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Inspired by… {Psalm 23}

1-into-the-poppies-by-john-wilhelm-copy

The Lord is the one who constantly takes care of me. He looks for me when I am lost. He always finds me. He heals every infliction; He lovingly meets every need; He knows my desires. He brings me to such a beautiful, wonderful place! I have never before seen so much beauty. This, is where my soul may rest. There is no more striving for approval, affection, love, or anything else. There simply is, God. And He has chosen me, as worthy, cherished, deserving of love. He retells my story to me, this time from his point of view. He gives me names for myself, that I have never dared hope could describe me. He lavishes peace, no, Shalom, on my weary and broken heart.

He gently reminds me of my broken past. Times when I felt so low. I couldn’t see him there. The familiar embarrassment of guilt quickly creeped up my face, with its best friend shame not far behind. The Lord looked at this guilt and shame, and didn’t turn his head. He sat beside me. Silence never felt so strengthening, loving. Soon, He turned and looked at me. He spoke words of comfort, gently reminding me that He had never left my side, and He never will.

I greatly look forward to this future that you tell me about. You have given me so much, and poured so much love into me, I can’t handle it. I cannot keep it to myself. This love that you have shared with me easily flows onto those around me. It doesn’t matter what I’ve been. I see now that I am stronger because of it…and I have never been alone the whole time. These things overwhelm my soul, and fill it to the brim. I am beyond grateful to the Lord who has filled my soul, and promises of greater things to come.

{Psalm 23}

Giving It All

The night air was chilly as she drew near the temple. As eager as she was to enter a warm building, her steps slowed as she approached it. She drew her thin shawl closer to her shivering shoulders, which didn’t help much against the constant wind. Her clothes were thin, her shoes worn. She clutched her tiny purse in both hands, as she heaved her frail body against the large temple doors, pushing to make them open. She entered the dark, open room. People, mostly dressed in warm, thick, royal rich clothing were scattered around the room. Some muttered prayers. Some proudly discarded heaps of money into the offering plate. One man sat near the edge of the room, only half in the light. He didn’t look threatening, though. In fact, he seemed to be a nice man, even from where he sat, quietly observing what was going on.

The woman quickly looked back down at her feet, afraid of the looks in people’s eyes as she got closer to them. What might she see? Disapproval? Disappointment? Scoff? Many names for herself swirled around in her head, so she forced her eyes to stare at her feet as she shyly shuffled towards the offering plate. Her hands shook as she slowly opened her small purse. Her face reddened from embarrassment as she slowly removed the two coins. She heard some snickering as she quickly dropped the two coins into the offering, and heard the clangclang as they hit the side, then rested on the heap of bills inside. Keeping her face downward, she slowly backed away from the offering plate, and then turned and left, knowing that she had done what she could.

*****

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” {Mark 12:41-44}

*****

I wonder what that woman felt as she stared into the offering plate. Did she think:

“I am not good enough…I can’t even put in half as much as these other people can…”?

Did she allow shame to rest in her heart as she released the two coins, allowing self-doubt and embarrassment to almost stop her from following God?

Whatever you’re struggling with this semester…shame of never feeling good enough, self-doubt and self-destructive thoughts “ruling” your life,… whatever it is! God can take the little that you have to offer, and bring out the good in it. He will get you through. He is proud of you, just as you are, without you needing to strive for perfection. He loves you right now, even if all you can see is your mess. He is waiting for you to discover the best version of you today, so that you can live a full, complete life! Don’t let those thoughts and worries and fears stop you from following Christ, and resting in Him and His strength! He is able.

|| Provider ||

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. {Matthew 6:25-34}

…These verses have been running through my mind recently. Worry. Stress. Anxiety. Anything but the best version of ourselves. I’ve talked to a few friends and they have all said they’re stressed about something. I definitely know that I have been stressed so much over the last few days, the past few weeks maybe, even! It’s the time for college students to be running around with crazy schedules, difficult classes to keep up with, and life stuff just happening. And we’re supposed to deal with all of that, all at the same time. It’s tough. And I’ve been thinking lately about how we can’t be the best version of ourselves when we are stressed all the time. I know  can’t be, anyway! We can’t be living in a way that makes us feel happy and healthy, if we are stressed and carrying around our worries. They drag us down, making us seem less than who we are. They’re too heavy, yet we try to carry them anyway…maybe believing the lie that God doesn’t care about this part of me, or he’s too busy, or it’s really nothing, I should just get over it.

What you are dealing with, it’s probably pretty big. If it is stressing you out, that’s happening for a reason. Don’t push it down and say it’s not a big deal, or think about how others might see it. It doesn’t matter. Sure, maybe it wouldn’t be a big deal to someone else, but it is a big deal to you, which means you need to learn how to deal with it and give it to the Lord! It’s not about how anyone else would feel about it, it’s about how you feel about it. Listen to yourself. You know more than you think you do.

Verse 27 says: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

This verse stuck out to me, because, as silly as it sounds sometimes, I think we try to do this. We think that worrying helps us somehow, because we don’t let it go. But, think about it. What does worrying and stressing out do to you when you are trying to get stuff done? For me, it makes me slow wayyyy down, making productivity pretty much impossible. Because I’m so stressed about not getting it done on time, or doing it well enough, or whatever else I’m thinking. So, since this is slowing me down, it is not helpful. As hard as we try, worrying cannot add more time to our day…in fact, it often wastes away from the precious time that we do actually have!

I was talking to God this morning, and just thanking him for being my provider, which is something that these verses are also talking about. I have seen him be my provider before, in big ways recently, and I bet you have too. So, why do we hold onto these things, not trusting that God can be our provider here, too??

Here are a few ideas on what to do when feeling stressed, to take your mind off it for a little while so that you can go back and be more focused, and ready to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be…

  1. Be social
    1. Make spontaneous plans to see a close friends for a few minutes
      1. Like a coffee date, or lunch/dinner, but don’t spend hours and hours off of your homework/studying, or that will defeat the purpose
    2. Make plans to workout, or do a fun form of working out for an hour or so together
    3. Make plans for some other day, when this assignment or test is over…something you can look forward too!
  2. Meditate
    1. Practice yoga
    2. Or just practice mindfulness. Sit in the quiet, listen to your body. Listen to your feelings. Think positive affirmations about yourself, about your situation, about your life, and focus on believing them.
    3. Meditate on a piece of scripture that really speaks to you in this moment
  3. Spend time alone, doing something you love
    1. Journal
    2. Read
    3. Write/blog/encourage
    4. Take a walk and think, or journal or read outside
  4. Take a break
    1. What is a refreshing break to you? Whatever it is, do that!
  5. Take pictures
    1. Whether that’s grabbing a friend and heading outside for a little bit to enjoy the beautiful day and snap a few photos together, or seeing a pretty flower or sunset outside and taking pictures of that for a while
  6. Exercise
    1. Workout in the gym, or do a home-style workout, or take a quick bike ride with a couple friends, if time
  7. Cook!
    1. Cook or bake something fun that you and whoever helped you can eat later, maybe even while you’re studying some more!

 

And there are more ideas out there, of course, but these are a couple that sound nice to me! Hope this week goes better than last week, and remember that God is able to carry all of your worries, and you aren’t supposed to carry them all yourself! You can do it 🙂

The longest Sprint…

The longest sprint

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” {Hebrews 12:1-3} 

This summer was looooongggg, and difficult. Not that it was bad, actually it ended up being a very healing experience. The healing process isn’t easy, though, but looking back I can honestly say that I am thankful for all that I have experienced this summer.

I titled this ‘the longest sprint’, because that’s what I felt like this summer was for me. As a lot of you know, I worked at a camp for the month of July (and the beginning of August). I just got back this past Saturday night. And it was the longest sprint of my life! It was a test of perseverance and endurance. There were many, many days when I thought there was no way that I would make it through the week, let alone 5 weeks! 5 weeks might not seem like a long time, but let me tell you…at camp, it seems like an eternity!

I worked in the kitchen. Um…what, God?! Yeah, that’s what I was thinking…

I had to be at the kitchen at 6:30am every single day, except for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Friday mornings I had to be there at 7am, Sunday mornings I had to be there at 7:30am, and Saturdays were different because we were off in the morning. I am literally the farthest thing from a morning person—EVER. So, that was interesting. The first two weeks I did so great! I woke up at 5:20am everyday (except for maybe one rest day) to run a mile, and then I would come back to the house (where everyone else was still asleep…), get ready, then I would go sit by the beach/the lake to have Jesus time before going into the kitchen by 6:30. Yeah, that didn’t last the whole time. By the last week I was getting up at 6:15am, and was at the kitchen at 6:30 lol.

I worked about 15 hours every day. On my feet. All. day.

I don’t write these things to complain, I write them so that you can understand at least in part that it was a ton of work!

We had VERY little time to ourselves to process, to think, to do anything, because even when we did have a little time in the evenings or during our break, we were either too tired to stay awake, or we had several things that we wanted to do in that time and we didn’t have time to get it all done. So, this is why I say it was a sprint. You often think of sprints as short distances, well it didn’t feel like this during camp!

Here is some of my story of what happened this summer…

I went to orientation at Gull Lake Ministries, a camp that I had never been to before this week and a half of orientation. It’s in Michigan, about 4 hours away from where I live. This was in late May. My boyfriend was with me, because he also worked at Gull Lake this summer. A nervous fluttering of butterflies in my stomach appeared as we turned in the parking lot. There were several people around, although we had gotten there a tad earlier than a lot of other people had. I didn’t know anyone else besides my boyfriend.

****NOTE ABOUT ME**** I am an extrovert, but before people know me, I am very quiet…I don’t say much, I’m a little introverted. Once you get to know me, though, I’m not that way at all…okay, cont…

During our first talk that day when all of the staff had come in, one of the leaders said that these people around us, the people that we had talked to for the first time ever today, would grow to be some of our best friends. Some of these people we will want in our weddings some day. I wasn’t sure about that, but I tried to keep an open mind.

During orientation, I started getting close to a couple people, although most of them were working first half, while I was working second half. One of the girls, though, was a kitchen girl for second half, like me, so I was excited to come back and get to know her better. During orientation, we learned a little bit of what we would actually be doing (I worked in the kitchen a few days…), and it’s funny to look back on that time now, because it felt like soooo much work at the time…and really, I knew nothing. We did a lot of random work projects as well. I think it was during EnGedi at orientation (a worship night) that I was asking God why he had me here. Why here at this camp, God? Why this summer? Why am I not earning much money this summer? Why in the kitchen, of all places?! I heard him say “I love you too much for you to stay this way…”

Well, I left orientation. By myself. I left King at the camp because he worked there all summer. I went home, and during my month by myself at home, it was a time of incredible growth. I had a lot of think through and process and work through. Not too many of my friends were around, so I had a lot of time to myself to think and process and grow.

Then I got back to camp… it was good to be back, but I was nervous about working in the kitchen. Typical me kept asking myself “But what if I can’t do it?” “What if I mess up?” ‘What ifs’ swirled in my head, still not sure of my purpose here. Throughout working at camp, I kept trying to ‘figure out’ what my purpose was for being here. Every weekend when I was allowed to have my phone, I posted on Instagram what God had taught me that week. That was a good thing to do, and it helped me focus on the good that God was doing in my life, but I still didn’t think that was why I was at camp this summer, working in the kitchen.

Week 9 came before I knew it (the last week). One day, I was on my hour break as usual in the afternoon an hour or so after lunch. I always take my break on a bench that is right by the lake under a tree…it is the most beautiful place ever! I decided to journal, and suddenly all of the seemingly random pieces of this summer, began to connect.

I remembered what I had thought about at orientation… “I love you too much for you to stay this way…”

I thought about working in the kitchen, and how…maybe God was so much teaching me things that was related to my work. You know, typical things to learn at camp is service, love, etc. I learned those things for sure, but I think God thought that Gull Lake, in the kitchen, was a good place to work on mental, emotional, spiritual, and whatever else, healing.

Free began to be my word for the summer. That day on my my break, I wrote down all of the reasons that I could think of that ‘free’ applied to my life at the moment. I never would have been able to say those things a few months ago. God has brought great healing and freedom to my heart this summer and, even though it has been a long and hard sprint to the finish, God has seen me through each and every day and I am so thankful to Him for bringing me to this amazing place! ❤

One step forward.

I am sitting here at Tim Hortans, because the internet has been out at my house all day! 😦 And I wanted to write a blog post before I won’t be able to probably for at least a month! I am leaving to go work at camp from July 8th-August 13th, and I won’t have access to my phone or laptop for most of that time, so I may toy around with blog ideas, but won’t be able to post them until later when I come back home!

As I was sitting here, I was trying to think of a phrase that just MIGHT describe my summer thus far. My summer has been…interesting. In summers past, I have not really had that much going on. But at least I had a job throughout every month. Not full time, ever, but at least it was a job! This summer, I had three different parts, each one month of the summer.

Month One | The month where my boyfriend and I are together! We don’t have a lot of money to do things, and he has to finish up his internship so he did that during several of the days. But we saw each other for quite a bit of time each day, and we even went to cedar point and a couple other places while he was here! We both didn’t have too much going on, except his internship. And I was busy with photography research, trying to boost my photography business as much as I could during this month. I scrapbooked, some. I hung out with King, mostly. We both chilled a lot. May 2016.

Month Two | Besides a brief orientation week and a half (which seemed sooooo much longer than that!), I was home alone. King stayed to work at the camp, where I am going to join him tomorrow! Not too many of my friends are here right now. My best friend was busy for a lot of this month, besides the weekends sometimes. And besides her, there are only a few other people that I am close to that are still around here during the summer. This month has been one of extreme thinking, feeling, reading, expanding, and growth. I am BEYOND thankful for the amazing people who have been there for me as I talked about what has been going on in my life lately! You all helped me a lot ❤ ❤ June 2016.

Month Three | The next month is one of a new kind of adventure! See my instagram post to learn more about what I am doing at camp, etc.!! 🙂 July 2016.

I picked ‘one step forward’ as my title and summary of what is going on this summer, because I think this life is about taking one step forward, even if that step is tiny, which most of mine are… For me, this means attempting to get back on track with my goals and habits that I slipped out of. And wading through the feelings of hurt, pain, confusion, doubt, sadness, hopelessness with hope all at the same time, deep wounds, frustrations, and so much more.

As I mentioned, this month has been one of extreme growth…at least, I hope that’s true. I know a heck of a lot has been going on, mostly inside my heart…things that I don’t yet understand, but I have faith that I one day will. But the point is about taking that step forward anyway. Sometimes without knowing the outcome. Actually, almost ALL the time without knowing the outcome! But sometimes you have no idea what will come of it, or WORSE, you know it will turn out badly…but you also know that it really is what is best for you.

For me, without going into all of the details at the moment, one of the hardest decisions and actions that I have EVER made/done, was also, without a doubt, the BEST thing I have EVER done. There are still “negative” repercussions, almost a year later. But, because I went with a healthier choice for me personally, for emotional, mental, and most importantly spiritual reasons, I am much happier and I am at peace with my choice. That is one step forward. Hard? Yes, of course. Still causes some sort of pain? Yes, sadly…but I don’t regret that choice for one single second.

This month has been marked with working through my feelings. Discovering that what I’m feeling matters. That I matter. And that I truly do have people here for me, who WANT to talk with me and live life with me! Learning that feeling our way back up from lying facedown on the arena floor, is the ONLY way to truly start LIVING…especially here, while still trying to stand up. Not lying facedown any longer, but I’m not standing or running or anything like that. It’s faulting steps. It’s hesitant, still not sure if I can trust myself, although other people have said that I can.

This month has been loooooooongggggg. I haven’t had much going on, besides random belaying jobs to earn as much money as I can, a short vacation with my family, and talking with friends when they are available…as well as reading and writing and discovering my feelings, and…feeling. I can’t wait to start this next chapter of my summer tomorrow! 😀 {Again, check out my instagram photo for information on what I’m doing at camp, as well as how to get in touch with me during my time there!} Have an awesome month while I’m away!! 🙂

The Arena

I don’t remember how I got there. Maybe events happened that I unconsciously blocked out of my memory. Maybe several events happened in a row, and that’s how I ended up here. Either way, it’s wiped from my memory. All I know is that I’m here. Dirty. Broken. Helpless.

When I walked into this place, the crowd seemed friendly. I even recognized a few faces in the crowd. I remember waving to them and smiling. They waved back. Something unnerved me about their presence, but I thought that maybe I was overreacting. They were here to support me. Love me. Be a friend to me. They were here for me.

The arena stretched out before me, seemingly never ending. The floor was dirt; there were several drops of a red liquid splattered here and there, all across the ground. I didn’t want to think what that was. The doorway that I just walked through was huge! The stands rose up on either side, filled with thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people. The rows of people surrounded the huge dirt arena. And I was the only one in the middle. The rest were spectators. Supporters. Friends. Or, so I thought.

The first crack of the whip came out of nowhere. It tore into my sensitive flesh instantly. I screamed a blood-curdling yell as I fell dramatically to the floor. I expected the crowd to yell with outrage. For someone, or a lot of someones, to rush to my rescue. Help me up. Brush me off. Tell me that I am loved, and that they would never let that happen to me again. No one came. I rested on my hands and my knees on the dirt floor for a while longer. Still. No one. I spat onto the ground. Alright, I thought. If no one is brave enough to come rescue me, I’ll do it myself! Mustering together some courage, I wiped my hands on my pants as I stood up. It was then that I realized that the crowd was doing something. But they weren’t outraged, or rushing to the rescue…they were….laughing??

Red hot heat immediately rushed to my face. My palms grew sweaty. These certainly were not friends. Was there anybody in the crowd that actually cared about me? I stood there, in the center of the arena for a few more moments, turning and staring into the mass of people. No one had asked me if I was alright. Blood trickled down my arm where the whip had stung me, and no one rushed to help me clean it, or grab a bandaid. No one moved a muscle. Except…they were laughing at me. It had started off softly, which is why I hadn’t noticed it at first. But suddenly more and more of the crowd had joined in, making the noise deafening. Wiping my hands on my pants once again to release my palms of nervous sweat, I resolved to never be the center of attention again. If they were going to laugh at my pain, fine! I don’t need them anyway!

I took a couple of steps forward, still unsure of how I got into this arena in the first place, and wondering why I couldn’t just leave.

This time, I heard it before it ripped into my skin. I turned to face it, my hands clinched into fists. I was going to fight this, and I was going to win. Unexpectedly, the whip bent around my hands and reached towards my stomach. I saw what was happening, but I was powerless to do anything about it. It was as if it happened in slow motion. I bent over with a cry of pain, as it tore into my lower abdomen, again sinking to my knees on the dusty arena floor.

This time, the arena was filled with silence. Except a few whispers. Then the few whispers turned to many. Before I knew it, it sounded like they were shouting at me. Pointing their righteous fingers at me, yelling at the people beside them:

 

Why doesn’t she just leave?

Who does she think she is?

Look at how little faith she has, even though she claims to be a Christian!  

She should just get over it already!

 

The jeers and taunts made me sick. I wanted to scream, “can’t you see that I’m trying?! There’s no way out! I don’t even know how I got here in the first place, so how am I supposed to know how to get out?!” But the words got stuck inside my head. They burned on my tongue, but I couldn’t force them past my chapped lips. I sat back on my heels, contemplating my next move. If I got up, surely they would make another pass at me. But, if I stayed down…they will win. I am a fighter. Always have been, and I always will be. Jerking my shoulders back so that I sat up straighter, I again brushed my soiled hands on my pants, and then stood up. I brushed the dirt off the knees of my pants, and tried to use my ripped shirt to stop the bleeding in my stomach.

I was still bent over, examining my wound, when the next blow came. Although I had come to expect it, that didn’t make it any less painful. I covered my mouth with my hand to extinguish the scream that bubbled from the back of my throat. I wouldn’t give them that satisfaction. I couldn’t! I managed to stay on my feet this time, with the whip having landed on my lower back. This made me stand up, straight and tall, very quickly. But, before I had a chance to recover, the whip circled around and bit into my still wounded stomach. I doubled over in pain, as the whip raced towards me again, this time buckling the back of my knees. I instantly flopped to the ground, yelling in anguish. Blood gushed from all of the different wounds, and still, no one in the crowd attempted to come and save me. No one cared. I was alone.  

This time, I wasn’t so quick to get back on my feet again. This time, the wounds were too painful. The pain seared through my whole body like a knife, slowing cutting me up into tiny little pieces. There seemed to be less and less of the girl that I had always thought I was. I was slowly sinking inside of myself. Hiding. Terrified of what was next. Quickly losing the fight inside of me. It was too hard. I was too small. I wasn’t strong enough.

That’s when it started getting worse. There was a respite from the whip. The crowd was even silent, gawking at me, wondering what I was going to do next. I lay on the cold, dirty arena floor, grabbing my knees to my chest, focused on my gushing wounds. It was all I could think about. Until. It got worse. The pain started coming from the inside of me, instead of the outside. He had done his job. He had got me low enough to start doubting myself and to start tearing myself apart. He wouldn’t have to work very hard much longer, because now I was doing all of the work for him. The crowd remained silent. So silent that I forgot they were there. I lay my face sideways on the dirt floor. At first, the doubt crept in so silently that I didn’t recognize it. I started doubting the value of my existence. I started wondering why I was even here, and what good I was doing here anyway. I began thinking self-devastating thoughts. All good thoughts of self-worth, self-respect, self-love…were completely gone. Forever. I attacked myself. I tore myself apart, from the inside out. He had done his job. He stood a few feet behind me, with his arms folded. A creepy, dark smile played at the corner of his lips, as he watched me destroy myself.

Darkness was all I saw. The crowd faded from my memory. The lights were turned out. He was pitch black, dressed in all black as well, with black leather gloves holding a thin black whip. He didn’t disappear. As much as I longed for him to disappear, he didn’t. He stood there, watching me for a few moments longer. Suddenly growing impatient, he took a few steps toward me. As the whip flew towards my head, I lifted my dirty hands to cover my face, as I still lay on the dirt floor of the arena. The whip slashed through my hands, and caught my forehead as well. I thought I screamed, but thinking back now, maybe I didn’t. I knew that no one would hear me, even if I did scream. He sped up the whip. First, tearing through my fingers, my shoulder, my thigh, my ankles. I could see everything that I once thought was good about myself, slowly slipping away. My hope wavered. This. This, was how I would end.

I still felt the pain every new time he entered my flesh with the deadly weapon. I clinched my jaw when I grew too tired to scream any longer. My hands stopped trying to block the attack, knowing that it was hopeless. I couldn’t save myself, and it was obvious that no one else was going to come to my rescue. He was relentless. He tore my flesh apart, as if it gave him joy, knowing that my flesh was not the only thing wearing thin, tearing, being destroyed…with every new wound, little pieces of my heart grew cold, dark, tired. He was attempting to make my flesh hard, unbreakable, thick, impenetrable…and it was working.

I no longer let myself feel anything. While at first, I thought that was a good thing, it wasn’t. I couldn’t feel joy, love, passion, creativity, or any good emotion. I was alone. I accepted the lies as truth. I was worthless. I was not worthy of love, or worth saving. People have left me in my past, because there was something wrong with me. I blamed myself for relationships gone wrong. The darkness continued, seeping into every nook and cranny of my existence.

Time ceased to make sense to me. It seemed like I was face down in that arena forever. My face, covered with sweat, dirt and blood. My hands, filthy, stained with blood. My body torn, broken, bloody, bruised. My heart, crushed, shattered, defeated. I lay still, no longer having the energy to rise up, to fight, to win. My spirit was no longer one that I recognized. It was as if I had become someone else…or was this who I really was all along?

The darkness was unrelenting. On my strongest days, I lifted my head…searching for light, for answers, for someone to help me. But that is when he hit me and beat me down harder, refusing to let me stand up. Refusing to let me see light. Hope. Love. On my lowest days, I was content to lie on the arena floor, listening to my shallow breathing from my open mouth, allowing the dirt and dust to stick to my chapped and cracked lips, and tumble into my silent mouth. This wasn’t living. I was still alive…but barely. I lost my fight to want to live any longer. Why doesn’t he just kill me already? My hands shook uncontrollably at that thought, but the thought remained. Why was I here, anyway? What good am I doing, lying here on the cold, broken, dirty arena floor? What am I worth? Nothing. This thought was normal and natural to me. I accepted it as truth, no longer having the strength or energy to fight it off.

But this is not where my story ends. One day, I felt as though my heavy burden had lifted slightly. Confused, I slowly opened my eyes to see if anything had changed. Nothing. I still saw his face, hidden in the shadows of his black hoodie. A dark and twisted smile, always turning up the corners of his mouth as though he thought this was fun. His eyes were the darkest blue I had ever seen…almost black. The floor was still dirt, still hard, uncomfortable, and splattered with a mixture of blood, sweat, and tears. My body still felt bruised, broken, beaten down. My heart still felt heavy, dark, defeated…but, somehow today my heart also had a lightness that I didn’t remember ever feeling before. It was small. A very small part of my heart. Maybe I was going crazy. Maybe that was a trick. Nothing else changed that day.

The next day, those same feelings returned. I didn’t let on that anything had changed, scared of the wrath that was sure to come if my torturer sensed that anything was different. I liked this new feeling. I couldn’t grasp what it was yet, though.

Many days passed, feeling much the same. My surroundings still haven’t changed. The man standing guard over my beaten body and bruised heart was still the same, with the same cruel sense of the word ‘fun’. Slowly, over time, the light feeling I had increased. Maybe this was real. Maybe there was…what is that word? A feeling that I used to have, even at the beginning of all of this? The beginning? You mean, there was life before this hole of despair? Lying there on the ground, still as always, I forced myself to try to remember. Remember times before this arena.

Flashbacks whirled through my mind. There was a crowd when I entered. A crowd, that means I wasn’t actually alonestupid girl! That crowd was just there to make you feel all alone! They were there to jeer and taunt and laugh in your face. They were not there for you. I shut my eyes tightly, not sure I wanted to try to remember. Another flashback came to mind. A boyfriend. I had a boyfriend. One that was good, and we had good times. Yeah, and remember how he forced you to break up with him? You feel shame right now, don’t you?! You blamed yourself for all that happened…good! All my once good memories came back with negative lenses.

Hope. Hope was the word that I was looking for! The thought came to me one day, which had started off much like the many days previously. I opened my eyes, feeling as though I could finally see for the first time in many months. He bent his shadowed face towards mine, as though he were trying to see into my soul to see what was happening. He knew that something was different. A kind of light returned to my eyes. His face was now inches from mine. He snarled, and spit in my face, reaching for his weapon of choice. The whip cracked above me a few times, as though he were practicing on how to make it the most painful as possible. Then he cracked the whip so it barely grazed the top of my arm. It burnt like fire. He whipped me a good bit that day, as though he knew things were changing and he was grasping onto me with all that he had. He wouldn’t let me go. I was his, according to him.

That feeling of hope, didn’t stop. For some reason, something inside of my heart started to change that day…a change that didn’t stop for years to come afterwards. My heart began to feel a little lighter with each passing day. I began to block him out, finally. The darkness now didn’t seem so suffocating. Was it actually getting lighter?

He didn’t take too kindly to these changes. He sensed it too, which must mean it’s real, right? He became desperate, beating me down day after day, grasping to keep me down, keep me defeated, lost, alone. But something irreversible started happening inside of me, and, for once, it felt good.

One day, I felt brave enough to sit up. I sat up slowly, watching my tender wounds. The pain seared through my body, but I just clinched my jaw and did it anyway. I knew that he would likely try to beat me back down, but I was willing to take that chance today. He walked slowly towards me, as I slowly raised myself to a sitting position. I had not been in this position for quite some time now. I liked his perspective better. He raised his hand when he was near me, as if to slap my face so hard that I would again fall back into the dirt. I closed my eyes, bracing myself for the fall…but it didn’t happened. When I opened my eyes again, he had walked past me. I don’t know what happened. Maybe someone had spoken to him. I don’t know. But that day, I sat there, staring across the dirty, bloodied arena floor.

Many days like this followed. I had no more strength to rise to a different position. Shame engulfed me, telling me that I should be able to do more…or maybe I should just stop trying. But day after day I had enough strength to lift myself off the floor into a sitting position. This is where I sat for a while, still feeling helpless, hopeless, powerless. But he didn’t beat me down to the ground any longer. I felt as though maybe someone else was telling him that he wasn’t allowed to beat me down any further. So, he tried to keep me where I was at. During this whole time, I had lost my ability to care what I was eating. He gave me many choices, and I hadn’t cared. I certainly wasn’t eating healthy foods, and just drinking water. He tried to keep me as unhealthy in every way possible, to keep me in the sitting position, since he no longer had any power to knock me all the way back down.

The next day, something else changed. The darkness that I had seen for so long, slowly started to fade and recede. It hurt my eyes. It was now more of a grey, than a pitch black. Hope began to rise inside of me, thinking that maybe there was a way out of this place after all! That morning, I rose into my usual sitting position. Confused at how much strength I still seemed to have inside of me, I placed my worn out, dirty hands on the dirt floor, deciding to see how far I could go today. I slowly placed my feet on the floor, so that I could stand up. My joints ached and complained as I attempted to do so, because I had not stood for a few months. He came towards me, pushed my shoulders so that I toppled over. The strength was gone for that day. I was defeated.

The next day, I tried again, with the same results. This happened day after day, and I wondered when my spirit would break again, forcing me to hide myself and cower on the dirt floor once again. But one day, I actually made it to a standing position. I don’t know how. Honestly, it was kind of a blur. I felt unsteady, unsure of myself. My destructive thoughts bombarded my head, making it hard for me to stand there, and make forward progress. But stand, I did! It was a small victory, but I hadn’t tasted a victory in such a long time! My cracked lips almost formed a small smile, through the pain. Maybe there actually was hope. Maybe I could actually come out of this alive.

*****

Maybe this is your story, maybe it’s not. Maybe you know someone who has struggled, or is in the midst of struggling with depression. It’s not an easy struggle, and they will likely push you away…but what’s important is that you always come back to them, with life, love, patience, kindness, and words of encouragement. They can, and will, get through this.

It’s beautiful when you can still love, still believe, and still rise up stronger than before when you are going through, or have gone through depression. And, believe me, this isn’t the end of the story! The healing process is a long, and often painful journey. But those of us who are strong enough to get through it and come out on the other side fighting, we’re special. Remember…that you are loved. You are enough. You are doing all that you can, and that is good enough! You a wonderful and you, and your story, matters! It’s what makes you, you, and you will be even stronger at the end of it! Never stop fighting. Never give up hope. There is help coming, and the reason He left you face down on that dirty arena floor for so long, is because He loves you too much to give you the answers during the test. He knows that you have it in you, all you have to do is believe it for yourself!    

 

{Create} Bullet Journal, part three

If you missed my first two posts about my bullet journal, check them out first, or dive right in here if you’d rather 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

 

Alright, so….this is another page that I have in my BUJO. This is my monthly tracker. This was obviously just my first tracker page, and it gets a LOT better than this, I just wanted to show you the first one so you can know how I started, and why I eventually (not long after) changed the way it looked and now I love it a lot more! IMG_7117

The purpose of the monthly habit tracker is to basically know what you want to be doing, see what you are actually doing consistently, and see how the two line up with each other. It’s always a good thing to have goals, but a goal without a plan is just a wish, right? These are basically attainable goals, healthy habits are what I call them, with a way to track whether you are doing them or not. And, at the end of the month, you always have a chance to evaluate the previous month to see what you need to change for the next month (this is definitely a step I wouldn’t skip!) During this evaluation, you have the opportunity to see which habits you are not consistently accomplishing. And at the end of the month, you can either decide how you can better accomplish those habits/goals for the next month, or you can decide it’s not worth it and continue working on other habits/goals. It’s completely up to you! Another important piece of advice is this: DON’T GET DOWN ON YOURSELF!!! Remember…grace, not perfection! ❤ It’s easy to look at your habit tracker after a month and realize that you did horrible that month. Whether you weren’t consistent and diligent with filling it in (ummm…that’s been me a LOT, which is definitely something I’m going to keep working at to get better at, so this is actually useful for me!), or you aren’t diligent in some (or many) of the habits that you want to start/become better at…However, I think it’s important to look at this tracker with eyes of grace. Realize that you’re not going to fill in every single day. Or you’re not going to do as well as you would have hoped every single day. But that’s just an opportunity to do better tomorrow, right?!

I’ve also changed a few of the categories since then, but here’s my list (at the time I drew this first habit tracker):

  • Wake by 9am
  • Wake by 8:30am
    • I had both of these on there because this was during school, so this is what worked in my schedule. And the idea was to just draw a box on the days when it applied (MWF for 9am, TR for 8:30am) so that I would just color in those boxes when I accomplished my goal, and the other days when it didn’t apply it wouldn’t matter. Make sense?
  • Hydrate
  • Yoga (still haven’t gotten into this as much as I wanted to by now, but it’s important to me, so it’s still on my list!)
  • Cardio/strength training
  • Food Log (I still have this on my list, but I haven’t been doing this at all. I might keep it on to see if it helps me during school, but right now I don’t really feel like I need this…)
  • No pop (I had the bad habit of drinking quite a bit of pop for the last year and a half, probably…and I decided I needed to change that, starting with a 30-day challenge, which I will go into later!)
  • Fitness progress photo (This only applies for the first day of the month, because that is when I decided to take a photo of myself to track my weight loss/fitness progress…it can be whatever day you choose, just try to stick to the same day each month, if possible)
  • Read bible/pray (not sure why I had this on one line, but for the first tracker, I did…)
  • Journal
  • Gratitude log
  • New Blog post
  • Instagram photo challenge (I was doing #100happydays for a while, which I LOVED!)
  • Photography bucket list (I have a long list of items I want to take photos of, so I wanted to track when I actually did some of that. I haven’t been doing that, though.)
  • No spend
  • Review budget
  • Expenses recorded
  • Pm meditation
  • Plan for next week/next month (For next week planning, that should be each sunday, ideally…and next month, you could set aside a couple days at the end of the previous month to plan out the next month and draw the appropriate pages needed to save you time)
  • Sleep by 12am
  • Tithe
  • Save for Thailand

As I said, my list has changed slightly over the past couple of months (and the look has changed a LOT), so I will get to that when I get to those pictures! 🙂

It isn’t set up this way here, but basically I have a few different categories that I wanted to be consistent in, or have better habits in. The first one is 1) Health. Simple. But necessary! Basically anything to do with health. Exercise routines. Hydration. Cutting out toxic food or drinks to your health. Sleeping earlier/better/etc. Whatever works for YOU in your schedule, and whatever aligns with your own personal goals! Put it down to track it! The second section is 2) Creative/spiritual. Okay, so it’s kind of two put together. But here I put things like reading my bible, praying, and gratitude log…as well as creative things I wanted to get better at doing, such as blogging and photo challenges. Put whatever spiritual habits & creative habits you are doing and want to track, or habits that you want to start, here. The third section is 3) Financial. Boring, yeah, but necessary. Tracking the days when you don’t spend is a great thing! It makes me feel proud of myself that I resisted buying something I didn’t need, or going out to eat, or buying coffee (when I didn’t need to, or didn’t have plans). And all of the things listed there align with my personal goals, although they keep changing slightly, as my goals change or I see what is realistic to me. I even included a specific saving goal that I have: Thailand. Again, put down whatever works for YOU and whatever will help you meet your goals (I will go more into goals later, too!). And don’t be hard on yourself if it takes you a while to even get consistent with coloring in the boxes each night (I would suggest doing it every night before going to sleep, because that is when you can best remember what you did that day!). It might take a while, and that’s okay. Give yourself the grace that you give so easily to others. And then slowly try to get consistent in important habits to you. And don’t start off with HUGE expectations for yourself to start ten new habits all at once, and be good at all of them immediately! Start off with two or three, and even then you might not be consistent as you wanted to be. That’s okay, just so you’re doing something and you’re trying! That’s all that matters.

Okay…

WHY IT WORKS:

  • I loved seeing all of the healthy habits that I wanted to get into all in one place! I had never done that before, and I especially liked when I was consistent at filling things in enough to get several pretty colors on the page.
  • This page helped me see what is really important to me and, at the end of the month when it’s time to draw a new one, I had the opportunity to not only evaluable the design, but also the habits so that I could make sure what I was ‘tracking’ and trying to get more healthy at in my life was really working for me and pulling me up, instead of dragging me down.

WHY IT DOESN’T WORK:

  • I didn’t like this design at all. It didn’t come off looking like I wanted it too, so I just had to use it until the next month when I could come up with something different (or find new inspiration for a different monthly tracker, which is what I did!)
  • The design was messy.
  • I wasn’t consistent in tracking my habits, which meant it wasn’t useful to me. (Yet).

 

Next page is my month-at-a-glance page! I believe this is the only page like this that I’ve done, but that’s mostly because currently, in the stage of life that I am in, I don’t need pages like this during the summer. I will probably pick the month-at-a-glance page back up once school starts again. I’m not sure if I’ll go with a design like this or try something different, but this seemed to work fairly well for me.  IMG_7118

Basically the purpose of this page was to put all of the important dates in one place for the whole entire month! It was especially important for the month of April, because that is the month that literally everything is due, with finals coming up…so final projects, papers, etc.! At the top I put an observation of what I could do better for next time so that I wouldn’t forget it when it came time to draw another month-at-a-glance page.

This is a simple design, but simplicity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Obviously all I did was put the day on the far left, next to the date. And for each date that had something important, I would write it there. Due dates were obviously some of the most important things for me to have there, but I also have birthdays are important people in my life, as well as a couple scheduled events coming up on campus. And that’s it!

WHY IT WORKS:

  • It helped me to really see what I had due each day, so that I could better see how I should break up the work to get everything done on time.
  • It allowed me to remind myself when birthdays of special people in my life, as well as important and fun events were, so that I would know without having to look it up somewhere else.
  • I could cross off the projects as I finished them, which I did more at the beginning

WHY IT DOESN’T WORK:

  • It got a little confusing, when there was more than one due date or important date on one day.
  • It looks a tad sloppy, but maybe that’s just because I crossed things off, etc. I’m not sure how to fix that, as of yet.
  • It’s not SUPER cute. It works, and it’s not bad…it’s just not super fun, or whatever.

 

My next page has become CRUCIAL for me! Up until now, I never had a good system for tracking what I was spending and all of that…I never had something that made sense to me, and was cute and fun and useful…all at the same time. This changed that, for me. Maybe in the future I will reevaluate this page and see if there is anything else that I need to add, but for now…this is it! It has a simple layout, but it still works for me! (I did add a date section in my next layout of this page, as I marked at the top to change for next time!)

IMG_7119

The purpose for this page may seem obvious, but it’s simply to track my expenses. A big part of this for me, was color coding everything. I came up with different categories:

  • School
  • Necessary
  • Unnecessary/shouldn’t have/ unhealthy
  • Fun outings
  • Gifts

And that’s all of the sections that I’ve needed so far. So, the purpose of color coding everything is (besides making it look prettier), so that I could easily see where my money  is going so that I can change things when necessary for next month. Again, it’s not about looking at how many ‘unnecessary’ items and judging myself and tearing myself down. It’s simply about looking at how I spent my money this month, so that I can be better for next month. I have been trying to cut down on my unnecessary spending, so that is a huge goal for me each month. Design and add whatever categories that works best for you!

WHY IT WORKS:

  • It’s a cute system that made me actually WANT to record my expenses, for once!
  • I can really see in what areas I did well in that month, and in what areas I really need to work on…because of the color code!

WHY IT DOESN’T WORK:

  • As I said, I forgot a date section in this design…but I changed that for the next expenses spread.

This next page is what I have for saving for a specific goal of mine. I think it’s a cute way to see how much I’ve saved, and how much I still need to save (obviously I’m very far away at this point!).

IMG_7120

It’s simple. Obviously, I just color in one of the boxes (or however many) when I put that money into the envelope!

This next page, I haven’t really used yet. Again, it doesn’t really apply to me much at this point in my life, at least during the summer. There are probably cuter ways of designing a grocery list in your BUJO, but I haven’t looked into that yet, because I haven’t even used this one yet! But this would get the job done and the good thing about having it here in my BUJO, is that I would always have this notebook with me, so it would be incredibly easy to jot down things I need as I think about them, so I don’t forget!  IMG_7121

Any tips/tricks/inspiration that you have? What do you think of what I wrote/showed you? I have a whole lot more left to go, and I hope you’re as passionate about this as I am! 😉 Happy Thursday! ❤