Posted in Health

Even So

Age 13. Celebrate the world of teenagehood.

Age 16. Celebrate the world of teenagehood even more.

Age 18. Adulthood, I suppose?

Age 21. You’re at a bible college; this birthday is kind of mute.

The big birthdays are just a little extra fun. Celebrating landmarks, golden birthdays, you name it. For me, the biggest birthday is coming up.

Age 25. Your brain will be fully developed; your seizures may be gone by then.

I have been told this by my doctors since I was a child. It felt so far away; but I clung to it. I used to secretly imagine spending my 25th birthday at the DMV getting my driver’s license, where I would then drive home past all of my friends’ houses honking and laughing. What a birthday it would be.

Of course, the older I got, the more I realized doctors were giving me a generalized timeline, not an exact moment in time. But it didn’t matter; 25 meant something to me and I would hold onto it with everything that I had.

In 2 days, that far-off birthday will arrive and I’ve been working hard to laugh it off. But I kind of want to skip it.

Because I know I will not be at the DMV.

Landmarks are good; they give us things to celebrate. They give us goals to work toward. But sometimes, those landmarks come and go and we aren’t where we want to be.

Maybe you’re like me and there is a part of your life that isn’t what you planned. Maybe you wanted to be married by 22, and you aren’t. Maybe you wanted to lose 10 pounds in 2016, and you didn’t. Maybe you wanted to overcome an addiction, but you haven’t.

You set goals, you anticipated landmarks, yet nothing seems different. Two steps forward, 4 steps backward. Repeat.

Something must be wrong with me, you think. What if I had tried harder? What if I had done better? What if this never changes? What if…what if…what if…

I guess in those moments we get to choose. Do we push forward, or do we give-up? Do we surrender, or do we cling tighter? Do we embrace the shame, or lean into grace?

In scripture, these landmarks are marked with stones. These stones represent a work that God has done and are placed “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:24). In churchy terms, they are referred to as “stones of remembrance.”

From my perspective, getting my driver’s license on my 25th birthday would be a stone of remembrance; the perfect landmark reminding me of all that God has done. The end of a long journey.

But I have been feeling led lately, with great frustration, to place a different kind of stone on my 25th birthday. It’s a stone I don’t want to place; a stone I don’t want to accept. A part of me I don’t want to remember.

It is a stone that does not say “what if”, but a stone that says “even so.”

I am turning 25 in two weeks and my seizures are not gone.

Even so, God is good. 

Even so, God is working.

Even so, God is faithful.

My body is not healed; I am not where I long to be.

Even so, I am loved. 

Even so, I am enough.

Even so, God has led me thus far and will lead me still. 

I used to think stones of remembrance were intended to mark the completion of a journey; the celebration of the end. But the more I have thought about it, I’ve begun to see that they were actually placed on the journey along the way. They were reminders that God would fulfill His promises to His people. They were reminders that He had not forgotten them; that He was working and tangibly moving even in the midst of impossible circumstances.

I will grieve in the not yet, I am weary in the waiting, but I want to choose to see the work of God’s mighty hand and surrender this stone to Him as I continue the journey.

If you too are still on a journey that you thought would have ended a long time ago and you are growing weary, if you are not where you long to be, I stand with you. It’s scary, painful, and discouraging and I am right there with you. And as the landmarks come and go, as the “what ifs” creep into the depths of our hearts, may we find the stone that says “even so”.

Push forward, surrender, and lean into grace.

We are not where we long to be.

Even so.

You are seen. You are known. You are loved.

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Posted in General

Affectionately, Yours

I really told myself I wouldn’t start blogging like a wanna-be counselor. I’ve gotten enough of the, “oh, are you psycho-analyzing me right now?” comments (followed by laughter) to realize no one likes counselors-in-training.

But.

The world is a really sad place sometimes.

Today, right now, my heart is sad as I feel the sadness of the people who honor me with their stories, thoughts, and feelings week in and week out.

This is not about cookies, muscle soreness, or my new triceps that have arrived out of nowhere. This is about something much less fun; emotions.

1.Emotions are hard. 

A lot of people think emotions reflect weakness. But as someone who has seen people lean into their sadness with both intense fear and incredible courage, I think those who are willing to feel their pain demonstrate the most strength. It’s so much easier to avoid the feelings that hurt than to embrace them.

2. Toughness does not equal strength. 

I’ve often wondered if those who associate emotions with weakness or an inability to handle life have ever wished they had the strength it requires to feel deeply. They present themselves as the tough ones, but I happen to think it’s the other way around.

“Being tough” is irrelevant if you have completely avoided a reality below the surface. Toughness is just a protective wall intended to defend.

Why would anyone need a protective wall? Why would anyone need to defend?

Fear. Fear of being hurt. Fear of losing control. Fear of being perceived as weak, incapable. Fear of being rejected.

The belief that you “just need to handle life” is often a cop-out. It’s a reason to avoid doing the dirty, difficult work of staring your emotions head-on.

3. You have emotions. Yes, you do. 

If you have been reading the above thinking, “I have no emotions”, yes you do, you just have a really strong, protective wall.

Whether you like it or not, emotions are a part of who you are. You’re a human being. And the world around you is really, really sad. It’s hurting. It hurts. It will string you. Again. And again. And again. You can tough it out, closing your eyes hoping it all goes away, but there’s a problem with that.

The more you ignore your emotions, the more they control you. If they go unnoticed or unidentified, they will leak out without you even knowing it. They may make you bitter, mean, or harsh. They may make you judgmental, prideful, or unapproachable. They may even make you physically ill, controlling your body undercover.

To those of you who are hurting 

I’m so proud of you. You are in such a scary place and I’m sure you wish you could quit. Please don’t. Whatever has happened, whatever hasn’t happened, whatever is happening, your hurt is valuable. Don’t hide it, don’t run away from it. Your tears take so much strength. You aren’t alone. If you try to rush whatever process or journey this hurt is taking you on, you may miss something along the way. There is grace. Forgiveness. Hope. This pain is not your forever, it is your right now. And today, I stand with you, claiming truth that you may be afraid to claim; Christ wants you, all of you, to come to Him as you are.

To those of you who are tough.

I’m really sorry you’ve had to learn how to be tough. The world has probably strung you more times than you can count and you’re so tired of it. You have built an incredibly impressive, strong wall. You have learned how to survive and cope because you needed to. Truly, my heart hurts for you. Your toughness has done exactly what it intended to do; keep something out. If there is any part of you that wishes you had the courage to lean into the real emotions behind that wall, I want to tell you that you do. It will be painful and probably pretty scary, but you can do it. I also believe it will be worth it. Yes, you have kept out more hurt, rejection, and pain, but you may also have kept out joy, love, and peace. I hope you will choose to do the work; the kind of work that requires strength. Today, I stand with you, claiming truth that you may be afraid to claim; Christ wants you, all of you, to come to Him as you are.

To those of you with no emotions.

I get it. Emotions seem like a waste of time, unnecessary, and unaccessible. You have learned how to control the emotions you don’t like because you don’t want them to control you. Why learn to “feel” something if you’ve so successfully learned how to ignore it? Well, I propose that learning to “feel” is a part of learning to be comfortable when you aren’t in control. It requires accepting you aren’t all put together; that you are a human just like everyone else. If you choose to control your emotions, I understand. But consider this. You were created by a God who loves you and maybe, just maybe, surrendering control is what He is inviting you to. And just like those who are in the midst of pain, just like those who have the toughest of walls, you too are being pursued by Christ and He wants you, all of you, to come to Him as you are. 

~

Because each and every single one of you, whether you are in a season of joy, pain, fear, contentment, or sin, He invites you to lean in His love, allowing His strength to be made known in your weakness. 

Posted in General

6:30am

When an alarm goes off at 6:30am, most normal people think, “Ahhh, time to start the day. Sunshine and bacon.”

Right?

Well, when my alarm goes off at 6:30am, I think nothing of the sort. I think almost anything else. Predominantly I think several expletives that will remain better left in my head.

I have never, ever, ever been a morning person. If you don’t believe me, ask my family. I’m sure they’ll all agree: Debralyn before 9am is better left alone.

I’ve enjoyed working a job that begins at 9am, which means I can roll out of bed, throw my face on, and get to work within a precisely scheduled 45 minute time-frame. In other words, I maximize every minute of sleep at the cost of perfected make-up.

Sleeping is one of my favorite things to do. But even beyond that, it has always been a “must”. In order to manage my health, I have to sleep. Naturally, it became pretty easy to look at those crazy morning exercise people and claim, “That will never be me; I can’t risk having seizures.”

Although simultaneously, and more embarrassingly, I follow that thought with, “AND THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT!”

Having a reasonable, built-in excuse that no one can argue with is the perfect way to get plenty of sleep and stay in bed until 8am. And with work, internship, and grad school getting me home at 8pm, implementing any gym schedule is impossible.

…right?

Well, not unless I set my alarm to 6:30am.

Sleep reminds us that we are fragile, that we are weak, and that we are dependent on God to sustain us. It’s inherently a good thing.

But for me, sacrificing my sleep feels like losing a toe. Sleep provides security that I’m terrified to surrender (Guys, I really wish I was exaggerating).

As I wrestled with this several months ago, I kept remembering my high school youth group encouraging us to schedule our prayer and scripture time for when we are at our best. “God deserves our best”, they’d say. And so I’d open my bible right before bed because I was undeniably NOT a morning person.

But what if God also wants our worst?

What if He wants us when it’s the most difficult, when it takes the most energy? 

What if He wants us when we are grumpy, tired, and scared?

What if our worst is actually what we try to control the most, and thus need to surrender that much more? 

What if He can handle that? 

What if His love for you doesn’t change when you’re inadequate?  

What if our very worst is exactly what He wants? 

I want to reject these “what ifs” because I want to be at my best pretty much all of the time. My best is what I prefer to let others see.

If I’m honest with myself, that’s why I’m scared to lose sleep. I’m scared to lose control. I’m scared everyone will then see how truly weak I am.

6:30am and the gym? This is me at my worst. But I think that’s where He wants me right now.

Maybe He wants your worst too, whatever that may be.

Against every grain in my body, I’m going to continue waking up at 6:30am to go to the gym.

And I’m going to give it my absolute worst.

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Posted in Fitness

Growth

When I was in early high school, I decided to run a 5K with some friends and family. I went to a sleepover the night before, slept for a solid 4 hours, woke up and ate some donuts, and somehow thought running a 5K would be fine.

About ten seconds in, I realized this was, in fact, not fine. It was the opposite of fine.

As children started passing me up, I knew I’d never be a runner. Need I reiterate my hatred of running?

Yes, I did cross the finish line. Yes, I finished last. Yes, I walked most of the way. Yes, there was a gigantic crowd at the end cheering me on.

And yes, I puked in front of said gigantic crowd.

No, I have not run a 5K since.

I tell you this story because on Saturday, I woke up not feeling well and certainly not up for the gym. But I’d made my blog public only a few days earlier and now was not the time to skip a day.

“I can’t wait until I can write a blog post about my newfound discipline.”

Guys, this is not a blog post about my newfound discipline. Jokes on me.

It was absolutely horrible. I was nauseated, I thought I was going to pass out at least 4 times, and I couldn’t get out of bed for the rest of the day.

And just like I did after that 5K run, I started hating on my body.

It was a painful reminder I’m still not where I want to be. Writing about fighting my fears didn’t rid me of them, anymore than going to the gym didn’t make me magically strong.

And as much as I hate to admit it, this is an area of my life I probably can’t overcome in a matter of weeks.

I learned the hard way that one cannot just wake up and decide to run a 5K on a whim and become a runner by the finish line. On Saturday, I learned the hard way that one cannot just decide to overcome their insecurities and abracadabra, they’re gone.

If muscle growth doesn’t happen that way, then perhaps emotional growth doesn’t either.

Sometimes, we don’t believe we have any need to grow and we’re doing just fine, so we experience pride. Other times, we see the ways we need to grow and desperately desire it, but the amount of energy and time it takes is too much, so we experience complacency. Or maybe occasionally we begin to take steps necessary to grow, striving with good intentions and diligence, but our imperfections become glaringly bright, so we experience discouragement.

Depending on which area of my life you ask about, I fall into all of these at any given time.

In the midst of my discouragement on Saturday, I did what I always do after the gym; I flexed while looking into a mirror to see if any change has occurred (don’t laugh; you all do the same thing).

But this time, in the strangest of ways, I was flexing my emotional strength. It didn’t really seem much different than a few weeks ago. And so I sighed and crawled into bed, feeling as embarrassed as I did after “running” that 5K.

No, this post is not about the decision to push through a difficult gym day.

This post is rather a reminder that discouragement, complacency, and pride are all a part of the game. We are all works in progress and need to remind each other of that sometimes. You aren’t alone. You aren’t done. You are loved.

Keep it up. Keep growing. Keep pressing into the places that hurt. Because maybe, just maybe, you will begin to see transformation like no gym has ever seen.

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Posted in Health

Fight

Preface: As much as I’d rather talk about food, I alluded to childhood health issues earlier that I should probably just own here sooner rather than later. My health concerns have been a piece of my story that I’m extremely comfortable talking about, but they are deeply embedded in my journey of body hatred. 

~~~~~~~~~

My body has always been a little…different. For some reason, it decided a long time ago it enjoyed spacing out and misfiring some neurotransmitters every now now and then. The medical word for that is “seizure”. More specifically to my situation, “absence seizure.”

Brought on by stresses (unhealthy food, lack of food, bad sleep, emotional stress, exams, etc), they can occur at any moment without any warning and last for a matter of 10-30 seconds.

With my parents sacrificially getting me to doctor appointments for the help I needed, eliminating stressers became the main focus.

Eat healthy (I mean, no cheez-its kind of healthy).

Go to bed early (even at sleepovers).

Always wear a helmet (yes, even when you turn 16).

No driver’s license (which is basically a legality issue anyway).

Be careful, you get hurt easily (especially on trampolines).

Oh, exercise, but don’t push yourself and take it slow (because your body is sensitive).

I internalized these into the deepest parts of my being. It was my survival guide. It was the way to avoid feeling sick, having seizures, or getting hurt. If my body was going to be out of my control, quite literally, I would seek any level of control that I could find.

By the time I reached high school, I was cautious when it came to anything related to physical activity and these internalization’s became a pretty decent excuse when faced with some athletic challenge.

“Oh, you guys go on ahead, I’m feeling pretty tired today.”

What I really meant, of course, was more along the lines  of, “I don’t think I can. I’m too weak. Don’t laugh.”

A few times during high school I wanted to change this reality and I’d start on some exercise plan (running, always running. Ugh).

And then, within a couple of weeks or even a month, my body would get worse and off to the doctor I’d go.

“You need to take it a little bit easier, Debralyn. Your body is super sensitive to this extreme change and it’s just going to take a little bit longer for you to get into the routine.”

So that would be that.

Within the small amount of life I’ve lived, I’ve come to realize that most bodies have something not-quite-right with them. But even beyond that, I’ve noticed that most of us have internalized self-messages that chain us down whether we recognize them or not.

Every day, I have to be in my body. Sure, it’s weak. Yep, my neurotransmitters are spacey little things. But this is the body I have and I’m really tired of staring at it with silent disdain and paralyzing fear.

And so with every 6:30am alarm that gets me into the gym, I fight the fear that this time is no different and  I’ll be back at the doctor within weeks. I fight the fear that I can’t do it because I’m not strong enough. I fight the fear that a different body would serve me better.

Sometimes I don’t fight hard enough. Most of the time, actually. Those internalized messages sure know how to creep up, don’t know? You know what they are because I’m sure you have some too.

You’re not good enough.

You’re not worth it.

You can’t do it.

Be strong. Smile.

Don’t cry.

But they’re just lying.

So fight them. 

Don’t be afraid. 

As for me, I’m fighting for that little girl who watched her friends go on ahead because she was chained to her internal beliefs.

I want to show her what she can do.

(Oh, and to you, my annoying neurotransmitters, you can control my brain (enjoy that; I’m sure it’s exhilarating), but I get to control my biceps). 

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Posted in Fitness

Running

 Absolutely not.

That’s what I think about running.

My mom’s a runner. An actual marathoning, outside Chicago winter jogging, thunderstorms-can’t-stop-you kind of runner.

I’ll let that be her thing.

Whenever I decided I’d start exercising (all 5 times), I’d try running. For a week or two. I’d go from being able to run a minute straight to seven minutes straight, and then I’d give up miserably.

I have so many questions for people who run.

What’s a runner’s high? Does it actually exist?

What are you running from?

How do you manage to think about anything other than, “Ow, ow, ow, ow”? 

Wouldn’t you rather just not? 

So when my husband suggested weight training, I was at least relieved to know endurance cardio would not be the sole portion of my workout. The workout routine combines short burst of cardio between weight reps, and I’m pretty sure I can do anything for 60 seconds. Let’s do it.

I didn’t account for several things. 1. I have no upper body strength. 2. Mostly men go to the weight room. 3. You actually have to think about it and plan ahead, you can’t just try new things and hope it works.

But I was right about one thing; it’s much more fun than running.

Although I started out fairly inconsistent, weight training has slowly increased my confidence that I can actually exercise successfully. I feel stronger and significantly less discouraged than after a seemingly never-ending treadmill jog.

Here’s why I think this is important; even on those random days that I decided I’d be an exercise guru who runs Marathons with my mom, I deep down never believed it would become a reality.

This realization is what forced me to accept how intensely my internal insecurities and self-doubts affect me. If you know me well, this isn’t surprising to you. If you only know me from afar, this might surprise you.

It’s never been about how I look; I’ve just always assumed my body isn’t as capable as everyone else’s.

Isn’t that what insecurity does to us? We find the one thing about ourselves we don’t really like and internalize it so deeply it might as well just be the wallpaper to our life; insignificant, unnoticeable, yet always present (and pretty ugly).

This time around, I’m attacking it directly. No more self-fulfilling prophecies and pointless, discouraging runs that end faster than they start.

I’m going to lift weights because I don’t believe I’m strong.

I’m going to post on a blog because I’m afraid of people judging me.

I’m going to post my ridiculous snapchat gym photos because I need to laugh at myself.

I’m going to do the exact opposite of my insecurities because I’m tired of them.

But I am absolutely NOT going to run. Not from popped blood vessels, not from fears, and not from my insecurities.

Absolutely not. 

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Posted in General

Let’s Begin

If you’re reading this, it means I actually pressed “publish” and now I’m terrified.

The first post is always the easiest because you just have to explain why this new blog exists and why someone should spend their precious time reading it. But it’s also the most difficult because, well… I have to explain why this blog exists and why someone should spend their precious time reading it.

That’s my queue to just get to it already.

This blog now exists among the millions of others because I want to let my friends and family into a journey I’ve started before and failed. It’s because deep down, I know part of why I fail is because I don’t like to let people into a position of accountability; especially when it comes to this.

What is “this”, you ask?

At face value, “this” is fitness. There, I said it. This is, quite possibly, the worst kind of blog out there.

If you’re anything like me, the word fitness has already triggered some resistance. Fair enough.

A few months ago, my husband decided he wanted to get into shape in order to pursue a career that pretty much requires muscles. With hesitancy, I said I would join him in that process.

But here’s the catch. This isn’t a face value issue. This fitness crazed, kale-eating, beauty idolizing culture I’ve found myself in can be a bit overwhelming. As a young kid with numerous health issues, weekly doctor visits, and a couple ambulance trips, I decided a long time ago my body was my biggest enemy.

My limitless limitation.

My greatest embarrassment.

So while at face value this is a fitness journey, it really isn’t. This is a journey to overcome body hatred. To consider the fine lines between health and obsession, to face discipline in the midst of fear and setbacks, and to begin to see my body with a little more grace.

But with that said, here’s what I don’t want. I don’t want this to become a place of guilt for anyone else. I don’t care if you love food or hate it. I don’t care if you prefer the couch or the treadmill. This is just my story, that’s it.

Why do I hope you’ll read this? Because I need you to. It will hold me accountable to not just pursue my goals, but to take a deeper look into who I am. It will help me laugh at myself, challenge myself, and provide me motivation to walk to the gym during a Chicago polar vortex.

Maybe you can laugh and learn a little bit with me. If nothing else, you can expect Snapchat pictures.

Thanks, friends.