Farewell, My Friend: Love, Grief, + Lessons Through Pet Loss

In the wee hours of 08-07-19 I bid my final farewell to the love of my life, my best friend, my kid, my constant companion, my Josie. As I type this, I feel her spirit in the wind.

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In some ways, I have no words. My tears continuously stream. My heart hurts. My stomach gnaws. My head aches. I’m emotionally drained. Physically exhausted. And I feel completely lost without my counterpart. In other ways, I don’t have enough words to describe the depths and the breadth of our bond. The dependency. The understanding. The love. And the beauty. I don’t know whose eyes will read this. Honestly, I don’t really care; I’m writing this post for me. For her. To celebrate my baby’s precious life. To allow myself to cry out while I write it. To take the time to process the last 17 years with her. To heal. And to maybe let our love story touch some hearts.

I remember the day I saw her six-week-old little face, eyes wide, tail wagging. I was interning at the Humane Society. Josie and her dad were found wandering the streets as strays and taken to the shelter. They both came home with me that day. Josie sat snugly between my legs as I drove. My parents cared for Sammy until he passed on a couple of years ago. Josie, well, I was blessed to call her my own.

We’ve been through a lot together, me + my Josie. She was my constant rock through college, grad school, 6 moves, 3 surgeries, marriage, divorce, post-dating adventures, unemployment, financial devastation, a variety of health challenges, and also a myriad of joys and growth. Through the ups and downs, she never left my side. And I never left hers.

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In 2013 Josie had her own health scares. For about two years we were chronic patients at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center (PVSEC) trying to uncover the root cause of her Hypercalcemia. From Internal Medicine to Oncology to Surgery - Josie was her own little medical mystery. One day I woke up in a panic when I noticed she was jaundiced. I rushed her to the emergency hospital where she had a 4 day stay in liver failure. I remember the fear I felt thinking I was losing her, the absolute despair felt so deeply in my soul. I prayed Scripture over her body for healing. I worked on my own attachment issues to this little creature. And when I went for my daily visit on that 4th day, the veterinarian told me that there was an unexplained miracle. Josie’s liver enzymes were normalizing and her Hypercalcemia was gone. My girl was restored and made whole again. I praised God for my precious miracle. $10,000+ out of pocket and no medical explanation, but I got to cherish six additional years with my beloved angel. I can never thank God enough for that miracle.

Josie was a funny little pup. Super smart. Sweeter than pie. Routine oriented. Haughty at times. A firecracker. Tough. Cuddly. Loyal. Concerned. Warm. Playful. Protective. Full of personality. And boy, I don’t think we’ll ever forget the day Josie ate “Squirmy” - the first ever pet for the 4 neighbor children - a hamster they had just brought home the day before. Those poor kids are still probably traumatized as I recall them screaming, crying, and running in all different directions while Josie swallowed up their Squirmy in one big gulp! But years later, at least we can all look back and laugh, remembering Josie and all of quirks!

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Over the past two years I watched Josie age and decline. Lyme Disease affected her joints. She began to have difficulty ambulating. Most of the time you would find me carrying my girl around from point A to point B as her own personal Uber; she was worth every lift. She had been there for me through so much, so I knew I had to be there for her in her time of great need. Josie deserved nothing short of a great life full of dignity. When her limbs stopped working, she got a stroller. We called them her new “legs”. She loved her new wheels and soon the whole neighborhood knew and adored Josie as they watched her smile wide as she felt the wind against her face and made new friends. She would whimper to tell me what she needed. But towards the end, I didn’t know what she needed anymore. I began to feel helpless and I started to see cognitive decline. I tried CBD oil, tinctures, anti-inflammatories, you name it. I knew I was losing my girl. I knew I didn’t have much time. And slowly I began to prepare myself to say goodbye.

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I was intentional about being present with her. We would go on our evening strolls, sit on the benches and watch the water fountain. We’d have conversations only ever intended for her and me. My favorite time was waking up in the morning with her next to me. I never rushed my wake-up call. I’d wrap my arms around her to cuddle, she’d stretch out her body and then lay her face directly on top of mine. I would place my hands on her belly, listen to her breathe, smell all of her “stink” and try to permanently engrave all of it into my heart and mind to ensure I never forget. I wish I had her here with me. I miss her so much. My home doesn’t feel like my home without her. And my insides don’t feel whole without her either.

Someone once told me that DOG is spelled GOD backwards. That always brought me comfort. I know God specifically placed Josie in my life so that we had each other on our journeys. She taught me so much about life: patience, responsibility, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, perseverance, and unconditional love. She was a part of me in every way. And she always will be. I grieve so heavily, and yet I consider my grief as a blessing because it speaks directly to the great love I got to share with my best friend.

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Two weeks prior to our goodbye, I had a small surgery. I wasn’t able to carry Josie like I usually do, so she strolled with me everywhere. A girl in my building told me she watched us one morning and it moved her to tears to see our tender love. On the day of our goodbye, another woman thanked me for caring for Josie the way I did. Just yesterday another neighbor told me that she couldn’t stop thinking about me and Josie after she heard the news. She, too, would watch us on our walks. I am comforted that our bond was witnessed by so many. The night after I let her go, I grabbed Josie’s collar and went for a drive. I didn’t know where I was headed, but as I pulled out of the parking lot, a huge rainbow shined in front of me and I was overwhelmed with peace. I know Josie was telling me that she is okay, that she is in Rainbow Bridge, youthful again, pain-free, playful and waiting for the time that we meet again.

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My heart feels shattered, but I feel so incredibly blessed to have shared life and love with my Josie. She was my kid in every way. And I’m honored that I got to be her mom for 17 short years. She is forever embedded into my being, making me a better human today. She was so much more than a dog. Josie was God’s special touch in my life, a way for Him to show me His great love for me. To teach me many great lessons. And to remember to cherish every moment, because they go by so fast.

I love you forever, Josie Lee. Sweet Josie. Cozy Josie. Boobah. Puppaluffagus. Puppers. Dearface. Birdy. Lovey. Pooby. Josephiney. My kid. You left your mark in my life and you are deeply missed, but I know I carry you with me. Thank you for everything you gave to me. Have fun in Rainbow Bridge. Until we meet again, my beloved friend.




























Single, Party of One: Peace, Purpose, + Clarity in the Solitude

3 months ago I deleted my online dating apps. I haven’t looked back since.

Full disclosure. I’ve been hesitant to write about this topic, but God has a funny way about Him. I have a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I was married. Later divorced. And then back into the throes of dating in my mid-thirties. It’s been on my heart to start sharing, but I wanted to be careful about my approach. I didn’t want to come off bitter, hurt, broken, or a “man hater” because I’m not. Actually, I’m the complete opposite. I love men. Like, really love them. And if anything, I’ve grown grateful for them. Recently, I’ve actually had a few people (both men and women!) request that I start sharing more about dating and relationships; the confirmation needed for me to start authentically sharing about recent life. While it hasn’t always fun, maybe God has been lining everything up for a bigger purpose? Maybe His hand has been writing every detail of my story to get me right here, exactly where I’m meant to be? I believe it has.

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The Passion-Filled Life: Cheers to 2019!

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The past few weeks I’ve been a bit of a hermit.  On purpose.  I took some time to be still and reflect on the highs + lows of 2018.  My missteps.  My shortcomings.  My victories.  My growth.  And where I want my focus in 2019.  My hopes.  The areas of my life where I still see God challenging me.  The accomplishments I hope to achieve.  And the person I continue to hope I become.   

Each year I choose a word.  A word that has significance in my life.  In 2018 that word was BELIEVE.  Guys + gals, I love life - everything about it.   But as I’ve mentioned before, the past few years have been a real bitch to say the least!  To be completely authentic with you, I hit some real low points over the past year.  I knew coming into 2018 that I was going to have to believe in God’s faithfulness more than ever, because honestly, I hadn’t yet seen him deliver in my life the ways I felt I needed Him most.  It’s those critical moments when we feel completely stripped that our faith is put to the test.  How are we going to respond?  Do we give up, wallow, or persevere like the warriors we were created to be?  I will always choose to be a warrior.  That’s what my parents taught me.  And coming off of Christmas, that’s exactly why God sent us His Son in Jesus Christ.  So that He could bare our sins and shortcomings so that we could have life.  He has already fought all of our battles so that we can be victorious.  And so, I will continue choosing to BELIEVE.  That I am free.  That He has my hand.  That He has a beautiful story laid out for me as the Author of my life.  And at the end of my story, which is ultimately His, I win.  All to glorify Him - my loving and faithful Father.  And guess what? He has continued to refine me over the past year (that's a beautiful thing!) and there were also many high notes! I'm grateful for it all; He is oh so good. All the time.

So as we close 2018, here’s 3 ways God delivered:

  1. I learned to embrace + accept my solitude and singleness by choosing Jesus first.  Not gonna lie, it’s hard to be 35 + single when all of your friends are married and/or with children.  My life looks completely different; it’s not my ideal.  And being totally raw with you, I struggled with it at times over this past year.  There were moments when the silence in my life was deafening, and so I turned to the dating scene which ultimately proved to be disappointing.  But through some missteps of opening myself up to a few relationships which weren’t up to par or worthy of my attention…I found myself back with God.  And I realized that I am perfectly content with this season of my life. I’ve enjoyed the rest and the tranquility. So for now, I’m grateful for Jesus as my true Romancer, teaching me my worth and preparing me for the time that He unveils the righteous + worthy man for me.  And I refuse to settle for less than.

  2. I turned 35 and God showed me the art of living.  By having a voice.  By standing up for what He wants for me as His beloved daughter.  By going against the grain at times.  By being bold and unpredictable.  By having fun.  And by freaking laughing at the humor of it all.  So as Proverbs 31:25 was etched in my heart over the past year, so it was etched on my forearm with my first (and last according to my dad) tattoo:  “She laughs.” 

  3. Prayer after prayer for a new opportunity in my career, and God delivered.  I rekindled a friendship with an old co-worker all because of my tattoo - and through her, I received a great job opportunity that uses my education and experiences, provides me health benefits (after two years of having none), monthly bonus opportunities, and the chance to finally work my way to get ahead instead of in a hole.  Praise Jesus!

So here we are, about to embark on a new journey in 2019, and I have a new word to live by:  PASSION.  I saw a great definition of what this word means - “a willingness to suffer for what you love.”  The best example of this being the passion of Jesus Christ.  And with that being said, not settling for a life that is mediocre.  I want all the feels this life has to offer.  I want pursuit.  I want love.  I want goosebumps.  I want greatness.  I want PASSION!  And that’s what I choose in the coming 12 months.  With fire in my heart and sacrifice, I will live passionately in my faith, in my work, in my relationships, in my health, and in my creativity. 

And here are a few of my passion goals:

  1. Pay off my debts and be a better steward of God’s resources. 

  2. Recommit to my wellness ways - clean up my eating, exercise (even if a little) daily, and maybe lose a few healthy pounds. 

  3. Continue to choose God first and follow with intentional obedience.  Be open to His new opportunities.

  4. Live boldly + creatively.   I’ll be writing more + more. Providing more content. Picking back up on a creative project that requires me to learn a new skill.  And after a few gray hairs surfaced this past week (eek!), I’m thinking of a big change-up.  I’m thinking a blonde version of me in 2019!?!? Yay/Nay?

  5. Read more.  Learn more.  Grow more.

  6. Take faith-calculated risks. 

  7. Love with my whole heart.  And be loved by a whole heart.

  8. Be in the Bible daily.  The Word is alive!

  9. Get involved with a charity or volunteer organization.

  10. Remember this: more of Him, less of me. Period.

So what do you think?  Do you want to join me by living a passion-filled 2019?   

Cheers to a great year ahead!

xx

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5)

“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul.  It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows.  The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.” (Audrey Hepburn)

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” (Maya Angelou)



 

Grit, Grace, + Tattoos: How God Can Create A Miracle Through The Little Things

A tattoo. Yep, just another out-of-box experience for me since turning 35.

I wanted to take a risk. I wanted out of my comfort zone. I wanted to do something a little unpredictable. My best friend and I both happened to be off on a random Tuesday and we decided to be spontaneous and go for it. I knew the placement of the tattoo on my left forearm. I knew it was going to SAY something. And I knew it was going to STAND for something. But honestly, it wasn’t until that Tuesday morning that God spoke clearly to me.

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“She laughs.”

Yessss!  It became clear.  That was it.  I felt peace and a smile was plastered on my face as Erin and I rushed to the tattoo studio, late, stuck in traffic.  (Yeah, yeah…I know, I’m always late!  I swear, I’m working on it!)

You might be asking, why “She laughs”? 

If you’ve read my blog before, you probably know the past several years have been…well, to be perfectly frank, pretty dang hellish.  I’d like to refer to it as a VERY long season of pruning.  I was stripped at every level.  Health, heartbreak, career, finances, and it felt like with each passing day, it was more loss and disappointment.  My faith was tested.  I was exhausted.  I grew discouraged.  But while I would allow the space for tears, I kept meditating on Proverbs 31:25.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, she laughs at the days to come.” 

I would keep moving forward.  Even with the faith of a mustard seed.  I made the decision to live from a posture of joy, hope, love, and faith.  I promised myself that I would laugh and smile my way through this life, trusting God’s faithfulness.  That He has me in the palm of His hand.  That He loves me so much as His beloved daughter that He has only the best planned for me in my life.  The best job for me and my skills and experiences.  A healed body.  A loving, trusting relationship with a strong man of character.  Joy and abundance.  Opportunity.  When all is stripped, there is no other way than to rebuild.  And rebuild is what I have done.  With each passing loss, I have gained.  And I will continue to gain.  No matter how badly it hurts.  And no matter how many times I get pinned down.  I will get up with style and grace.  I will smile.  And I will laugh. 

So let’s talk miracles.  I believe in miracles both big and small.  I believe they surround us everywhere; we encounter them everyday.  And even when we don’t notice them, they’re there.  Waiting for us. 

I noticed an old co-worker following the tattoo studio I went to on Instagram.  And so for whatever reason, I decided to reach out to her.  And through our conversation about tattoos, we began to catch up on life.  And she shared with me a job opening at work.  A job that sounded like a perfect fit for me.  A job that would use the education, skills, and experiences I’ve acquired over the years.  A job that would provide more stability.  A job that would allow for growth and opportunity.  And job that would provide me benefits (after having NONE for the past two years...ick). 

I applied.  I interviewed.  I got the job.  And I start on Monday.

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I reconnected with an old co-worker.  Learned about an opportunity.  Took advantage of the opportunity by acting on it.  And accepted a job offer that will redirect my path in a very positive way and help me continue the rebuilding process.  All from the crazy decision to get a tattoo on a random Tuesday. 

And I laughed. 

Alas, my big miracle!  Thank you, Jesus!  But if I’m being totally truthful, God was with me all along.  In the midst of the little things.  Preparing + refining me.  Teaching me a valuable lesson about grace.  Strengthening me.  Perfecting me.  These too, miracles within. 

Listen closely…He is with us in the ashes.  He seeks us out of hiding.  He carries us.  And He rejoices with us.  If you are in your own season of pruning right now - know that I feel for you.  My life is not perfect.  It has been messy.  I have not always made the best decisions. I have had moments when I have grown angry with God.  I have yearned for the desires of my heart.  And I have been disappointed and heartbroken.  But here I am, a warrior, here to tell you that you are too!  Look for the glimmers of beauty.  The rays of hope.  The windows of opportunity.  Miracles are here.  Waiting for you.  For the perfect time.  To change everything.  All because of Him.

Grit, grace, + tattoos, oh how I thank thee.  You’ve allowed me to witness God, the Miracle Maker in action…in the little things.  After pruning comes a great harvest.  Get ready for a season of abundance, because it’s ready for you + me.  Laughing.

xx.

 "The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.  The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.  The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." (Psalm 145:13‭-‬16)

 

Missile-Proof Your Mornings!

You've probably heard of Bullet-proof Coffee. It's all the rage these days for those on the Keto bandwagon. It's thought to take your morning coffee to the next level by adding a healthy dose of fats (butter + MCT oil) to your caffeine.

What are the supposed benefits? Bullet-proof coffee triggers weight loss by kicking your body into ketosis - the metabolic state triggered by lack of carbs which leads the body into a fat-burning state. It's also thought to increase energy, boost cognitive function, maintain mental clarity, and suppress hunger. 

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I see the appeal here, and while I do believe this can definitely help with weight loss...I don't believe ketosis is a healthy state for everyone, all the time (sorry, haters!). If you know me, you know me and my body tend to go against the grain. So, let me introduce you to an alternative: "Missile-Proof" Cacao.

Look, coffee isn't good for everyone. I personally can't drink it; it inflames my entire body. Other possible side effects for those sensitive are insomnia, nervousness, upset stomach, nausea, heart palpitations,  agitation, and headaches. If this speaks to you, Crio Bru Brewed Cacao might be an option for you.

I love a good morning routine. And there is something heavenly about a warm mug of goodness when I wake up that brings me comfort. Crio Bru is roasted cocoa beans (cacao). You brew it just like coffee and it has the aroma and taste of pure, rich dark chocolate - and who doesn't love that?! The cacao has less caffeine than a cup of decaf and contains theobromine, a naturally occurring stimulant without the harsh highs and lows of caffeine. It works in harmony with your body giving a mild long-lasting energy without the jitteriness. 

Cacao is also considered a superfood loaded with nutrients + high in magnesium (most of us are deficient). Cacao is thought to give the immune system a boost, assist in weight loss, increase focus, reduce stress, and help you sleep! 

 So where does the "Missile-Proof" come into play? By adding 100% pure cacao butter chips! The cacao butter has a significant amount of polyphenol antioxidants that, again, support the immune system, improve heart health, + decrease inflammation. The healthy fats help to kick that ketosis!

You have to determine your body's needs and I'm certainly not a long-term keto fan, but if coffee is an ixnay and you still want that morning jumpstart, you may want to give "Missile-Proof" Crio Bru a whirl. See if it works for you, and let me know what you think!

Happy mornings to you!

"Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul" (3 John 1:2). 

xx

 

 

Happy 35: A Life Crisis or An Awakening?

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This past weekend I did yoga with goats, smoked a cigar at a cigar bar, drank beer (maybe two), and ate all kinds of glutenous things (and enjoyed it!).  Those who know me might ask what the freak is going on with me!?  And some might even call me a hypocrite after all my healthy, wellness ways.  

Today I'm 35.  For the past few months I've dreaded this birthday.  Somehow 35 seemed catastrophic.  And maybe you can understand why...

35 and divorced.  35 with no kids.  35 with a genetic mutation that makes childbearing difficult and already risky.  35 and still chasing my dreams.  35 and still struggling to stand on my feet as a single woman.  35 and not where I had hoped to be at this age.  My life looks NOTHING like I thought it would.  Not. At. All.  Do ya get me?

34 was rough + tough.  To be brutally honest, the past several years have been.  I was hit at every angle.  You name it, I've probably endured it.  And while I tried to model grace, it wasn't pretty every day.  Some days I would come home fatigued and allow myself to crumble at the foot of God.  I would cry, I would feel weak, I would feel discouraged, angry, and maybe even question Him.  Lord, what the heck are you doing???  Why do I feel like I am being stripped?

 But you know what?   Those raw moments of vulnerability--I wouldn't take them back.  The past few years have tested me, yet somehow my faith has remained, and I have smiled the whole way through it.  Because those were the very precise precious moments when I felt God draw so near.  And as He peeled back layer after layer of my being, I felt more "me" than ever before.  Stronger knowing His power reigns within me.  More confident in my walk with Him.  Peace even when life felt unsteady.  Joy even in the moments of despair.  Hope in the goodness I know life has yet to bring.  And all of it - ALL OF IT - absolute beauty.  I credit my faith in God for giving me my warrior spirit - He who loves me so purely and tenderly even in my weaknesses + imperfections, and even when I stumble and lose sight of Him.

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 I have learned so much.  I have grown so much.  And because of it...because of all that I have lost...I can now regain and fully experience life.  Each cherished moment of it.  As I dreadfully approached 35, I realized that I was allowing an age to label me.  I was permitting a # to define my life.  And then it hit me how silly I was being.  Because through all the ups + downs, I am so appreciative of WHO God has made me.  And how even though my life looks differently than I had envisioned, I love my life!  I love the journey.  I love the people.  I love God.  And I love ME!

So, if you’re feeling a little down and you aren’t quite where you wish to be, I want to share 10 quick tips that I’ve acquired to help embrace this thing called life.

1.         Remember to breathe.  Close your eyes.  Drop your shoulders away from your ears.  Open your chest and inhale deeply into your belly through your nose. Feel your rib cage expand with air.  Hold your breath for a moment.  And exhale completely.  Wow, does that feel good or what!?  I remember when I first started to practice Pilates, the teacher would have to remind me repeatedly – drop your shoulders, drop your shoulders, drop your shoulders.  Remember to breathe, remember to breathe, remember to breathe.  Those are the same shoulders that carried my daily stress.  And I began to realize that when I hiked my shoulders up to my ears and forgot to breathe, I wasn’t allowing space for oxygen-rich nutrients to enter my cells.  I literally had to practice the act of breathing.  And with time, and focus, and maybe a little Pilates, I began to breathe with more ease.  My shoulders felt lighter.  I gained strength in my core.  My mind and body felt more relaxed.  And I began to carry myself with more confidence.  Remember to breathe deep, cleansing breaths!  It calms the central nervous system, lowers blood pressure, decreases the effects of stress, and aids in better sleep!  Drop your shoulders.  Remember to breathe. 

2.        Remind yourself to be present.  Stop worrying about yesterday.  Stop worrying about tomorrow.  And as you remember to breathe (see above), take in this exact moment.  Because this, this right here, is all that you are guaranteed.   Fully experience the now.  Who are you with?  What do you see?  What do you smell?  What do you feel?  Be mindful to breathe it all in.  Press the pause button and sit in this very moment for a little while.  Appreciate it.  Love it.  Be thankful for it. 

3.        Allow yourself to be vulnerable.  This is hard.  As a recovering perfectionist, I always say that I used to have my life in a box wrapped in pretty, sparkly wrapping paper with the most perfect bow on top.  That was the image I put before the world.  I have all my sh$t together.  My life is perfect.  I am perfect.  And it was exhausting and couldn’t be further from the truth.  When I began to deepen my love relationship with God, He helped me to see with His eyes that my imperfections were beautiful.  They gave me character.  They made me human.  And that by being open and honest, sharing my story with others was darn liberating.  And now I can walk in confidence accepting myself as perfectly imperfect.  Allow yourself to be vulnerable – your life is a magnificent story to be told.  And you’ll see that people appreciate your vulnerabilities and love you just the same.

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4.       Ask for help when you need it.  Be open with the people that love you.  Talk to them.  Cry with them.  Allow them to help you.  As a therapist and wellness coach, I’ve always struggled to admit when I need encouragement, confrontation, and help myself!  But my life circumstances have humbled me so much.  And if I am asking for people to let me help them daily, I too must be open to letting others help me.  I began to see just how deeply I am loved by my family and friends.  They believed in me.  They pushed me.  And my heart was so moved by their love for me.  Let others help you when you need it.  And may your heart be touched like mine.  For those who have helped me, in whatever capacity, you know who you are.  Thank you. 

5.        You can reframe any situation.  A shift in perspective; it’s all you need.  I swear.  Try it.  Label yourself a victim.  Then label yourself a victor.  Label yourself as alone, lost, and abandoned.  Then label yourself as loved, found, and never alone.  Remind yourself of the truth of God.  It will never fail you.  And it will give you life. 

6.       Have fun.  Get out and do something new.  I don’t care what it is.  I am not an opera fan, but it’s not about the opera.  It’s about the experience.  Go with someone you love and care about, have fun, and enjoy the EXPERIENCE.  Make memories.  Now that’s what I call living. 

7.       Look for the glimmers of beauty.  I know, sometimes we fall into moments of hopelessness.  When finding “the good” seems like a feat.  But I promise, glimmers of beauty lie underneath.  Look for them.  A smile.  An encounter.  A conversation.  People that care.  The breath of life in your lungs at this very moment.  Trust me, beauty is always here in the midst.  Open your eyes.  Open your ears.  Open your heart.

8.       Laugh.  Laughing heals.  Stop taking everything so seriously.  Be silly.  Loosen up.  Find the humor even in the serious things of life.  Roll around.  Dance around.  Joke around.  Just freaking laugh!

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9.       Believe.  Trust that your Creator has a plan for you.  A plan to prosper you and not harm you.  A plan to give you hope and a future.  Set your intention on that which is good.  And believe.  Believe in abundance.  Believe in opportunity.  Believe in greatness.  Believe in love.  When you believe, you open yourself up to receiving.  Be ready for it. 

10.    Show yourself love + grace.  You are an exquisite masterpiece.  You are worthy and valuable.  God loves you.  God forgives you.  God sets your free.  So how about you stop all forms of self-sabotage and show yourself some love and compassion.  Honor your body.  Rest.  Pamper yourself.  Surround yourself with good people.  Pray.  And pleeeeaaaasssseee show yourself some love and grace.

So yeah, what the freak is going on with me!?  An awakening. that's what!  I want to squeeze every drop outta this life.  And maybe living well is about balance and actually LIVING!  So if I want to get dirty in the field with some goats, so be it.  If I want to have a cigar every once in a great while, I will.  If I want to celebrate with a rare beer, cheers!  If I want to indulge in gluten today...maybe I will deal with some consequences, but for today, it tasted good.  I am all about healthy living; with my occasional autoimmune challenges, I most definitely have to be.  But my birthday is about my gratitude for life.  And boy am I grateful for it all.  My life might not look like I wanted it to today, but I am joyful and hopeful for the greatness yet to come.  And here I wait with anticipation and open arms.  Happy 35.  

xx.

 

 

 

All the Heavy Stuff + How we Find the Light

Totally vibing this song and album by Josh Garrels for #musicmonday. All kinds of feels and reflection to start the week. On point 👌.

There has been a lot of talk about anxiety, depression, drugs + suicide after the events of the past week. My family has personally been affected by such a loss and it has forever changed me. This is heavy stuff. And it's reality. The reality that life weighs so heavy upon us in this world. That sometimes we feel like we are suffocating. Alone. Overwhelmed. Searching. Wanting more. Trying to escape. To fulfill. And yet we are still left feeling empty.

That used to be me. I was beyond a perfectionist. A so-called "goody-goody". I felt like I had to put on a show to the world. I tried desperately to fit in the box of expectations established by society. And yet I was so lost. Quiet. Fearful. I was searching for answers in all the wrong places. It wasn't until I surrendered,  opened my heart to Jesus,  followed Him with intentional obedience,  embraced the love He had for me,  accepted the forgiveness He extended to me,  laid down my life as He laid down His,  and returned the paintbrush to His creative hands that everything clicked. I felt peace. I was given a voice. I stood with confidence. I was unrattled. I appreciated and loved life in all its forms. I became whole. And I could finally feel joy and see beauty even in the midst of pain. I was set free.

If you feel the depths of despair right now,  know that you are never alone. Never forgotten. Never abandoned. You are so, so loved. With every breath of life in your lungs, you are meant to be here. You matter. You have a great purpose. Please,  please don't give up on yourself.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back from captivity.” (Jeremiah 29:11‭-‬14)

Just like the song sings,  farther along, we'll know all about it. Farther along,  we'll understand. So in the meantime, please get connected. Speak up. Share your story. Let your gifts surface. Accept love + help. Open your heart,  get on your knees,  and pour yourself out to God. Know that He captures every single one of your tears. He hurts when you hurt. He wants to carry you. He has already fought your battles and won for you. And He rejoices over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17) no matter how many times you fall. Fix your eyes vertically on Him and He will direct your path.

Know that there are people that care. Know that I am one. Never hesitate to reach out. Friends,  we cannot lose sight that we are His church. We are His hands + feet. We are here to serve others and extend compassion. To love. The answer is always to love...and that love IS God. That is how we find light and beauty in the rubble. Let us never forget.

 xx

Who the Heck + What the Heck?!

Who the heck am I?!

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  • Beloved daughter of the Highest King
  • Jesus lover first
  • Doting dog mom to sweet baby Josie
  • Pilates junkie
  • #worshipmusicobsessed
  • Recovering perfectionist (who occasionally relapses)
  • Matcha latte mornings
  • Rainbow chaser
  • Devotionals on the balcony are my early morning jam
  • Peace seeker
  • Getting caught in a rain storm exhilarates me 
  • I eat lunch/dinner for breakfast
  • Overcomer
  • Leap of faith jumper (I've learned that I'm more of a risk taker than I ever knew...)
  • Fave quote - "Feel the fear and do it anyway" (Susan Jeffers)
  • Proverbs 31 woman - "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come" (vs 25)
  • Lover of all things love...I doodle hearts...
  • Spirit led, spontaneous writing is my favorite
  • The hardest moments of my life have been the most profound
  • Believer that miracles are everywhere, all the time
  • Fascinated by the healing process
  • Food is thy medicine and medicine is thy food
  • Striver of simplistic living
  • Co-author of book From Pain to Purpose

Credentials:

B.A., Psychology/Communication from Duquesne University

M.S.Ed., Marriage + Family Therapy from Duquesne University

INHC, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition

Cellular Expansion + Healing Practitioner from The Vanati Center for Energy Medicine

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What the heck is Mind. Body. Jesus.?!

I worked as a therapist and researcher in the mental health field.  I saw a real need when I noticed that the majority of my clients being seen for mental health also struggled with some form of a chronic illness or health condition.  I could equip clients with a toolbox of skills, but if they ate like crap, I knew they would continue to feel like crap.  If they didn't move their bodies and get exercise, they wouldn't feel strong and confident to fight the battles they faced.  If they didn't have Jesus, would they ever be set free from past regrets, know how incredibly loved they are, experience peace and joy even in the storms of life, and find meaning in the ups + downs?

Mind. Body. Jesus. is the embodiment of the human experience.  The mind considers our mental and emotional well-being.  The body is our physical health and how we care for it through food and movement.  Jesus satisfies our spiritual need to find forgiveness, love, wisdom, freedom, strength, peace, and purpose through all things.  Each facet is absolutely necessary to attain "whole health" and healing.  No part can be ignored if we want to achieve true health and wellness.  

I work with my clients to bring balance to imbalance. To bring alignment to what is misaligned.  To find direction when lost.  To find wholeness from brokenness.  To bring restoration to that which needs repaired.  To walk with confidence and no longer insecurity.  To love, not hate.  To bring healing to injury.  To find peace in unrest.  To stand as victor, not victim.  To stand with faith, not fear.  To be unshakeable instead of shaken.  To stand with strength not stumble from weakness.  And to find joy in the midst of pain.  

When life is a dichotomy of good + bad, we remain whole. 

And that, my friends, is who and what the heck!  

In mind, body, + Jesus,

Lauren 

xx

Why I Toss Protocol in the Trash

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I got beef.  With the wellness industry.  With diets.  With fads.  With super foods.  With protocol. Call me crazy.  And maybe you will (and that's okay).  But here's why.

If you know my story, you know I wasn't physically well.  I struggled with various health challenges since I was 16 years old. I had severe digestive issues that spiraled out of control which led to anxiety and depression.  I had irregular menstrual cycles, prolonged bleeding (sometimes lasting 45 days), hormonal imbalances.  Nausea.  Skin rashes and breakouts.  Weight gain and rapid weight loss.  Difficulty putting sentences together.  Worsening food allergies.  Bone and joint pain.  Excessive fatigue.  When I was married, I was told my body was unable to sustain a healthy pregnancy.  And at my worst, trembling in my hands.  I was terrified.  I didn't know what was happening to me.  Nobody did.  Not even the doctors that were supposed to have all of the answers.  

Years of questioning and frustration led me on a path to become my own healthcare advocate.  Instead of wallowing.  Instead of being paralyzed by fear.  Instead of giving up.  I took matters into my own hands.  I researched.  I talked to wellness experts.  I enrolled in an integrative nutrition program.  And I set out on a journey to make changes in my life.  Healthy changes.  I was paving my own way towards healing.  

Gluten free.  Grain free.  Soy free.  Egg free.  Dairy Free.  Hemp.  Turmeric.  Lots and lots of kale.  Raw juices.  Detox programs.  Wheatgrass shots.  Supplements.  Fermented foods.  You name it.  

Yeah, I lost weight.  Rapidly.  But I got worse.  My symptoms intensified.  How?  Why?  I was doing everything right!  I was living a healthy lifestyle!  I fell to my knees, crying out to God for help.   

What I learned is that I had a genetic mutation that was working against me.  My body wasn't able to eliminate toxins like a "normal" person without the mutation.  Our fat cells store toxins.  And as I would lose weight, those toxins were released into my body, circulating throughout my bloodstream without an exit strategy.  What resulted was underlying inflammation which led to some pretty serious health challenges.  As I got an understanding for my body, I was able to make appropriate changes that were safe for me and my body's needs.  But those changes did not include fad foods or specific trending protocols.  It included an intuitiveness and the knowing of my own body with the help of a humble practitioner I found who did things the old school way (no receptionist, no computer, not even an answering machine - say whaaat?!).  He wasn't in it for the money, for the fame, for the sale of his product.  He was in it to peel back the layers of the one + only me.  And guess who was in the driver's seat?  God + me.  

Here's a dose of truth.  Dr. So and So's general protocol wasn't going to help me.  They didn't know my body like me.  They didn't know my underlying genetics.  And the fact is, our bodies are living and dynamic, ever changing.  What I need today may not be what I need tomorrow.  And so forth.  Two people can be diagnosed with the same exact condition, but they may require two very different forms of treatment based on their unique body's needs.  It's called Bioindividuality.  And we need to keep it in mind on the healing journey.  

Here's what else I want to tell you.  Sometimes when our health spirals out of control and we are looking for answers, [x] diagnosis becomes something we identify with.  And on our quest for answers, our practitioners or certain products and/or supplements easily become our lifeline, our God.  The end all be all.  The source of our healing.  The answer we seek.  

Now, please know that I am not bashing practitioners.  They have been blessed with a set of gifts in order to diagnose and bring treatment options to the table for those suffering with health conditions.  But I don't want us to get lost and lose our focus on two important facts.  

1.  You are not your diagnosis.  

2.  God is ultimate Healer.

Be firm in who God says you are.  I have seen far too many chronic illness "online chatrooms" that only confuse, overwhelm, and scare its members.  Many, many members then allow fear to consume them and rule their lives, filling them with lies of who they are.  They live labeled by their diagnosis.  Not all, but I do believe many practitioners prey on these fears.  I fell for it too.  And that's why I do things differently in my practice.   

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Your Creator never called you by your diagnosis.  He called you, Beloved.   And He wants you to experience an abundant life, regardless of your circumstances.  Receive it!  Sometimes this abundance takes form of healing miracles.  Sometimes spiritual growth.  Sometimes beauty in the midst of chaos.  Sometimes bringing hope and inspiration to others facing similar trials.  But you were saved by blood shed so that you could experience abundance.  Live it.  Feel it.  Believe it.

So, I'm here to say, rise above protocol.  Get to know your body.  Take a stand for it.  Love it + nourish it with God's Truth and the food and movement that only your body knows it needs.  Open yourself to healing and grace.  Turn to the only One.  Let go of labels.  And allow Him to lead you on your path towards wellness.  

Peace, Love, + Healing!

xx

[If interested in learning more, head on over to "Contact" and send me over a quick message!  I'd love to hear from you!]

 

Dear Captor of my Heart

Dear Captor of my Heart:

Whoever you are, I'm not sure we've met yet...but I know you're out there somewhere.  I feel you.  It's almost as if time and space have been obliterated and somehow we are connected.  And I hope that you are okay.  I pray you feel peace.  I pray that you are full of joy.  I pray you are overwhelmed with love.  

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Today I am single and I celebrate Valentine's Day without you.  I bought myself roses and little cheesecakes shaped in hearts; I treated myself.  No, I'm not throwing myself a pity party and it's certainly not because I feel sad.  It's because I am whole.  And with or without you, my heart is content.  I have walked into my worthiness as a woman.  I now carry myself as a daughter of the Highest King.  I know who I am.  I know what I stand for.  I know what I won't settle for.  And I know what I'm waiting for, with you.  

I want you to know something.  I need you to be strong.  I need you to know that as God's son, you are called to lead me.  To carry me.  To be of wisdom.  To cherish me.  To honor me.  To love me deeply, passionately, and sacrificially.  

Don't get me wrong; I too am strong.  I am a resilient warrior, an overcomer, a victor because of Christ.  But while my feet are firmly planted in The Word and I wear the armor of God each and every day...sometimes I stumble.  I have moments of despair.  I have times when I need you to hold me.  To come alongside me.  To challenge me.  To encourage me.  To push me. To point me to Truth. To love me. To be my other half.

Know that you are worthy of my love just as you are worthy of God's.  You are His handiwork.  You are a leader.  You have His muscle; His power is within you.  And so I pray you walk with confidence.  No, not arrogance, my love.  But quiet confidence, knowing that you have God and me right alongside you.  When we look at you, we can't help but smile at the man you have become.  I know your life hasn't always been easy.  I know you have been through the trenches.  I know you have suffered loss and heartbreak.  And I know you feel broken at times.  Lost.  Lonely. Even afraid.  But I want you to know, my sweet, you were never abandoned.  God has been right there beside you, pouring out His compassion and extending His grace for all that guilt and shame you carry.  You are released from that bondage.  You have been set free.  And He will guide you.  He will love you.  No matter what. 

I know you feel pain, Handsome.  Maybe even insecurity at times.  But I want you to know that your life is a beautiful story.  All of the wounds.  All of the pain.  The darkness I know you want to forget.  But all along, there has been a glimmer of beauty, of light.  All of it has been equipping you for this very moment.  Preparing you.  Refining you.  Readying your feet to lead others, to inspire, to provide hope.  Your story, my courageous man, is meant to leave a major impact in this world.  It is meant to glorify God.  It is integral in the telling of His story.  And it is meant to bring others to our Father's amazing love.  His miracle-working power.  

Just as I need you, you need my love too.  God has meant for us to come together as one.  We are stronger together.  We have better return for our labor.  When one of us falls, we can help each other up.  We can keep each other warm.  We can defend each other.  And our love, together with God at the center, will not be a cord easily broken (Ecc 4:9-12).  

I love you.  I look at you with adoration.  I honor you.  I respect you.  Thank you for all that you are.  Thank you for finding me.  Thank you for showing me the love of a man that I have missed for so long.  Thank you for cherishing all that I am.  Even my own broken pieces.  

I can't wait for our life together.  The memories.  The wild goose chase.  The highs, the lows, the falls, and the triumphs.  For our precious children; our little blessings from God.  I can't wait to see you in their faces.  I can't wait for your little quirks to shine through in their personalities.  I can't wait to watch them grow.  To equip them for this fallen world together. With God as our guidepost.  

We will have moments that we can't keep our hands off of each other walking through the grocery store.  Or even at the movie theater.  Moments when we are in alignment, connected, and passionate.  But we will fight.  We will have times of disconnect.  And yet we always find our way back to one another.  And somehow we come back stronger than ever.  That's because we choose to relentlessly love one another.  We won't let the evil one destroy that which is good.  Our enemy wants us to destruct.  Our light of love shines so brightly that he will want to come between us.  But we are wiser than that.  And we fight our battles through prayer and Truth.  He has nothing on us.  He will fall at our feet.  And we will stand unshaken.  

Until then, I am praying for you.  Please know that I am okay.  I am full of God's love and I feel such joy and peace, like never before.  In the meantime, I am continuing on with my own mission.  And he is preparing me for you.  And you for me.  For when that precious day comes.  

So this Valentine's Day, I celebrate.  I celebrate the love I have within.  The amazing love of my Holy Creator.  The Author of my life.  The one who will bring me you.  

With love, my darling, Happy Valentine's Day.  

xx, Lauren

 

 

Beat the Bloat with Proper Food Combining

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When we think of good 'ol American food, we might salivate over the thought of a good juicy cheeseburger, barbecue sandwich, or hotdog...but ever notice that bloated, heavy, fatigued feeling afterwards?  This feeling is not normal!  Instead, we should be feeling strong and energized after a meal!  So, today I'm going to burst your bubble with a few food combining recommendations to create an environment that promotes better digestion and absorption of minerals.  

More than ever, our bodies are overstressed and undernourished due to processed foods, pasteurization, antibiotics and the like.  And it has affected our inner ecosystem, including our digestive tracts.  It's important to note that how we eat is just as important as what we eat.  Digestion requires a lot of energy, so we want to make the process as efficient as possible!  While the below guidelines can be pretty complex, I'm going to break it down as simple as possible.  If you are struggling with bloating + digestive issues, I encourage you to incorporate the below and see how your symptoms might improve; you might even lose a few lbs in the process!

1.  Eat Protein with Non-Starchy/Ocean Vegetables

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Animal protein is broken down in an acidic environment.  Our stomachs produce hydrochloric acid and the enzyme pepsin when we eat protein.  On the other hand, grains/carbs require an alkaline environment.  Our stomach produces an enzyme call ptyalin to break down carbs.  When protein and carbs are eaten together, the enzymes neutralize each other and inhibit/slow down the digestive process.  As a result, food can putrefy and become toxic, circulating in our bloodstream.  This acidity in our bodies can lead to inflammation and an environment that cultivates disease. 

Therefore, with proper food combining, it is best to eat protein with non-starchy/ocean vegetables.  I know, this means avoiding the burgers and sandwiches!  Eek!  But try it out; see how you feel!

Examples:  Salmon salad with leafy greens. Chicken with broccoli and cauliflower.  

2.  Eat Grains/Starchy Vegetables with Non-Starchy/Ocean Vegetables

Examples:  Grain soups with a mixture of potatoes and veggies.  Rice stir-fry with carrots, mushrooms, snow peas, lime, cumin.  

3.  Eat fruit alone.  

Fruits are simple sugars that break down very quickly in our bodies.  It is best to eat fruit alone and on an empty stomach.  I prefer to eat fruit as a mid-morning snack.  Also, avoid mixing fruits (goodbye fruit salad!).  

Quick tidbits:  

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-Start your morning with a warm mug or room temperature glass of lemon water.  Lemon contains ascorbic acid which stimulates digestion.

-To make it easy, pick one category at each meal:  fruit, starch, animal protein, nuts/seeds.

-Besides fruit, once you pick a food category, fill the rest of your plate with cooked or raw non-starchy veggies.

-Wait 3-4 hours before switching food categories after each meal.  

-Avoid cold or iced drinks as they distinguish your digestive fire.  Stick with room temperature or warm water and herbal teas.  Drink lemon water 20 minutes prior to each meal to further prep digestion.  

-Avoid sugar as it suppresses the immune system and does not combine well with the other food categories.  

-You may want to consider incorporating digestive enzymes to help aid digestion.  

I know it's not what you want to hear; these aren't the most fun guidelines to follow, but next time try that beefy burger on a lettuce wrap and pair it with a nice leafy greens salad.  You might just notice yourself feeling stronger, healthier, more flat-bellied, and energized to take on the rest of your day.  And who doesn't want that!?

To learn more, schedule a complimentary session with me!  I want nothing more than for you to feel healthy, confident, and radiant!  

xx.

 

 

 

 

 

2017: The Year I Found My Muscle

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A new year is always a time of reflection; a summing up of the year past, and the start of a new chapter. 

I could call 2017 a lot of things.  The Year of the Rollercoaster.  The Year I Got The Wind Knocked Out of Me. The Year of Multiple Heartbreaks.  Or maybe The Year I found My Muscle.  Whatever it was, it was another year of refinement.  And here's what God taught me along the way:

1.   Never Settle

A finalized divorce.  A job I felt loyal to, yet consumed me.  A single income that wasn't always pretty.  Opening my heart again to dating in my 30s which proved to be much more difficult than I ever imagined.  Disappointment.  Hurt.  And with my life not looking anything like I wanted it to, a yearning for more. 

What I knew was that none of these things defined me.  My relationship status.  My job.  My income.  None of it was my identity.  God reminded me to keep my eyes fixed on Him.  On being a daughter to The Most High King.  It was He who taught me my value.  He who taught me my worth.    And He taught me to never let the aforementioned things above to strip me or deplete me.  He was my answer to being whole; He alone carved my identity.  With him, I was unshakeable.  And so I put my confident trust in Him, even through the momentary pain.  And I decided that I will never settle for less than ever again. 

2.  Relentless Love Regardless...

"You have heard it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also...And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." (Matthew 5:38-41)

Let me be perfectly honest here.  Last year I had moments of weakness.  Moments of despair. I tripped up.  And it wasn't always a perfect walk.  There were times when I had to turn my other cheek. And there were moments that I had keep my head held high and walk away.  But through it all, God taught me to love.  Only by Him.  While the former me would have been defensive, angry, tit for tat - I wasn't.  Yes, I had times when I wanted to shut down, when I wanted to build a wall up around my heart - but I didn't.  Transformed, He taught me to be secure in Him.  And as a result,  I was able to radiate love through all circumstances.  And I will continue to keep my heart open.  I will continue to love relentlessly.  All because He first relentlessly loved me. 

3.  Grace, Grace, + More Grace

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"Grace, Lauren.  Grace.  Be a woman of grace."  His whisper followed me to be strong and courageous.  To be a warrior.  To clothe myself in strength and dignity.  To know and stand for what is right and wrong.  To  love valiantly, yet to forgive.  To extend the grace that is extended to me every single day.  To stand up for myself, yet be merciful.  To carry myself in a way that honors God and honors myself.  And so I did just that.  With no regrets.  None.

4.  Leaps of Faith

Sometimes God calls you to make a bold move.  Sometimes you just need a shake-up.  Sometimes you just have to say yes to the adventure.  And so I did.  Dare I say that I quit my full-time job in marketing to pursue my own business?  All because I wanted to live authentically.  A life of balance.  A life that I preached.  And dare I say that I am now working at a high-end restaurant as a server for the first time in my life to help make some extra income?  Yep, it's true.  And I have no shame.  God has called me into unchartered waters for this season for a reason.  And I am going along for the adventure, trusting His provision.  Full of hope. 

I leave 2017 better than when it started.  Grateful for it all - the good and the bad - all of it beautiful because of who I became. 

Never settle.  Love relentlessly regardless.  Be of grace and extend grace.  Take leaps of faith.  And believe in the Goodness of God.

2018 already feels promising.  I will live with fire in my heart.  I will seek only a relationship where I am loved and cherished.   I will live a life led by my values.  I will live passionately.  I will follow my dreams.  I will live with love.  I won't back down.  I will never give up.  I will follow my God with intentional obedience.   And I will move forward with anticipation.  Trusting.  With belief. 

2018:  The Year of The Comeback. 

xx, Lauren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tis the Season + Tips to Combat the Cooties

Coughs, sinus infections, stomach viruses, the flu, oh my! 

It seems like everywhere I turn I hear of another person down for the count.  And to be quite honest, with each cough and sneeze surrounding me, I cringe a little thinking of the spewing particles in the air.  Yes, it's true, I get a little OCD this time of year trying to safeguard myself from the germies, and I know I'm not alone.  Who's got time to be sick, especially around Christmas?  Umm...says no one.  Ever. 

So, I thought I'd take some time to give you the scoop.  What do I recommend to help protect your immune system from the surrounding cooties and how to quickly beat those ailments should you succumb! 

BUILDING YOUR ARSENAL:

Look, as much as we want the holidays to be of peace + good cheer, most of us are feeling run down, stressed, and deprived of sunlight come Christmas.  Unfortunately, that stress directly affects our immune system by increasing inflammation of our tissues and suppressing our immune system's ability to fight infection.  Therefore, we need to engage in some good 'ol fashioned TLC.  If we properly care for our immune system, our bodies should have what they need to function properly and fend off any intruders. 

1.  Get Your Rest!

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Sleep is crucial for restoration, detoxification, and DNA Repair.  And it is critical in helping build your immune cells.  Less sleep = lessened ability to fight off infection.  While we might not feel we have the time for added rest with our last minute shopping, decorating, running around, Christmas cookie baking, cleaning, and prep...it is even more a reason to hit the hay a little earlier.  You need those extra zzz's when under stress or else your body and your brain won't be as strong and healthy to give you that extra push!  Try going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning.  Stop watching TV and looking at your cell phone at least 30-60 minutes prior to bed; the blue/artificial light can actually stimulate your brain and suppress melatonin making it more difficult to sleep.  Shut off Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMFs).  Sleep in darkness.  Provide yourself an environment for tranquil, healing sleep. 

2.  Get Your Fluids!

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We are all guilty of it; we forget to drink water in the hustle and bustle of the day.  But guess what?  That hydration is important for all of our body's systems to optimally function!  It lubricates our joints, tissues, and brain.  It supplies oxygen to our cells.  It produces lymph.  It flushes out toxins.  Dehydration --> inflammation.  It can also trigger headaches, brain fog, and affect our nervous systems.  Bottom line, without water, we aren't giving our bodies the important building blocks it needs to keep us healthy.  I recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces (ex:  if you are 100 lbs, drink 50 oz of water/day).  If you work out and sweat, drink more.  And if you need reminders about your water intake, there are tons of awesome tools to help.  Try downloading an app on your phone or you can even check out Ulla - a hydration reminder bottle attachment.  Currently they are 30% off at https://www.ulla.io/ and they come in several different colors/designs!

3.  Cut out the sugar!

Yeah, Yeah, I know it's Christmas.  I know we are bombarded with work lunches, holiday parties, family get-togethers and an array of chocolates, cookie trays, cakes, candies, you name it.  And I'm not saying you can't have your taste of these sweet treats...but I'm certainly saying to be aware of your sugary intake because that sugar is no friend to your immune system.  Research has been done that shows that sugar decreases the effectiveness of our white blood cells to fight infection.  In fact, sugar has a similar chemical structure to Vitamin C, and those white blood cells need Vitamin C for your immune system to fight back.  Unfortunately, Vitamin C and sugar compete for the attention of those white blood cells.  Therefore, our immune systems don't get enough of what they need to successfully win the war against viruses and bacteria.  I can't say it enough:  WATCH THE SUGAR!  

4.  Eat whole foods in a rainbow of colors!

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When I say here "Eat the rainbow", I'm not talking about a bag of Skittles.  I'm talking about adding variety to your diet because each of those brightly colored foods has different vitamins and minerals that your body needs in order to stay healthy and heal.  Colors matter for your optimal health!  For example, red and pink foods like raspberries, strawberries tomatoes, beets, red potatoes, pomegranates, and salmon are high in lycopene, vitamin C, and antioxidants like beta-carotene.  Greens like dark, leafy vegetables are high in folate, calcium, fiber, lutein, and vitamins C and E!  Blue, Purple, Dark Brown, White -- they too have their own chemical makeup that we need.  If we don't get a variety of colors, we may be depriving ourselves of some very important nutrients to be our healthiest!

5.  Move your body!

I'm a huge advocate of daily exercise.  I don't care if it is a simple walk or a high impact boot camp class...exercise helps your body to detox and flush out toxins, plus it helps you feel good!  Research actually shows that moderate exercise a few times a week can drastically reduce the probability of you getting sick by boosting the cells in your body that fight the bad stuff!  Again, exercise = better immune health.  Listen to you body, though.  If you need a day of rest, rest.  Otherwise, move it!

THE WEAPONS TO FIGHT:

Hopefully you won't find yourself in the throws of the ickies, but if you do, follow the script above + add in a few of the below weapons I've stockpiled to naturally fight your infection. 

1.  Apple Cider Vinegar

Ah, my friend ACV, how you have come to my rescue over and over again.  Thank you, thank you.  Raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar looks cloudy with a bunch of weird gunk floating around in it.  Don't worry, that gunk is actually healthy bacteria formed through the fermentation process with a myriad of health benefits including but not limited to building that immune system and digestive support.  Any time I start to feel under the weather or have an upset stomach, I add ACV into my repertoire.  It helps to balance acidity in the stomach and seems to alleviate any tummy pains, bloating, heartburn, bubbles, or any other funky attacks going on inside.  I usually dilute 1tsp-1tbsp in a mug of warm water and add 1 tsp of raw honey (another antimicrobial agent).  For a sore throat, I add some lemon and cinnamon to the concoction.  Sip and allow the magical goodness get to work. 

2.  The Wet Sock Trick

This is going to sound super silly, but a friend of mine told me about this trick when I was trying to find some natural alternatives to treat a fever.  Look, often we jump for the Tylenol or Ibuprofen to eliminate a fever, but a fever is actually our body's immune system trying to fight and kill an infection.  It's actually a GOOD thing!  However, if you need to try to bring a fever down, try this trick before bed.  Warm up your feet beforehand, maybe with a warm foot bath.  Then soak some cotton or wool socks in cold water.  Put them on.  Then, cover your cold, wet socks with a dry, warm pair of socks.  Get in bed and bundle up without uncovering or getting up.  Get some sleep!  This trick helps the body return to a state of homeostasis by increasing your body's circulation.  I have had continued success with this trick when I have a cold, flu, congestion, or fever. 

3.  Epsom Salt Bath

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I'm a total bath junkie.  I love giving myself some extra love and relaxation in a warm soak.  Adding Epsom Salt only adds to these benefits.  Not only does it allow your body to rest and soothes sore and achy muscles because of the magnesium sulfate, but it has an alkalizing affect on the body which helps give your immune system a boost.  Epsom Salts also help our body detoxify using our skin as an outlet to pull out yucky toxins.

4.  You don't need the antibiotics!

Doctors are even catching on to the fact that too many antibiotics actually do more harm than good.  So instead of running to the pharmacy with that prescription, know that there are actually other natural herbs/supplements that can help increase your immune system and fight off the bad without the negative side effects of antibiotics.  Some of my favorite natural anti-viral go-tos include Olive Leaf Extract, Bromelain, Lysine, and Elderberry. 

5.  Envision yourself well!

Yep, envision it.  If sick, close your eyes, take a breath, and envision all of the strong, healthy cells in your body fighting on your behalf.  See yourself well and get well.  As many of us in the wellness field like to say - mind over body.  Your thoughts matter.  Eliminate negativity.  Eliminate bad vibes.  Picture good health.  Fill yourself with positivity and flood yourself with love.  "Kind words are like honey -- sweet to the soul and healthy for the body" (Prov 16:24). 

So there you have it!  Don't fret this cold/flu season -- build the arsenal to protect yourself and have the right weapons to fight back.  With the right love and care, you should have all you need for a strong immune system to do exactly what God intended for it to do - keep you healthy! 

I pray for love, good health, joy, strength, and peace for you this Christmas season. 

xx,

Lauren

 

 

 

Weekly Wellness + What to Expect!

The weekend is coming to a close, but I wanted to share with you a little about what to expect from me moving forward.  In the next week I'll be posting a VLOG explaining exactly what Mind. Body. Jesus. is all about.  I'll be sharing more about our mission and you will be hearing much, much more from me in the coming days.

Below is our weekly schedule of daily social media posts, so make sure you like/follow my Facebook and Instagram pages to keep up-to-date!  Here is a little background about why each day of the week is important for your overall health and well-being:

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#MusicMonday:  Bottom line, music heals.  And we'll be talking more about how in the coming days.  A few years ago I was certified in an energy practice called Cellular Expansion + Healing.  The basis for this practice is that every single cell, all matter, holds a vibrational frequency.  Those vibrational frequencies can be affected by our environment, our words, trauma, fear, negativity, and the like.  Yet, we have the opportunity to also introduce healing frequencies through words and music.  Consider church on Sunday.  We worship through music.  I stand there singing, focusing on how Great our God is, and a blanket of peace, love, and joy covers me.  I feel a great healing overtake me.  It doesn't matter the chaos going on in my life in that moment because it all fades away into the background and I'm focused on the very Presence that surrounds me.  On #MusicModay I will be posting a song for you to take a few moments to close your eyes, let the lyrics sink into your heart, the healing vibrations enveloping your body, and your mind in total self-reflection.  More on music and frequency therapy to come.

#TuesdaysTip:  I will post a weekly health tip centered around mindfulness, nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, etc.  It's all about promoting a healthy, balanced lifestyle.  I promote "whole" healing in mind, body, and spirit.  Without one, we can't have the others.  It's all about small, simple changes to lay the groundwork for your health!

#WellnessWednesday:  Wednesdays are about education!  With knowledge comes power.  I can't urge enough the importance to become your own health advocate.  Nobody other than the God that created you knows your mind, body, and the state of your soul more than you.  You hold the keys.  You are in the driver's seat.  It's time to get empowered and initiate the changes necessary to meet and exceed your goals.  Never forget that you have the power of God within you!  With Him, all things are possible!

#ThoughtfulThursday:  Ever notice that natural high that follows a good deed from the purity of your heart?  "A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:23).  #ThoughtfulThursday is all about loving others as you love yourself.  If we love others generously, help someone in need, give with the resources God has abundantly provided us with, it takes the focus off of the struggles that we face.  It's no longer about "me"!  And with that, comes refreshment.  While #ThoughtfulThursday is not about boasting about our good deeds, let's share the fullness of God's goodness in return.

#FitnessFriday:  I can't stress enough the importance of moving and using the bodies that we have been blessed with.  Whether stretching, strengthening, or conditioning - all of it has great impact.  It's about making a decision to take action.  Let's release those healthy, happy, "feel good" endorphins.  Let's strengthen your body so you feel confident to go out there and slay the day ahead.  #FitnessFriday will promote exercise and bring you fitness tips, research, and inspiration.

#SelfCareSaturday:  I'm a firm believer that we can't take care of others unless we first take care of ourselves.  Boundaries - both physical and emotional - are essential to our health.  Self-care is not about selfishness, it's about taking a critical time-out, scheduling a date with God, nourishing your mind, body, and soul, and loving yourself the way God loves you.  Self-care is about restoration, grounding, and alignment.  CRITICAL for your whole health. 

#SoulSunday:  "If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it" (Matthew 10:39).  I can't tell you how liberating it is once you accept this principle into your life.  When we realize that our lives are not about us, but about God, a huge burden is lifted.  Once we surrender that our lives are in His control, the more ease the flow of our lives.  We realize that He is the Author of our stories.  He holds the beginning and the end.  And all of it...every single moment...is to be used for His purposes.  This fact also helped me to walk more confidently knowing that His power is within me.  And He does all things for our ultimate good.  #SoulSunday is all about worshiping Him -- His is love, His freedom, His grace, His healing, His wisdom, His goodness, His peace.  It is He who is everything we need.  May we honor our minds, bodies, and spirits knowing it is all a gift from the Artist that brought them to life.

May each day bring you new life, inspire you, motivate you, and bring you a great healing.  A great new chapter awaits!

xx

 

Running: A Metaphor

I had a Facebook memory pop up in my feed yesterday that reminded me that it was 4 years ago that I had my 2nd knee surgery in a period of 4 months.  It was a long road to recovery,  so I celebrated my working legs by intentionally leaving work a little earlier to go on a prayer run.

I'm not a strong runner yet; I have about 3 straight miles in me for now, but I will get better. And those 3 miles are invaluable to me.  They are my outlet. They clear my head. They push me and challenge me - physically, mentally, and spiritually. They are painful and they hurt. Sometimes I gasp for more air in my lungs. They beg for me to slow down and give up. And in those moments when I don't think I can do any more, I keep calling out to Jesus for help.  I pray for Him to provide me the endurance and the strength for one more step, one more step, one more step... and He does, if I just focus on that one step right ahead of me. And then, I notice a shift, and the pain begins to melt away as I get into a rhythm. The run that was fatiguing me starts to energize me. I start to feel strong and my body tight. I have a natural high.  I feel accomplished.  Peace and joy overtake me. All that begins to matter is this time that I have, just me and God, being completely reliant upon him.

Last night I realized why I have grown to love running; it's a metaphor for life.   It takes me through a series of feelings, both in body and in mind.  I get to a point where I have to make a decision, to give up or push through.  And so I push through, one small step at a time.   If I focus on what more I have ahead, I get overwhelmed.  But if I just focus on what's right in front of me, God gives me strength.  And I realized how blessed I am.  How much I love to feel.  How little I am and how big God is.  How much I need Him in every moment of every day.  How He supplies for my every need.  How He is with me always, never leaving my side.  And all the chaos that surrounds me, it begins to lose its significance as I focus on The Great One. 

Blessed.  Blessed I am.  Blessed we are.

God's Hand is at work in our intricate lives; His love runs deep.  He is molding and refining us.  No matter what we are up against, He loves us and He Has already fought the battle for us.  And He won.

So today, like the full range of emotions experienced on my prayer run, let's embrace life to its fullest.  The joys, the heartbreaks, the unknowns.

God is with us.  He loves us.  He sustains us.  He provides for us.  He fights for us.  He stills waters for us. 

One small step at a time.

xx

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3)

Get Ready...

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Jesus.

I’ve uttered His name on my lips more times than I can count over the past few years as I’ve walked through dark valleys and stood high on mountaintops.  I feel a great warmth cover my body and tears flood my eyes at the power of His Great Name.  Even a whisper, “Jesus”, and everything changes. 

My prayer list is growing.  I keep adding to the list family members, friends, acquaintances, people and situations that don’t even know I exist.  I don’t mention this to boast of my prayer life, but because the apparent brokenness in this world is becoming more and more evident as I talk with people new and old and begin to ask questions.  Or when I see the divisiveness, tragedy, loss, and suffering that permeates the news outlets.  Or when I see behind the smiling faces on social media the perfectionism, insecurity, call for attention, materialism and anxiety that consumes so many.  Or the struggling relationships and broken marriages.  Or the need to cover deep wounds with a Band-Aid of alcohol, drugs, and sex. 

Before I truly came to know Jesus, I remember a constant yearning for something more.  I was a perfectionist rattled with worry.  A wallflower hoping no one would notice me.  Insecure and scared to show my true self.  Afraid of judgement.  And health problems began to mount up as the conflict inside me grew and grew.  And that constant yearning for more in this life -- I’ve found that it is a common thread that we all share, whether we realize it or not.  That yearning exists because we are separate from our Father, our Creator, our Forever Home.  But today there is Good News.  Because of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we have a free gift and invitation to close that gap and yearn no more.  The Author of all creation lives amongst us, in Spirit form, and wants to fill us with His love, hope, joy, and peace.  He wants to erase your blemished past by extending His mercy and grace to forgive you.  He wants to give you new life – an eternal life.  He wants you.  You.

Jesus doesn’t mean an easy life; we were never promised a life of ease.  We are told that we will encounter challenges in many forms.  But now we don’t have to go through them alone.  God is the Author of every circumstance, and He is growing and maturing us, preparing us for the next great chapter in His Book.   

As a coming clean, I have written before of some of the challenges I’ve faced in years prior – health challenges, financial fears after I was laid off, infertility concerns.  But what I haven’t mentioned over the past year (if you’ve noticed I’ve been pretty quiet) is my pending divorce, adjusting to life on my own, working long and often draining hours, and having to heal some of the brokenness in my soul as a result.   Heartbreak was there.  Stress was there. Fear was there.  Fatigue was there.  But yet, somehow, through it all, I have not crumbled.  I’ve stood strong and firm.  I have put my trust in Jesus, held His Hand, and allowed Him to continue transforming me from the inside-out.  I am forgiven.  I am healed.  I am confident.  I am bold.  I am courageous.  I am tough as nails.  I am resilient.  I am true to my God.  I am loved.  I am worthy.  I am valuable.  I am beautiful.  I am smart.  I am sexy.  I am better, wiser, and more mature than ever before because I have walked through valleys to now stand high on the peaks of mountaintops.

I never realized how capable I was.  But it hasn't been out of my own accord; it’s through the strength and supernatural power that only God can provide.  My feet are firmly planted in His Word.  I am equipped with the armor of God so that no fiery dart can pierce me.  I have His love as glue to piece me back together when I feel myself breaking apart.  I have His grace when I make a mistake or fall victim to sin.  And I have Jesus; my Rescuer, my Redeemer, my Healer, my Lover, my Restorer, my Wisdom, my Father. 

And so, Jesus is on my lips...

To break every chain.                                                                                                                                                  To change everything.                                                                                                                                           To silence the waves.                                                                                                                                                  Jesus. Jesus.                                                                                                                                                    

And I am holding steady.                                                                                                                                                And I am ready.                                                                                                                                                  Because He's about to what I am not expecting...

...And I look forward with anticipation; with joy and with peace.  For He is ALWAYS good.  And His plans, ALWAYS perfect. 

If you feel lost, I want you to know that He knows exactly where to find you.  You can’t run from Him, and you cannot hide.  He is constantly seeking you. 

So he told them this parable:  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost’.  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:3-7)

Wherever you are today, no matter your past, He knows you, He loves you, and He wants to rejoice over you.  He's ready to carry you on His shoulders to bring you Home.  So I pose you this same question from John 11:25-26...Do you believe this?  Then let today be the day.  Open your heart.  Let the power of Jesus fill you.  Put His name on your lips. Come home and be set free. 

May His love shine upon you this Easter Sunday.         

xx.                                                                        

The Face Of Thirty-Three

I'm not where I expected to be at 33. Many pieces of my life are in limbo. Many of the accomplishments I had envisioned at this point are still left unchecked. I've experienced struggle and adversity as we all do at certain times in our lives. But on this birthday, I choose joy. I choose to trust God's unraveling plan of beauty in my life. And while today looked different than what I had pictured in mind, I'm embracing it...because I know today was a perfect day in the eyes of God, and that my life was created with a bigger purpose than I could ever possibly imagine. So...with this smile, I give all thanks to my Maker. Thank You for my life, the hardship, the beauty, my family and friends, for inspiration, and hope, and all of the amazing opportunities that will continue to unveil themselves to me...all to glorify Your name.

Labor Day Birthday shopping with my lovely mom today.  So grateful for her love, support, encouragement, and guidance.

Labor Day Birthday shopping with my lovely mom today.  So grateful for her love, support, encouragement, and guidance.

Love to all I have encountered on this journey of life. Each of you has touched my heart and made me better, stronger, wiser, and more loving. Thank you!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares The Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)

#birthday #reflection #thefaceof33 #God #gratitude #Bible #thanks #joy #trust #laborday

The face of thirty-three:  confidence, joy, peace, love.

The face of thirty-three:  confidence, joy, peace, love.

The Secret to Unleashing Your Glow

With the creative eye gifted to my hubs, sometimes I get to pretend to be a legit model.  My initial shyness seems to disappear, and I start to get lost in this pretend model world.  I ignore the curious stares of passersby and focus on the present moment right in front of me; the camera lens searching deeply into the layers of my soul, hoping to uncover the story that bring me here today.  And in those moments, when everything fades away and it is just me and that camera, my husband captures photographs like the one to your right.  I look into the eyes of the image staring back at me, and I am reminded of the journey.  A journey that hasn't always been easy.  A story of heartbreak, fear, overwhelm, frustration, people pleasing, pain, brokenness, and longing.  But also a story of redemption, of victory.

I find it funny when people who haven't seen me in a while say - "You look great, Lauren!", "You've lost so much weight!", or even "You are glowing!" Truly, I am humbled by the kind words. And today, I'm going to let you in on my secret to radiance. 

Are you ready for it???

...Because it has absolutely nothing to do with me...

That glow...

(Really, it's super simple!)

...is the light of Jesus shining through me!

And because it is He (and He alone) that I thirst after today, I can say with a smile that I am full of peace and joy (even after going through some pretty crappy storms over the past few years!). It is through Him, that I have been rescued from the mental bondage that kept me quiet for a very long time (removing lies and false narratives). It is through Him, that I have gained courage and confidence (trusting His will to be done). It is through Him, that I now diligently live a life of discipline (healthy nutrition/soul-care/physical activity/prayer).  It is through Him, that I have gained the strength to persevere and heal my body from illness (never losing hope or fueling negativity). It is through Him, that I can fully love myself and others (healing and restoring broken relationships with an outpouring of unconditional love). And it is through Him, that I choose to live with intentional obedience to His call (humble submission), even when it doesn't make sense, or it requires taking risks others might not deem realistic or acceptable.

This is the face of victory. The face of Jesus. And it is Love.  Beauty.  Hope.  Forgiveness.  Strength.  Courage.  Confidence.  Trust.  Mercy.  Boldness.  Perseverance.  Wisdom.  And Grace.  

And all of these can be yours too!

If you are interested learning more, or if you are in need of a complete mind/body/soul tune-up - a program that holds you accountable, teaches you to gain an awareness of your own unique body and soul needs,  helps you uncover an abundance of peace and joy in your life TODAY, unleashes your healing potential, and helps you live a life of purpose,  then apply here for a complimentary strategy session with me.  Seasons have gone by, but now is the time...time for you to get your glow!

"As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God."  (Psalm 42:1)