“Christmas is [more than] a Feeling”

IMG_2577

 

The day after Christmas is always hard.

Hard to put an end to all the hype and happiness; hard to turn off the Christmas music for a whole other year; hard to hug distant relative goodbye; hard to wrap up all the holiday decor; hard to let go of the intimate gatherings and silence the belly-aching laughter. But as difficult as the bookend of Christmas is, it’s even harder to imagine a life without it.

I cannot fathom what it would be like any other way … growing up without family to visit, presents to open, a warm house to come home to, delicious dishes to devour, or a church to attend. Growing up, this was all I knew. I didn’t once take any of it for granted, but the older I now become, the more my eyes are opened to the beauty of nostalgia. The quicker the time passes, the more I wish it would just stay put. Though Christmas, even with its traditions, changes each year, there is a feeling that remains remarkably present. There is an emotion that returns each time I hear the familiar tunes playing in my head, or gaze into the lively flame in my hands at the candlelight worship service. There is one constant, one dependency, one reliable source of love each Christmas. The love of Christ in celebration of His birth, is a love that never fades.

I was the kid who believed in Santa Claus until the 6th grade. Up until that time, I had no reason to question; I had no reason to doubt. I simply knew how to trust. With this belief in a jolly old man I had never seen, I let myself become lured in by the magic of Christmas. I followed all the rules, behaved myself (especially around December), always left out the good cookies, and wrote old St. Nick letters and curious dialogue. My parents were awesome at playing the role of the mysterious gift-giver, and I was convinced that the tales were true.

Even with friends who did not believe, I didn’t want to follow suit. Even if Santa wasn’t real, I didn’t want to disbelieve in it all. To me, this idea robbed the joy of Christmas. I would rather believe in something that makes me hopeful, and participate in a tradition that makes me happy, rather than try and find reasons to prove all of it rubbish.

I often faced embarrassment for my gullibility, but I continued to hold my ground—until one Christmas eve I came across Santa’s handwriting on a notepad in my dad’s office. That night I heard nails being hammered into trees outside our house—definitely not reindeer hoofs—making it difficult to sleep.

The next morning my brother and I were prompted to follow a trail of yarn, leading us to the garage in the backyard, each piece of string wrapped around a nail hammered into a redbud tree. The minute I saw the string, I knew. Keeping quiet for my little brother, I held my heartbreak inside. That Christmas, I experienced the magic drift away. Yet I didn’t try and catch it. I let it go, watching it spin away into the wind, slouching in my own disappointment.

Since that Christmas morning, I have experienced something even greater than magic, which rises with each winter season. I have experienced the wondrous light of the Lord, which, unlike Santa’s sleigh, does not have to come and go. God’s light is present year round, but shines brighter on each Christmas morn. And with every Christmas eve I come to meet, I hear in my head the nails being plowed into the tree … though this time it’s the cross-shaped tree which held my Savior until his death for me.

Though it took a while, I can now replace my trust in something indescribable. I can deeply believe in something unshakable. I can choose to live for something I may never fully understand. But I can rest my head in a peaceful and thankful slumber, with a faithful assurance that the Giver of Joy does see me when I’m sleeping and knows when I’m awake. My new giver of joy loves me regardless of my gift-wrapping, decorating, or Christmas cooking. His love is what produces the feeling of Christmas. The familiar feeling that sprouts from being surrounded by love, no matter what happened during the calendar year. His love is what I believe in. His grace is always wrapped neatly under my tree. It is, with each passing season, the greatest gift there is.

 

” In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” ~1 John 4:9

Thank-FULL

So …

Progress. Definitely worth noting.

With this year’s Thanksgiving gathering rather pleasant, I must acknowledge the progress related to ED recovery. This progress almost slipped by unnoticed, if it hadn’t been for my current eating disorder mentees keeping their mentor in check. Reason being, my new recovered lifestyle of “freedom” has become nearly routine. Social eating situations have become much more frequent (gotta love the dating world for that), and my previous eating anxiety in anticipation of America’s national food holiday (surprisingly) was completely absent.

Instead, I keyed in on the annual road race that morning (in the bitter rain I may add), and most importantly, the family I would get to share in special fellowship with. The spark of adrenaline and familial relationships were what drove me that day. I was thankful for traditions, and their consistency whether rain or shine. Despite the disappointment in my running performance, I embraced the new physical strength of my stride.  This year, I was the first one in line to fill my plate with overflowing mounds of homemade dishes. I reminisced in cheerful childhood memories, laughing at old sayings and embarrassing stories with my cousins.

Welcoming new faces into our traditional gathering, our family expanded our soulful love that day. Fulfilled with the quality engagement and conversation, my mind never wandered to overeat. I felt calm. I felt at ease. On the one designated day of thanks, I was actually thankful. Thankful for family, thankful for friends, and thankful for peace. Finally, a Thanksgiving day spent as it should be—connected by care, and shared out of love. Food was merely the article of appreciation, not the focal point.

For nearly ten years of my life, however, this was not the case. I loved Thanksgiving like every other holiday, because of the excuse to draw family together. But at the same time, I dreaded this day because of my eating disorder. The remarks from others about exercising more and counting calories to prepare and makeup for over-indulging after their Thanksgiving meal set me on edge. I feared being forced to swallow strange foods and overeating. I was scared of gaining weight from one large dinner plate (actually two, which were custom in my family).

I was nervous about what others would say, about my eating habits or about their own. I would contemplate all week long how I would compensate for the caloric overload that day—adding extra miles, pushing through harder workouts, sneaking in bonus push-ups whenever I had a chance, and restricting food the minute the holiday was over.

Part of me knew that not everyone took these intentions to the extreme like I did. I knew that 90% of the people who complained about gaining weight from too much turkey wouldn’t even lace up their running shoes the next morning. Yet even still, I had to be the exception. I had to be the healthiest one. I had to uphold my fitness reputation and turn down the gluttonous pie. I wasn’t allowed to give in to the temptation of seconds or thirds…or if I did, I wasn’t allowed to enjoy it.

No matter what I told myself before going in to the stressful situation, I always seemed to lose. The eating disorder was having a marvelous time beating me back and forth between its rigid fists. I dreamed of a Thanksgiving where I too, could relax after lunch and watch football without my mind franticly coming up with ways to burn off each and every bite.

Some people might not consider a thankful Thanksgiving to be a big deal. After all, isn’t that what the day is supposed to be all about? Don’t get me wrong, I have always practiced gratitude on this typical holiday, and have always thanked God for the many blessings in my life. But when you have experienced a personal rescue from a bottomless pot of gravy, each following bite is even more grateful.

I guess you could say my list of thanks has grown even longer, adding a line for every meaningful year. Today, I am thankful not only for the internal healing from an enslaving mental illness. I’m thankful for the light that shines bright even through the rain. The light that peeled open my eyes so that I could see, once again, the love that was sitting at the table with me for every meal along the way. Today, I am thankful to feel, once again, the fullness of His joy, and the sureness of His peace. Smiling with my family, enjoying pieces of dessert, holding a fully satisfied belly, streaming thoughts of appreciation—all guilt-free.

A Heart of Humility

It’s hard sometimes, feeling like I’m all alone…not presently in a physical sense, but rather emotionally alone in my past struggles. I have made several distant connections with inspiring individuals who also hold similar survival stories, but it is still hard without that immediate affection from someone nearby who has literally been in your shoes. I talk to God about this though, all the time now actually. I know my God understands, because He suffered with me. He was waiting in my heart the whole time that it was fighting for its own beats. Against the voice of evil and deception, my God raised his cries of loyalty even higher. And I’m so eternally grateful that my patient Savior won. He always does, which is a truth I’ve slowly come to realize.

As complicated as this dual and sometimes triple diagnosis is, there is indeed a deeply twisted heart dilemma. Over time, we become fooled by a false idol of prideful satisfaction, dainty diligence, and piercing perfection. All of these things are only temporarily fulfilling, leaving us with a hollow begging bucket even emptier than when we began. Yet even amidst the anxious pounding of my own heart, not knowing what the next day would entail, I did know within my smothered being that this way of living was not what I wanted. I had convinced my logistical little mind that I could navigate through all these teasers of change and barriers of setbacks for the rest of my life. If this was how I was just “meant to live,” then I would settle to endure the pain day in and day out. I was tough…after all, just look at everything I had been through. I was different…and I willingly embraced this secret diversity.

fullsizerender-7

 

I don’t remember when my lost sense of realism finally came back around. I do believe that collectively, my prayers and thoughts and counsel from friends and family seeped into my pores from a spiritual angle, not a physical one. For years I appeared to be at an “acceptable” weight by the medical community’s standards, but little did even the smartest doctors know, that I was not yet internally healed.

 

Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder are severe mental disorders like all other clinically diagnosed mental illnesses. Yet this doesn’t mean that they need to be deemed a chronic lifelong sickness. The labels are simply a way to be able to make a clinical distinction of symptoms in order to qualify for professional help, or to be able to personally pinpoint and deal with all of the associated physical, mental, and emotional implications. I think that so often we become so fixed on the label, just like the numbers on the scale, that we forget where our true value resides.

The descriptions pertaining to the clinical diagnosis are merely that in themselves–they are solely descriptions of the symptoms summed up in a word or phrase in order to facilitate communication, when in reality, very few people are aware of the proper way of communicating about any of these severe cases. As an advocate of eating disorder recovery and intrinsic healing, this effort of sound communication is one of my main goals in my writing and activist efforts. Communication, in any circumstance, is key to understanding. Even though we may not be able to directly empathize with a particular mental illness, we can all do our best to both convey and exchange feelings and emotions which still float amongst common ground. As human beings, we all have the ability to feel (to a certain extent.) It’s time to use this commonality to set aside our differences and reluctance to understand the transformation behind someone else’s tale.

 

fullsizerender-11

“Communication, in any circumstance, is the key to understanding”

Sometimes I can feel as if I am swimming in a sea of emotional tidal waves, but at least I can feel them now. I remember what it felt like to have a heart frozen over by ice cold depression. Shivering in my own sorrow, I grew numb to even my own real feelings. When loved ones finally noticed and intervened, the avalanche began. It was so hard to warm back up, to soften my soul, and to let that heart-melting mercy back inside. But as I write this now, with tears streaming down my full rosy cheeks, I am so humbly glad I did.

 

fullsizerender-6

“He heals the brokenhearted…”~Psalm 147:3

 

 

I believe in the sincere transformation of heart. I have watched it, I have witnessed it, and I have experienced it. I have felt my own heart violently shatter, and then be fused back together–little by little, minute by minute, piece by piece.

 

 

 

I can tell of my story because I am no longer ashamed. I can cry while I’m telling it because I now carry tears of joy. I can now joyfully live a life worthy of purpose, because I can humbly admit that I’m only the co-author of my book. I can credit my healing process to many doctors, therapist, family, and friends, and the climactic self-revelations to myself. But I can only direct the glory from the life-changing eternal transformation to the one who owns and guards my heart. My God reigns inside my patched-up vessel, and with boldness forever, my heart beats for Him.

fullsizerender-9

 

Image source: google.com

 

“Be Still and Know”

Contrary to my typical school days, I had several good guy friends while in college. These enthusiastic guys were genuinely smart, humorous, truthful, and tended to make certain group gatherings more fun. They were a lively asset to football-watching parties, board-game-playing potlucks, and recreational sporting scrimmages on campus. They were pros at crafting a clever joke, and willingly contributed to thought provoking conversations minus all the nagging female drama. Needless to say, I greatly valued their friendship, encouragement, and personal opinions for that matter. One afternoon after a routine ultimate frisbee session, one of my guy friends, Ken, mentioned that he had seen me running around campus earlier that week (a daily activity for which I quickly became known.) Attempting to compliment my physically active lifestyle, he proceeded by saying, “Amanda, you’re one of the healthiest persons I know.”

Conflicted by his politely intended comment, I remember thinking sadly to myself, “If only you knew, Ken…if only you knew the truth.”

The ironic truth was that back in college I did know–I knew all about my history, and knew that I was still regretfully hanging on to painful pieces of my past. With my academic major of choice being Exercise Science, I had acquired a substantial amount of insight on how the magnificent human body operates. From my own experience and educational influences, I knew all about the foundational idiosyncrasies of my specific condition and was highly aware of what I should be doing to combat it. I knew about many intensive biological processes and detailed components pertaining to anatomy and physiology. I was rehearsed in the guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, and was well-trained on how to properly lead others towards adapting healthy choices and developing a balanced lifestyle. I knew all of these concepts like the back of my hand…I just frankly wasn’t applying them to myself. On the outside I may have appeared fit and healthy, but on the inside, I was deniably still struggling beneath my protective fitness persona.

Reflecting back to my ignorant 13-year-old self, however, I didn’t know. I didn’t know the difference between carbs, fats, and proteins. I didn’t know that there was a such thing as too much exercise or nutritional control. I didn’t know how foods were broken down in our bodies, or that words like “calories” and “metabolism” even existed. I didn’t know anything about nutrient timing or hormones. And of course I didn’t know at the time that all of my intentional efforts to improve my athletic ability and conscious focus on physical enhancement were unintentionally eating up my body. Literally.

 

Yet instead of translating this lack of knowledge into a prime teaching opportunity, the majority of what I absorbed fell within the spectrum of crucially labeling foods and habits as either “good” or “bad.” Despite the attempts to facilitate matters, everything suddenly added on to my pre-existing set of rules. This observant, reserved, intuitive young girl only wanted to become the best all-star athlete out there, and instead accidentally took her competitive perfectionist personality overboard. I “learned” by my own observation and perceived judgement, disappointedly losing the very control I set out to attain in the beginning. I wanted to get things right; I didn’t mean to cause my body harm…but at the same time I also wanted to understand why I was suddenly being forced by doctors to confide in a new strict and monitored lifestyle. In spite of my inner will to improve myself, I was constantly overpowered by the regulations of my treatment team, and my own eating disorder voice telling me everyone else was wrong.

Thankfully now, I know. I now know the severity of the disease that consistently won the battle for nearly ten years of my life. I know the mental and emotional toll that tags alongside the obvious physical toll. I know the meaning behind terms like “triggers” and “tendencies,” and how to monitor them. I know now that if I want to be able to continue to engage in the physical activity which brings me so much joy, I have to strategically fuel my body with the right sources. I know that food is my muscle’s best friend, and that it provides substance, energy, and natural healing remedies. I know truthfully just how vital it is to have loving moral support during such a darkly rough time. Additionally, I have no doubt that with my passion for learning, this large knowledge base will only continue to grow. And with this knowledge, I know deep down that recovery is possible. I know, again, a life of vibrancy, contentment, and peace.

In times of confusion, discouragement, and affliction, I remind myself of this gift of the present. In all circumstances, it helps to know there is someone right there on your side. Someone rooting for you each step of the way. Someone who will walk with you, cry with you, and stand strong with you. Someone who values you, admires you, and cares deeply for you. Someone who would drop everything just to sit quietly with you…to patiently wait in silence with you, aspiring to bring comfort and assurance in reminding you to simply

…”be still and know.”

Be still, be calm, and be brave. Be still and know that there is such a thing as hope. Be still and know that it can indeed get better. I know, because I’ve been there. I know, because I’m here.

~Psalm 46:10~

A Voice To Be Heard

 In honor of eating disorder awareness week, which ironically also happens to be the week of my birthday, I invite you to share in both sincere reflection and new excitement with me. But most of all, I invite you to join me in celebrating 25 years of life–a life that was once shackled, and is now free–eating disorder-free. 

  
I applied to become a mentor in an online eating disorder mentoring program, pretty much on a whim. I usually don’t think spontaneously like that, or act with rash intention, but this new curiosity was different. I never even knew something like this existed, and intrigued, I wanted to be a part. Simply put, life is just too short to keep this truth hidden any longer. It is a part of my story, viewed from a new perspective of gratefulness and strength. Yes, it is a heavy part of who I am, but it no longer defines my inner being or enslaves my identity. I have considered myself “in remission” from this awful disease for the last ten years, but it wasn’t until my senior year in college that I began to experience climactic mental breakthroughs. I had finally reached a point in recovery where I was tired of waiting for someone with a similar history to stumble across my path. I wanted to reach out and help heal, or at least offer my own account as some sort of hopeful encouragement. I can remember back when I was struggling through those gruesome times, feeling utterly alone. Thankfully I had my loving family by my side through its entirety, but as much as their caring hearts longed for my curing, they would never fully understand where I was during that daunting point in my life. I want to be able to be that special someone for other suffering souls. Someone who can genuinely say, “I know…I’ve been there…and it does get better.” Sometimes, in the midst of our struggles, those simple words are enough. 

Hearing the news that I had been accepted into the MentorConnect program as a mentor spoke wonders for my current state of stability and strength as an “ED survivor”, and I was elated to immediately receive two match requests for mentees. Excitement overflowed as I was finally able to speak one-on-one with my first match over the phone, and I immediately felt a strong connection to this complete yet friendly stranger from Greenwood, SC. I had never done anything like this before, (conversing with someone form an entirely different state in the U.S. whom I had never met,) about something so personal. Since then, our friendship has continued to grow, despite the fact that we still have yet to speak face to face.

The opportunity to share life with this amazing woman has been extraordinary. The idea that someone would respect my insight (my mentee is 32 years old) and admire me for my success story and current position of recovery is not only encouraging, but completely humbling. It has been an excellent exercise for me also, because our extensive conversations provoke a certain revisiting of those dark times and cause me to realize just how much I truly have overcome. It has prompted me to view my situation with yet another whole new set of eyes, and has allowed me to take on a new grateful title as a counselor and role model. The more accountability I can acquire, the better, as I strive to reach out to this overlooked population and use my story to help others. It is gradually giving me a new voice…a voice which wants so much to be heard, not for my own merit but simply to break the wall of misunderstanding and hopelessness in so many out there. My mentee, just like each and every victim of this disease, also has a voice of her own, and by actively seeking this mentoring program has acquired a new listening companion from my compassionate heart. 

In speaking with her I am faced with a new challenge–I must be open and honest, but also take into consideration her current state and respect the fact that all of us move through life at our own unique pace. Being a true “fixer” in personality, this is often extremely difficult. I must accept my own limits and circumstances beyond my control, and focus instead on how to help encourage healthy behavior and positive outlook. I do feel a personal connection and care deeply for this incredible gal, but must wait out this journey with her while demonstrating patience, persistence, and understanding. Everything isn’t always perfect on my end either, nor will it ever be. But for the first time in a really long time, I’ve accepted that fact with peace. 

Upon acquiring this exciting new outlet, I have also been engaged in a lot of deep reflection, which is something I am often accustomed to doing when life throws me curveballs. My mind has been spinning and bouncing back and forth to past revelations, scenes, and emotions, and has repetitively hovered around one recurring idea, or dream if you will: to write a book.

For a while now, I have heard God’s voice telling me that I’m meant to use my story to help others, and I have just been rather unsure as to the specifics attached to this. Recently, however, I have begun to connect a few dots here and there. One of my “breakthrough moments” was in the car while listening to the song “My Story” on the Christian radio–a beautiful song of how God’s saving grace is revealed in each of our unique individual stories. Lately I have realized just how much I love to write, and talking with my mentee has influenced me to reflect on just how much I wish to be able to say. All my life, friends and family have attempted to highlight writing as one of my gifts. Words have always had a special meaning to me, and I find joy in sharing them with others. In a hand-written note on the inside cover of a journal that my Nana gave me for Christmas following graduation, she encouraged me to continue to record my memories through expression of the written word, using this joyful gift. I already have a plentiful archive of journals and thoughts stashed away from over the years, pertaining to the sincere topic of my painful history. But why only continue to write for myself? What good will spark from keeping powerful words in anxious secret? Why not write with the intention to share not only a personal journey, but a story of conquered struggles, successful survival, and sustaining hope? 

I have now reached a point where I passionately want to be heard. No more sulking behind a regretful shell of shame. There is so much truth that I wish to share, with an attempt to instill faith and comfort to those currently struggling, or who are helping a loved one fight the battle. My mother admitted to me the other night that during the most devastating times, a comforting word was something she searched for–book after book was flipped through, only to disappointedly stumble across one more depressing narrative after another. There were very limited (from what my mother could find) success stories and uplifting documents on the topic. During the dark hole when my family needed it most, the encouraging promise from someone who had walked in their shoes ensuring that “things will get better,” was simply nowhere to be found. 

Standing before you today with even greater compassion and voice of confidence, sincerity, empathy and truth, I wish to change that sad report. I want to provide that encouraging word, that yet even in the toughest challenges, offers a faithful account of a true success story–something which is devoutly possible given the proper education, guidance, and support. There is so much to be said, so much to be revealed, about the complexities and anxieties of this misunderstood condition, which I long to bring to the surface. But not to evoke a sense of sadness, or create an aurora of disheartening sympathy. My efforts will be to be real enough to draw you into the mind and home of an eating disorder victim, with an attempt to offer a glimpse of the severities, only to emphasize the immeasurable weight of a stable recovery–which IS attainable through a network of faithful, dedicated spirits. 

Writing and collecting my thoughts into one published piece of work would allow me to share this voice–this strong, bold voice of truth. The voice which has won over the notoriously often-quoted “eating disorder voice.” And in doing so, hopefully will bring peace, comfort, insight, and exhortation to every person who flips through its pages. I want to obey the voice of my eternal Savior, who dug me out of my unintentional self-made pit, and represent all of those precious trapped voices of victims then and now. I am excited to let the words flow…words no longer to be kept guarded inside, but shared out of love.
                                                          ________________

Stay tuned for relevant snippets of my survival story in its entirety, optimistically projected to be completed by Feb 25, 2017 (Which will be my 26th birthday and over a decade since my initial diagnosis.) Although I still plan on consistently posting healthy recipes during this project, the Fit Peace By Peace blog site will be mainly devoted to a collaboration of thoughts and expression towards this goal. Therefore, please pardon my brief hiatus from general nutrition and wellness posts as I attempt to gather and organize all of the jumbled heavy words which have been pressing on the inside walls of my brain over these past 12 years. Using detailed memories, personal accounts and maturing circumstances, I hope to extend a message of hope and encouragement to those suffering and to their loved ones, as well as to the other misguided minds of society. Your support means the world to me as I strive towards fulfilling my vocational calling to intentionally give back in this area, while sharing bits and pieces along the way, to become genuinely transparent in attempts to help anyone through their own health journey no matter what their background entails. I welcome any questions or inquiries with outstretched arms as I take on this compelling opportunity. The time has come to commit to a new season of openness; to become the woman I’m meant to be; to cough up some courage, and truly become an “open book.”

There is a voice to be heard, a voice once trapped behind a lying voice of false identity–and I’m not just referring to my own here. Voices of sweet souls past and present. His voice, her voice, your voice…all deserve to be heard. There is no reason to be ashamed…your voice may be exactly what the person next to you needs to hear. 
                      ~“This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.”~ 

Core Strength 

The past few days have been truly humbling, once again setting me in my place in this world of my creator. I was a little too ambitious in the gym on Friday, and ended up straining a lower abdominal muscle pretty severely. It scared me, and although the pain didn’t really begin until the next morning, all I could think was “great job, Amanda. You screwed yourself up again.” Sometimes we really do have to learn the hard way, which I have learned one too many times. But in this minor setback I was forced again to surrender control over something that I often take for granted–once again, something in the realm of fitness. Ironically, it was my core that was weak. My inner structure and support lacked strength and sustainable power. It wasn’t until I tried to perform everyday activities and common motions that I realized just how much I rely on my core strength for just about everything. This was enlightening to me, as I forced myself to sit up straight and had to overcompensate for my lack of stability, frustrated with my limitations and helpless control over my body. I actually even sat there with my small protruding swollen belly thinking “is this what it is like to be pregnant??” 
Yet in this frustration and temporary mood downer, I had to accept this new position of inconvenient vulnerability. I do believe that with our own free will we are prone to make mistakes. But God can still use our mistakes for good, and I couldn’t help but wonder if God was allowing me to get a taste of a rather functionally limited world. It really did alter my perspective again, as it did with my former marathon injury. It amazes me sometimes how quick we are to try and take matters into our own hands, to take risks which seem fine and dandy during the moment, only to remind us later of our own stupidity. Fallen, once again, due to our own pride, only to cry out in tears for forgiveness and healing, but all the while in strict reliance on our Savior.  

Even in these moments of misunderstanding, regret and hopelessness, God is still sovereign. I am glad to announce that my tummy is slowly returning to normal, but even if it had turned out to be permanent damage, I would have to be ok with that. God would have still found a way for a misfortunate circumstance to bring him glory, and that is essentially our sole purpose on this earth. It might not have been the exact state I had envisioned myself to glorify him in, but it’s not my plan that reigns–God has the ultimate say, and deserves to have the last laugh. I am honored to have his unshakable power inside of me, forever serving as my internal core strength. Even if I were never able to do another sit-up ever again, with God as my inner source of strength, my spirit would be unstoppable . I have to center my heart and mind on His will, and his alone. Remembering, of course, that every strength and ability is graciously given by him as a gift and not an entitlement. 

Little reminders like these aren’t always fun, but are definitely necessary. I have come a long way in my ability to let go of things that I’m not supposed to be gripping onto anymore, which has been a continuous lesson in my sanctification journey. Lately, I have really been making an effort to pause and listen, and to refocus on the here and now rather than always set my mind 2 steps ahead. Not to say preparation is a bad thing, but recently I have realized my tendency to jump forward into future tasks and plans rather than take the time to savor, appreciate and invest in the moment. I now am well aware of my my over-thinking and analyzing habits, and impulse to easily feel poured on by pressure. Knowing this, I daily pray for peace. When my mind and spirit is relaxed and content, fully and truly extending trust to God, my inner being is stable and secure. It has taken me a long time to let go of the tight grip I have always held on myself, and on my own high expectations. Through much struggle and defeat to try and race against time, through years of beating my body to the ground, holding myself to unbeatable standards and strict discipline, my exhausted soul is finally raising a white flag. Although I still have strong ambitions to be the best I can be, to fight strong, to hold my faith and stand bold in self-discipline, loyalty, honest effort and integrity, it is all now for a greater purpose–all for the Lord and his kingdom. I try so hard…so very hard…to figure everything out. To be what I believe to be acceptable, respected, and admired. When really, all that matters is that I work for Christ, out of his love. I am already acceptable in his book, I am already precious in his eyes. His grace covers everything…even all of my past and failed attempts, even my over-ambitious and naïve mistakes. He is my inner strength forever, although my flesh and my heart may fail.

 Funny how with any condition out of the “norm”, our bodies know deep down, how to survive. Instinctively when faced with any grueling circumstance, or inflicted with an injury, all our other parts kick in to pick up the slack. Priorities shift around, perspectives change, and other pieces contribute on a different scale. It may be difficult to learn, to accept, and grasp at first. We may stumble, or experience reoccurring pain here and there, but eventually our bodies adapt. We find an inner drive that keeps us going. Only a creator so genius like our God could have come up with a system so remarkable. He is my internal and external strength, forever worthy of praise.