.

But somehow, I’m here. I made it to now. And somehow I am seeing light again. And somehow, the trees are blooming. Miraculously, a gift from God, I saw these trees, really saw them, and I felt joy.

I felt a joy that lasted more than a moment or a flash. I felt joy at the prospect that spring was actually really coming! With that joy came hope. Hope for the spring and renewal of my spirit. And with that hope came faith, faith that God was at work all this time and pulling for me, holding on to me despite my mind’s tricks and and travels into the darkness.

Joy is lasting, joy is pure. Joy is something that fills your heart and soul and gives you peace. Joy is a gift. Joy is seeing things with clear vision again. I’m just so very grateful that I felt joy.

 

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13

 

This post is being added to the #momsterslink linky!  Check it out here!

I’ve also added this post to the #sharethejoylinky!

Share the Joy linky at TheJoyChaser.com

When He Feels So Far Away

This depression thing has hung on to me like a plague. It started seeping in last Summer and grabbed on to every cell of my body and mind by the Fall. In the midst of my darkest times I have felt so utterly alone – in a dark cavern in the deep pits of the earth below it’s surface – kind of alone.

A friend from church embraced me one Sunday (when I actually made myself go, only because my husband was teaching) and said, “I don’t know why God feels so far away during times like these, when we need Him most, but I know it feels that way.” And it was such an amazing relief to hear a fellow sister in Christ acknowledging that He does, truly, feel so infinitely far away, even removed, in times of severe depression. It’s mind boggling really.

One of the tricks to feeling connected to God is to spend time with Him – to dive into His word, to pray, to meditate on His teachings and His love. But when you’re depressed, you simply can’t do these things. It feels like lifting a 2 ton truck to open your Bible. Some may argue that you can actually do these things, but I would argue that it sure feels like you can’t and that it may truly be a fact of the condition. If you are able to muster up the strength and lift that truck, the words may seem foreign or completely without meaning. Our brains simply can’t comprehend the writing on the page.

With a God as loving as ours, why then does He seem so distant in our darkest hour? I believe it’s the illness, not our God. I believe its the disease and not His actual absence. I believe that God isn’t pulling away from us, but our minds are running the other direction. I believe that He is ever present, but our cord of connection is cut by the illness. He is not to blame. We are not to blame. The illness can take all of it. The sickness of depression is strong and can carry that burden without any buckling of the knees. It’s okay, pile it on. It’s depression’s fault, entirely.

God knows we will be afraid and completely discouraged at times, so He tells us in His word that He is always with us, He will hold us and strengthen us. It doesn’t say that we can actually feel it, but that He is doing it, whether we feel it or not.

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Do Not Fear

He also knows that our own thinking can’t be trusted. That’s especially true for those of us battling mental health issues, but it’s true for everyone. That’s why he reminds us of this in the Bible. Our understanding and comprehension of all matters, including mental illness, is flawed. So we must trust in Him.

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding…

It’s easier for me to talk about this today, as the worst part of this depressive episode seems like maybe, just maybe it is behind me. I’m not certain if I had read this post during the darkest times, that I would have been able to apply it or grab onto it. But I know it’s truth, it’s His truth, and I hope and pray that maybe it will get into the hands of someone who is suffering and that maybe it will give hope and light and shed truth on a time in which our head is full of lies.

I believe God truly does hold us when we feel most alone.

I leave you with one of my most favorite pieces of scripture. It truly is the picture of being pulled out of the pit of depression and set again on solid ground. Not only is this His word but it’s His promise. I have seen this promise fulfilled in my own life in the past and I hold onto it today as I put my trust in Him and not in my own understanding.

Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.