October = Change

For most of my adult life, the month of October (and the season of Fall in general) has brought change for most years than I can remember. In this post, I’m going to go over some of the biggest changes I went through and how they’ve shaped me into the person I am today.

12442-Life-Change

The year was 2007. This was the year I dumped my first long-term boyfriend. The actual break up didn’t happen until mid-November (right before Thanksgiving) but I initiated a break during the month of October in hopes that maybe we could mend things. But really, things were beyond repair. To be completely honest, I was in major denial since my ex never fully trusted me. Reading my emails, searching through old chat histories. He was on the hunt for any hint that I was unfaithful. Even when he found nothing, he just kept looking. And I just kept telling myself things would get better. I’m very thankful for the Fall of 2007 when I finally took a stand for myself and walked away from a toxic relationship.

The year was 2008. It took me a year to finally build up the guts to consider dating again. And I went in swinging. Asked a guy for his number that I met at a Young Adults (20s) Ministry, then called him 2 days later and asked him out. We went on several dates over the next few weeks. But after about a month or so, he took me to get coffee and basically dumped me. This was the year that I learned that I couldn’t always get my way.

The year was 2009. I told my close friends and my parents that I was dating a married man. Needless to say, no one took this well. My good friend went so far as to take away my phone until I promised her I’d end things. My mom yelled at me for what felt like weeks, maybe months. I had to even face HIS mom, who was somehow even worse. This was the year I decided to break all the rules.

The year was 2010. The married guy I was still dating was now divorced. This was the year I learned that divorces take a long time and a lot of money, especially when there’s an angry spouse involved.

The year was 2013. I married who I thought was my soulmate. This was his second marriage, but he told me everything was different. He said we were meant to be. He had never felt so sure, and I was right there with him. I loved him unconditionally and saw myself spending the rest of my life with him. This was the year that I learned that I loved planning weddings. After planning my own, I briefly considered becoming a wedding planner. Still wouldn’t mind this job one day, so it’s still on the table haha.

The year was 2014. My parents announce they’re moving to Pryor, Oklahoma. My dad got a job at Google and my mom will benefit with the amazing health benefits offered by Google. My dad recommends my husband to take his job that he’s leaving in Chicago. I start a new job as well, and finally make closer to what I’m worth (actually using my Master’s degree for the first time). Finally, my husband and I aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. This was the year I learned prayers do get answered, even if some of them aren’t exactly what you imagine.

The year was 2015. I ran my first half-marathon. My parents announce they’re moving back to Chicago. My mom’s health turns for the worst once they move back and she’s gone faster than anyone could’ve guessed. This was the year I learned that life is too short.

The year was 2016. My husband decides to fight for me for most of October, cancels our anniversary trip to Hawaii and moves out of our house the week of his birthday. My entire world comes crashing down. Soon enough I figure out everything that happened, especially since he refuses to meet with me in person due to guilt and shame. This was the year I learned that no person on Earth is worth losing your shit over. I even graciously didn’t destroy any of his things he left behind (which was everything). I’m very thankful I had an amazing therapist who helped me through the divorce.

The year was 2017. I ran the Chicago Marathon, my first full marathon. I trained hard and I raised enough money to provide clean water to 26.2 kids in Africa. Ok, actually 27 since it’s hard to cut kids into little pieces. This was the year I learned the most about myself. I invested in myself and my spiritual life. I’m very grateful for the change in 2017.

The year was 2018. I recently found out I was unexpectedly pregnant. While I wasn’t officially dating the father of my baby, I had let myself have deep feelings for him. Despite all the things going on, I was still too scared of rejection to really talk to him about how I felt. Lucky me, he decided to move on without really talking to me. I also decided to get baptized. I felt like it was extra-special since I was pregnant with Aria. This was the year I learned that while not everything is in my control, God is still on my side helping me be strong to face every challenge. This was the year I learned that I had to be strong and independent because now a baby was going to need me. I’m very humbled by the experience of being pregnant and single.

The year is 2019. And while I have a baby now, I am wondering what this October will bring. Hopefully good changes. Some things really aren’t much different from last fall, but definitely not pregnant this time.

What types of changes have you seen in your life? Do you see them in the fall like I do?

A special prayer

I recently found out that my ex is going through some major personal struggles. When I first heard this, a tiny part of me felt a little relief. Sometimes, when you’re on the outside looking in all you see is perfection. But then I felt guilty. And ultimately, I turned to God with all my feelings. I prayed a special prayer for my ex. One that I’ve been praying for since we split up over two years ago.

IMG_20170917_185733_1-EFFECTS

I prayed that he find joy and happiness in God and Jesus. I prayed that God’s will be done when it comes to his personal life and struggles. I prayed that he felt love and hope through his family, friends and God. I prayed for God to grant him the strength and courage needed to get through this season of life. And once again, I felt my heart breaking for him all over again.

It also did make me realize that amongst the lies he told me, there was one truth. He really did want a family, just not with me. And while that is heartbreaking, I can’t hold someone back from finding what they truly want. I just hope and pray that this is truly God’s plan for him and that he does end up joyful and happy with his life choices.

I also pray that one day I find someone who not only deserves and can handle this type of love but who can love me in the same way. If this is how I feel and treat someone who cheated and left me for someone else, it’s unimaginable how it could improve for the person who actually loves me back.

That is exactly why I’m patient and willing to wait for the right guy, the one meant for me. I already tried it with the one not meant to be and it nearly killed me. But I still wish the best for him and his new family, even if that doesn’t include me. And I’m so very thankful God made it clear to me that we weren’t meant to be. This time I’m sitting still and listening to His voice to tell me His plan, in His timing. I focus my eyes towards Him and know that everything will work out according to His plan.

He’s already taken me this far. To Oak Park, to run my first marathon, to walk away from yet another toxic relationship, and to be given the blessing of my first baby girl due in another few weeks. I just keep focusing on the good and all the blessings I’ve been given. And through every season, I take the time to thank Him for it all. The good, the bad and the ugly.

 

This is Me: Take it or leave it

Once I heard the song This is Me for the first time (in church of all places) it instantly got stuck in my head. After looking it up and playing it on repeat for a few weeks, I finally sat down and watch The Greatest Showman. It was a great movie and in some ways reminded me of Hamilton. They both channel that whole this is me, this is who I am, and I’m not changing for anyone. Strong, powerful lead characters who are impossible to take down. And these characters fuel me.

usa-1779925_1920

As a writer, I’m a lot like Hamilton. I could see myself writing pages and pages, the words flowing out of me. Actually, I’ve had days like that where I just write and write in my journal. Some stuff almost no one will ever read. But today I feel like sharing just a little bit more about me and why I no longer give a f*ck.

Growing up I had a lot of f*cks to give. I cared a lot what others thought of me. I’d go out of my way to dress a certain way, brush my hair, and try my best to be nice to everyone. I actually found myself between a rock and a hard place several times in elementary school as I tried to be friends with everyone, including the nerds and the populars. At the end of the day, I just wanted to be accepted and feel like I belonged. But I also didn’t want to make anyone else feel alone.

Most of my life I’ve been really nice. Actually I am still really nice. So nice that it’s been painful at times. But I always have and always strive to see the best in people. It’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I’ve been around some of the best of the best. The people who I’m so glad I gave a chance. The people I love to love. It’s a curse because there are people who have and will stomp all over my heart for their benefit. I had someone who after I pushed past all of the barriers and obstacles only to choose him, over and over again, used that same blind love to stab me in the back and still demand a quick and low-cost separation. Of which I granted, out of kindness not only to him but also to myself.

So I am nice, but after crawling through flames I’ve decided to be nice to myself first and foremost. This is not to say I’m not nice to others, it’s just to say that I have to consider how being nice to others affects my niceness to myself.

In other words, I ask myself how much of myself do I want to pour into someone before opening up. I’ve been singed a few too many times to just openly love and pour on strangers. But I also still have the ability to love on the right people. The people who are there for me no matter what. The ones who show up in the middle of the storm and at the top of the mountain peak. I try my best to be as warm and kind to those who are there for me. And I give my standard kindness to everyone else.

But for those who shun me or judge me, I have nothing for them. I don’t have the time or energy to waste on draining individuals. Instead, when one person leaves, I tend to take that energy I almost wasted and pour it into myself. This way, with every person I encounter, I grow spiritually and emotionally. Whether they’re terrible or great, they bring with them a lesson that I learn and grow upon.

But never will you see me chasing after the wrong person. I would rather watch them walk out of my life than be anywhere near them. And to be honest, I’m running low on f*cks to give. I gave a lot of them to who I thought was the right person. Now, I’m taking the time to step back and breathe as I try to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid making the same mistake again. (third times the charm?)

Holding on to these last f*cks for the right guy. For now, they’re in the vault until the time is right to let them shine.

 

Love yourself challenge

Simple post today. I challenge you to post up your favorite recent picture of yourself and write down a snippet of what you love about yourself. Try to find a picture from the last year or so. Can be a physical attribute or something in relation to your personality. Try to write the first thing that comes to mind and embrace it. Then comment here or on social media with the link to your post.

IMG_20180318_151455.jpg

I love this picture because it’s artsy, but also because it shows that hard work pays off. I love my legs, arms and shoulders. I work hard on them and loving the results.

Now post up your picture! 🙂

The struggle to love unconditionally

_img6057

Love as the media shows it is not true love. It’s the love where you are happy and showered with all the feels, until it gets hard. Then it’s time to break up and move on to the next. This illusion of plenty of fish in the sea, and maybe the lie of that perfect person for us keeps us unsatisfied until we end up alone and grumpy wondering where we went wrong.

Most of my life, I have struggled to learn and apply unconditional love in all of my relationships. I’m talking family, friends and most importantly romantic relationships. And the biggest struggle I face is unconditionally loving people who can’t love me back.

Both historically (my exes) and currently, there are and have been people in my life that I have and still love wholeheartedly who don’t have the capacity love me back. I won’t drop names, but there is someone in my life right now where I have to sit and meditate, take several deep breaths, before composing myself to respond to him in the most loving way I can.

But he already rejected me months ago, and even without that I know he doesn’t have the ability to love me back. At least, not the way I love him. And I’m not going to lie, there are nights where I just feel like crying. But each day gets better, because God gives me the strength to continue loving him the way Jesus loves me. And I pray that one day, he too will know and understand that type of love. The one where there are no limits. Without conditions. The way love is supposed to be.

Radiating love and kindness

So today I’m supposed to write about someone who has helped me and influenced my life. It’s hard to think about anyone else other than my mother. Both of my parents have influenced me and helped me so much. My father is a close second, but today I feel like reminiscing about my mom.

fb_img_1494504837399

My mom was one of those people who could talk to anyone. She always had a story to share but also an ear to listen to those with their own stories. Where-ever she went, she had a smile on her face and a kindness unmatched. But she was even better with those she loved and cared for. Not only was she there for her immediate family, my brother and I, but also her siblings, parents, uncles, aunts and in-laws. She was that person who would give the shirt off her back to help out someone in need.

Countless times she would help out her brother who was struggling financially. Even going so far as giving him a car. When her mom was sick, she was there for her as much as possible. Trying to make her as comfortable as possible. And later on, same thing for her dad. She was always there for my brother and me growing up, even at our lowest of our lows and highest of our highs. She was the glue that kept our family together. What did that look like? Daily dinners where all four of us sat down and enjoyed a wonderful home-cooked meal. But more than that, she kept her extended families in touch. With her willingness and love for talking, she would keep up frequent communication with her family members. We would see our cousins, aunts and uncles more than just the holidays. And family was always a big part of our lives growing up.

But more than that, she was my best friend. Of course, she was also my parent so she laid the ground rules and enforced them when needed. But growing up, she was always there to lend me her time, love and encouragement. And even when I messed up, she still loved me. She was one of those people who demonstrated unconditional love to me. And I’m very blessed, since most people don’t get to experience this type of love first-hand. I grew up with faith and religion, and was taught about the love that Jesus and God has for me. But to experience it in person, from my own parent, was magical. And I am oh so glad for it.

Body image and self love

It feels like I’ve always had body image issues. Looking back, I can’t seem to remember a moment where I loved the way I looked. I would try my best to be content with my body, but I would always find something I’d like to change.

When I was a baby, I didn’t have a neck. My uncle called me Jabba the Hut since I was all baby fat. I didn’t ever crawl, because I was way too happy being immobile. Once I started walking, I lost the baby fat and thinned out. In high school, I was pretty active and stayed relatively thin but still felt chubby. I didn’t see myself as sexy and focused way too much on my extra-small boobs.

Freshman year in college I’d skip meals because I felt chubby. The other three years of college, I gained about 25 to 30 pounds that I instantly hated and tried to combat best I could. My boyfriend encouraged me by working out with me, but at the end of the day I felt fat and didn’t know what exercises to do other than run and some strength machines. Through the years, I’ve gone up and down in my weight. I started my fitness journey 7 years ago when I weighed in at my heaviest. I still hated my body, but decided to finally do something about it. So I joined a local Kung Fu school and started practicing traditional martial arts.

Even over the last 7 years, I still felt chubby and fat. In the beginning, my diet was crap as I was trying to workout 3-4 times a week. About a year into my fitness journey was when I decided to watch a few food documentaries. These altered my world and my diet. I was vegan for almost two years, and that was when I noticed the real change occurring in my body. I finally liked my body weight, and almost liked how I looked. My endurance was increasing but I felt like I needed more of a challenge. So I started running in addition to the martial arts training.

When I started running, I mostly hated it. But my friend Sarah kept me accountable and we ran many races together over the years. Even as a runner and martial artist, I still struggled with my body image. Especially after I fell off the vegan wagon and started to be more open with my diet. And, you know, got married and comfortable. When I turned 30 only a year and a half ago, I felt embarrassed when looking at photos of myself. That chubby tummy and love handles were too much! I knew I needed more strength training and a better diet, but kinda let myself go. It was when my ex left that I reassessed everything in my life, but chose to focus on self love and body image.

I turned to fitness and working out to help me get through one of the hardest situations in my life. I upped the frequency and intensity of working out. I made a conscious decision to focus on my health and everything else would work itself out. I felt called to run the Chicago marathon last year, and I chose to focus more on strength training both while running and after the race. Even after running the marathon, I still felt chubby. But I sat down and created a fitness goal for myself in order to help me work towards the body I want rather than the one I had.

And guess what? I didn’t reach my goal. My goal was to get to 18% body fat by last week. I’m currently hovering just above 19% body fat, but I started at 25% four months ago. Despite not meeting my goal, I can finally say I love my body. Just the way it is. I know I’m still a work in progress, and I still have fitness goals I’m working on. But I realized it isn’t about the numbers. It’s not about how much I weigh nor how much body fat I have (as long as I’m not obese). It’s about how I look and feel. Hard work pays off, but most of the work I’ve needed has been mental. 90% mental, 10% physical.

IMG_20180225_164645_439

Late night thoughts

I have a theory. Or maybe a few of them. All relating to people and their behaviors. This is probably one of the latest blog posts I’ve ever done, but I wanted to write this week and didn’t have time until now.

scale-403585_1920There’s an article I read recently about this amazing couple that lost all this weight together. Like nearly 400 pounds between the two of them over the last two years. I can’t even make this up, it’s like two completely different couples. This story got me thinking about relationships and how they can literally build you up and push you forward, or knock you down and hold you back. This is an extreme case of the former. It’s like together they pushed each other to be healthier and to take back their lives.

Ideal relationships

This is the ideal relationship. We all want someone who will love us no matter what, but will also push us to be better than who we were yesterday. Settling is for dirt; people are meant to grow and evolve throughout their entire life. If we end up settling, we may miss an opportunity because we may not even get to that level to open that door. In my previous relationship, I thought I was with someone who was supportive no matter what. It wasn’t until I wanted to go back to school did I realize that he was holding me back from my goals and dreams.

Unhealthy relationships

Then you have the relationships that knock you down. “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” (The Room). You know, the ones where your partner tells you you’re fat or you’re boring. And somehow, despite all the weight you lose, you’re never good enough. In a way, they can push you to do better, but you’re only trying to do better because the person who’s supposed to be on your team is tearing you down. And you want to prove them wrong. Pretty sure this is unbelievably unhealthy. And if you’re in this type of relationship, the one where your significant other is extremely selfish, please do yourself a favor and leave it. You can do so much better.

Are you in a healthy, ideal relationship? Is your guy or gal willing to support you and push you forward all while loving you no matter what?

Porn and how it destroys lives

What do you think of when you hear the word porn?

girl-in-white-dress-2571411_1920Don’t be shy, we’ve all seen it one way or another. And even if we don’t actively watch it, we’re aware of what it is. Do you call it art? Visual stimulation? A movie? Whatever it is to you, I’m going to talk about how it destroys people’s lives today. Yes, this may seem harsh, but it destroyed mine and I’m here to tell you how.

I was married to a person who I thought only had eyes for me. That is, until I found out he watched porn regularly. I didn’t find out because he told me or I caught him. No, that would’ve been too easy. And, to be honest, the idea of him watching porn didn’t bother me until it destroyed our relationship and the life we were trying to build together.

I watched the way he saw our sexual relationship transform from reality to fantasy over time. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and he had completely different sexual expectations, but gradually he kept bringing up the same oddball requests. As any normal human being would do, I would consider fulfilling his desires, and even try best I could, but I kept falling short. I just wasn’t into what it was he was looking for.

The problem wasn’t so much that I couldn’t deliver what it was my husband wanted, instead it was that what he wanted wasn’t realistic. Instead, it was what the magical world of pornography portrays as sex. And I’m here to tell you, porn is not sex. Porn is fantasy. Porn creates an unrealistic expectation of sex. And it destroys lives.

I also had sexual desires that weren’t always fulfilled by my husband. I would tell him certain things that I would like him to do, things he had done once before but stopped doing once we were married. And while I found myself frustrated, I never sought the answer anywhere else. I just utilized the tools at my disposal (i.e. myself) and made do with what my husband was willing to partake in.

face-848537_1920I tried my best to keep things interesting in the bedroom, in hopes that we could keep our passions alive. But over time, this felt very one-sided. And it became increasingly common for him to become frustrated with me and my inability to fulfill his unrealistic expectations. I started despising the porn, and started praying for change.

And change happened. God answered my prayers in the form of my husband seeking the answers to his desires in other people. At the time, all I could see was my life, our life, being completely destroyed though. This marriage we tried to build together came crumbling down. All thanks to pornography and the belief that what is meant to be fake was mistakenly taken as real. God freed me from this world of distortion that I was trapped in. And every day I thank Him for it.

How do you see porn? Do you think it affects people as much as I do?

 

Marvelous Halloween Weekend

Halloween at church

yTBhfbDThis past Sunday was a blast! Captain America, Black Widow, Antman, and Dr. Strange all made an appearance at my church (Free Church)! And almost every kid was dressed up either as their favorite superhero or their favorite character. Historically, church and holidays like Halloween have been kept separated. Many traditional churches don’t even acknowledge Halloween, or they say it’s evil and try to encourage their members to not participate in the holiday.

While I grew up attending very traditional Catholic churches and schools, my parents always let me dress up as who (or what) I wanted to be (other than when I was a toddler and they dressed me as a strawberry). I actually trick or treated through high school, well beyond the normal age limit for trick or treating. But I never saw the holiday as an evil tradition. If anything, it was one of my favorite days of the year since I got to dress up as someone else and I got to collect candy.

I think it’s cool and important to recognize and celebrate Halloween inside and out of church. One way to think about it, we are celebrating the eve of All Saints Day, which is a day to recognize the saints.

Marvelous Superheroes

marvelous halloween

Not only does Free Church recognize Halloween, it also celebrates it by bringing in the good guys and gals. The Avengers are some of the best superheroes out there! They make great role-models as they fight crime and protect the good guys. Children and adults alike can look up to these superheroes, very similar in many ways to looking up to Jesus and His teachings. I see the similarities between Jesus and superheroes and can honestly say that I admire and look up to both. This is one reason why I love to dress up as a superhero.

Another reason is that feeling when a kid recognizes the superhero you are and wants to be just like you. I love seeing people smile and feel safe around me (or Black Widow). In general, I love to dress up though as any character that I can pull off. (I.E. Wonder Woman or Han Solo)

Who’s your favorite superhero? Do you like to dress up? Who are you being for Halloween?

See more pictures from this event HERE

Have a happy, safe and ghoulish Halloween!