A Life That Could Not Be

Saturday was my 21st birthday. I’ve been asked about my expected first hangover at least 5 times… But I’m not hungover. I still haven’t had a single drink. Well, if I am hungover, it’s the classic anxiety hangover that most of us know so well. 

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For the past few weeks, I’ve bounced back and forth between excitement and dread for the upcoming day. I made plans, I cancelled plans, I got excited, I cried, I told everyone it was my birthday, then I even wished it wouldn’t happen. 

Looking back, I realize that this is something I go through every year. It’s a sick kid thing, I’ve come to know. Kids like me fight so hard to get to the next birthday. To survive just one more year and hope for less pain and healing in the process. It’s meant to be a celebration of the victory of survival for us. It’s a day to prove our clueless doctors and their uneducated prognosis wrong. 

Despite all that, it’s still a day of disappointment for a lot of us. We can’t celebrate in the ways that we want. Pain holds us back. Anxiety paralyzes us. Unexpected tremors or infections don’t get put on hold for a birthday. Everything can still go wrong. 

I spent my day busy but pretty depressed, to be honest. Meeting my favorite friend for coffee turned into an internal war with myself because I was consumed in sensory overload and complete panic, but I couldn’t show it. I became trapped in myself and shut down to the outside world. I lost my “out loud” words for a solid 4 hours and had to sleep it off. 

I cancelled my roomie hibachi celebration at least twice in the span of 6 hours. The thought of being in public again was too much for me. We decided to go in the end, and even had to switch tables because I couldn’t tolerate the sound in the room. My friends kept saying “you’re safe with us” but my mind told me to run. 

An older friend that I trust a lot offered to take me out for my first drink. I wanted so badly to go and be a typical 21 year old, but instead I got in bed and cried. She showed up at my door and laid there with me. 

As difficult as this day turned out to be, I kept coming back to the same lyric from JJ Heller’s newest single Braver Still:

“Its ok to grieve a life that could not be.”

This is what chronic illness really looks like.

 The life that we had always dreamt of for ourselves is no longer a possibility, and that’s something we have to allow ourselves to process and grieve.
If you’re going through this too, just know that it’s okay for that grief to last a long time. Losing a life time of possibility and our own expectations of opportunities to come will definitely take some time. I’m 9 years into the pain, and daily think about my life that simply could not be.
Instead, I’ve been given a life that is so much fuller than I expected. My opportunities are just as abundant, even if they look different than I imagined. I’m 21 years old and have experienced things I never imagined possible, and learned more than I could have ever imagined.
I’m 21 years old now, and more grateful for life than I ever have been before. But even still, it’s okay to grieve the life that could not be. IMG_5031
With all the love,
A

Student Ministry (Guest Post: Lily)

Good morning friends! Today I’m sharing another one of my favorite bloggers wisdom with you. Lily and I have a lot in common, both serving in a student ministry called Young Life! I’ll let her introduce herself and tell you more about the importance of loving students where they are….

 

Hey all! Before I jump into the main content of this blog post I just wanted to give you a quick intro about myself. My name is Lily, I am a 21 year old living in colorful Colorado with my Fiancé, Jared, and our beagle pup, Rizzo. I love all things health, wellness, outdoors and performing arts. I am passionate about student ministry because I think it’s important to show up for kids, I even met Jared on a Young Life leader’s retreat. Ministry makes my heart swell with joy and I think it’s increasingly important that we invest in youth and in students because their future matters. Thanks for stopping by to read this guest post If you like what you see, you can head over to my blog, Love Wyns for more content. And a special thank you to Ally for giving me a little space on her blog to share my thoughts. Ya’ll ready for this? Here we go!IMG_8258

I’m not going to lie… student ministry has wrecked me in ways I never knew possible. I have slept in church hallways, stayed up late counseling someone about the divorce of their parents, I’ve washed hair in kitchen sinks when there are no showers open on mission trips, I’ve wept along families and friends at funerals of young people, I’ve had all sorts of gunk thrown at me during a muck war and I have watched kids come to know Jesus. Student ministry has wrecked me but would I do every single one of those things again? Absolutely. See, I don’t do student ministry because it’s easy or because I have some awkward desire to be liked by high school students, I do student ministry because I truly believe it’s the work of Jesus. Student ministry has wrecked my heart for the better so let’s chat about why it’s so important.

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I wasn’t kidding about washing hair in a sink….

Students need consistent adults. Let’s be real and say that I am the least “adulty” adult there is, but you don’t have to have all the answers to hang out with students. You just have to show up. Showing up will do more for these kids than you could ever imagine. Show up to youth group and chat with them about their lives and you’ll be showing them Jesus. Show up to that basketball game, that play, that swim meet, and you’ll be showing them Jesus. Meet them where they are and you’ll be showing them Jesus. How cool is it that one simple thing, showing up, shows kids Jesus? The bible tells us in Luke 19 verse 10 that “the son of man came to seek and to save the lost” this is said after Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus the tax collector. Jesus didn’t wait for Zacchaeus to come to him, he sought him out and came to his house for dinner. So let’s seek out students and buy them Starbucks (because that’s clearly the modern day equivalent). Kids need adults to show them that they are loved and important and all you have to do is show up. I could honestly probably stop talking right there but, I’m a talker so here’s some more insight for you…

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Yes, I am shorter than all of my students. You learn to live with it.

How do I know that students need this kind of love? Sure, I’ve been a leader and I have seen this type of consistency to get kids to come to church, to get kids to study the bible, to get kids to get baptized, to get kids to lead other kids, but the real reason I know that the whole consistent adult thing is true is because I was a student once too. I was a student at the very same church I later was a student ministry intern at, I grew up in the youth group scene and loved it. I didn’t drink or party in college or high school because of what a youth leader said to me my freshman year of high school. I am a testament to how showing up for kids works. I am who I am today because of the fantastic leaders I had in my life. I am a leader today because of the fantastic leaders I had. I believe in Jesus because leaders have shown me Jesus. Jesus was tangible to me in high school because I was surrounded by adults being the hands and feet of the Lord. So trust me when I say that showing up is everything.

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High school me, serving with college leader Brianne

Student ministry is awesome because you get to bring kids to Jesus but it’s also amazing because Jesus will become real to you as you do his work. Now, I recognize that not everyone is called to student ministry but if you feel that tug on your heart, run to those kids and never look back. I promise you’ll never regret it. It’ll wreck you but it’ll wreck you in all the best ways.

I’ve never experienced Jesus in such a powerful way as the time I first served communion to students. I was a student ministry intern and I loved those kids (still do and always will by the way). As I served them communion, the spirt overtook my soul. Not my heart, my soul. I wept as I saw student after student come to remember what their Jesus had done for them. I cried knowing that they were radically loved by both me and by the Father. I experienced Jesus that night alongside them and I’ll never forget it. So yes, you’ll find that in ministering to young people, your relationship with Jesus changes as well. Your love for his people will grow and flourish and that’s the best thing ever.

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In a time where depression runs rampant, suicide rates increase and bullying is at an all-time high, students need Jesus. They need you to show them Jesus. In a time where kids don’t know their worth, they need you to show up. In a time where going to church is the last thing a student wants to do, they need you at their basketball games or taking them out to lunch. These students need leaders and it’s our calling to make disciples. So if this blog has tugged at your heart in any way, shape or form, I encourage you to reach out to your church or your local Young Life ministry and get involved. Go show up for students, go show them Jesus.

Xo,

Lily

Service Dog FAQ: My Dog

As you probably know, for the last two and a half months I have been on a journey to train my dog Malibu as my service dog. Two weeks ago, she passed her public access test and she is now an official service dog!

Throughout our time together so far, I have encountered a LOT of questions and comments. I’ve decided to address this publicly, in hopes of providing some education and taming some curiosity! Over the next week or so, I will be answering questions regarding different service dog related topics- training, public interaction, etc. If you have a question that you want answered, click the Contact Me button or leave a comment down below!

Today, I’m answering the 5 most common questions that I am asked about my dog specifically! Here we go:

 

  1. Why isn’t your dog a lab or retriever? I understand where this question comes from. In media and movies, service dogs are almost always portrayed as golden retrievers or labs. This is likely because most fully-trained service dog agencies breed labs and retrievers specifically for their clients. Because I chose to train my own dog, I was able to adopt any dog I wanted to! I chose to rescue a dog from a shelter, because that’s what I believe is best. At the shelter, I tested the aptitude of a few dogs and decided that Malibu had the best behavior and personality for service dog training. Moral of the story: service dogs can be ANY breed!! That’s a right- even “bully” breed! (and before you have to ask, she is half St Bernard, half Great Pyrenees)
  2. Is she a service dog or emotional support animal? What is the difference? She is a Service Dog!! Many people ask me this question simply because they don’t know the difference between an SD and an ESA. A physician can prescribe an ESA. It can be any species or breed. ESA’s are typically used as “calming” companions for people who may have emotional or mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. An ESA does not have full public access rights protected by Federal Law. On the contrary, SD’s are allowed in ANY public place that the handler goes- including all forms of transportation and food establishments. Legally, a service dogs does not require a certification or registration, and a physician does not always prescribe them. A service dog must be trained to do specific tasks that help or benefit the handler. By law, Malibu is a service dog because she is trained to preform specific tasks that make my life a little easier.
  3. So you can take Malibu with you ANYWHERE? YES! I can and usually do bring Malibu with me everywhere. As I mentioned, no public establishment can deny my dog entry. The only reason that I may be asked to leave is if my dog is disruptive or a threat (of course, we have never encountered that problem!!). Now, just because I CAN bring Malibu doesn’t mean that I always DO. There are certain times that I leave Malibu at home, such as if I am going to be running errands for the majority of the day and know that I won’t have time to let her rest or take a break in between. I will also leave her home if I suspect that she’s not feeling well, or if we have already been gone for a long time that day and she deserves some alone time. 9 times out of 10, Malibu will be with me- but sometimes it’s just easier to leave her at home.
  4. What tasks does your dog do? Before I answer this question: friendly reminder that this is NOT a question you can legally ask a handler! But since I’m your friend, I’ll go ahead and answer! Malibu does a lot of things to help me! The most common command you will hear me give Malibu is “cover.” Malibu can do a front cover, and a back cover. Basically, this is where she puts her body in front of or behind me. This serves a multitude of purposes. Most commonly, I use it when standing at a counter such as a cash register or when ordering at a coffee bar. The cover keeps her out of the way and in control between the counter and me. She also covers me to put space between me and other people. This ensures that I have enough room to breathe, and that I don’t feel overcrowded. Malibu also has a command called “snuggle.” This command is specifically used in times of high stress/anxiety/panic or even high pain. To the passer-by, it looks like I’m just loving on my dog and scratching her ears and giving her kisses. In reality, she is grounding me and keeping me focused on her (and my breathing) and not whatever stressor is around me. One of my favorite tasks is called deep pressure therapy. This is when Malibu uses her weight to lay or lean on certain parts of my body, typically my legs. Not only does this have a calming effect, it also mitigates my nerve pain. Malibu also does a variety of mobility tasks, including “bracing” to help me stand/balance, and walking ahead or behind me going up or down stairs to give me support and balance. These are just a few of the great things Malibu can do for me! And of course, we are always working on new tasks to add to her list.
  5. Is Malibu ALWAYS on the job? Technically, the answer to this is absolutely not. When we are at home, Malibu is a pet just like any other pet dog! I take her vest off the second we get home, if not when she gets in the car. She loves to run around outside and take really long naps. She LOVES belly rubs, and likes to carry her kibble around the house and spit it out for me to find later. See? She’s a dog! Now, of course, taking off her vest does not mean forgetting her commands. She will (almost) always do what I tell her to, and she’s really good at responding to my needs 24/7. She comforts me always, and will help me any time of day or night. We also run through a series of basic commands each day to keep her training up and her mind sharp, but that is always balanced out with lots of treats and playtime outside!

If you have any other questions about my girl Malibu, let me know! Up next I’ll be answering your questions about how to interact (or NOT) interact with an SD in public…

With all the love,

A

Connect to the Creator (Maali Padro)

Surprise, it’s me! I’ve been MIA in the midst of moving and summer school, but I couldn’t wait any longer to share welcome the words of my friend Maali onto my blog. I love what she has to say about connecting to God through scripture, and how we can use the Bible to further our relationship with Him daily. Friends, keep this in mind as we head off into another busy school year!! Don’t let your connection to the Creator take a back seat. 

 

There are many reasons as to why we should read God’s Word, but, first, I want to start off by answering a few questions.

What exactly is God’s Word?

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” John 1:1

The real question is not “What is God’s Word?”, but “Who is God’s Word?” God’s Word is God. It’s as simple as that. While many of us may already know this, fully grasping the meaning of this gives the Bible a whole new meaning. It gives it life. It’s no longer just a book full of other books, chapters, and words. It’s no longer just a book full of short stories, parables, wisdom, or poetry. It’s no longer an ordinary book from the shelf written by a few men, but it’s an extraordinary book spoken into existence by the breath of the Creator (2 Timothy 3:16).

And It’s so beautiful that God chose to use ordinary men to be a part of something extraordinary, and that He still continues to use us as a vessel for His voice to be heard. It’s His breath in us and His essence in all that we do and say in His name.

Fully grasping that shifts the act of reading the Bible being a chore to something we do because we want to know our Creator. The Bible is no longer just a book we read, but a person we can connect with. When we read God’s Word, He gives us a piece of Him. Just like when we speak, people get to know us, we get to know His heart, mind, and spirit. His Word gives us access to Him.

Who is God?

“In the beginning, God created…” Genesis 1:1

God is the Creator, our Creator. He has always been and always will be. He has no origin because He is the origin (Colossians 1:16-17). In the same manner, His Word has always been and always will be. It’s eternal, without end or beginning, because it’s the essence of God. It is God. One might say, “Well, the Bible only has a certain amount of books, it’s only so long. It has a beginning and an end.” Physically, it does, but the Bible isn’t just a physical book. Like God, it surpasses the physical realm and dwells in the spiritual realm, and spiritually it has no end. We can read a passage one day and get something out of it. Read the same passage a few days later, not even days, minutes later, and God will reveal to us something else. God’s Word will never cease to speak to our hearts and souls. It’s an endless fountain of words that bring life to life because it is life. He is life. He is the beginning and the end.

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:13

With that said, here are 5 reasons as to why we should connect to God’s Word, to Him, on a daily basis.

  1. It’s through the written Word that we can resist the attacks of Satan and him himself.

The truth is that “Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). God’s Word is our weapon. It’s what God has given us to fight this spiritual battle (Hebrews 6:17) because this battle is “not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Hebrews 6:12). When Satan went to attack Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus responded to each attack with the phrase “It is written..” and He spoke the Word of truth over the lies of Satan (Matthew 4). Because God’s truth, His Word, pierces with light through the lies that Satan tries to darken our minds with. Satan knows the Word probably better than we do. He was one of God’s angels once (Isaiah 14:12-15).  In fact, He was one of the most important angels. He knows how to switch up just a few words so that it sounds truthful enough to be the truth (Genesis 3:1-4), but if you know the real truth no lie can get pass you. Light shines brighter in the midst of darkness. If God’s Word is in our hearts, when the lies come, the truth will shine brighter in midst of all that darkness trying to creep in bringing to light the lies.

  1. It’s through the Word that our minds are transformed.

God uses His Word to convict us about the matters in our hearts that aren’t right and of the things that we do that don’t please Him.

“For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrows; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Without reading His Word we will continue to stay ignorant in the ignorance of our sins. Our minds can’t be transformed without conviction of ourselves and of the things we do that we have deemed as not a big enough sin to bring us down spiritually, but like the saying goes “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). All it takes is a little bit of sin to darken your heart. His word pierces through our hearts and souls bringing to light all the dark areas and gives us the knowledge our minds need of to alter our behavior and to continue on or start walking in the truth and light of His Word.

“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to Your Word. Order my steps in Your Word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.” Psalm 119:9, 133

If we speak His Word into our lives and declare it over our life each and every day. It’ll transform us inside and out with each passing day.

  1. It’s through the Word that God guides us.

God left us His Word as a guide in this life. His Word is as much as a physical guide through life as it is a spiritual one. There is no problem that can’t be solved with God’s Word. There is no answer that can’t be found in God’s Word. All we have to do is seek Him with all our hearts, silence our hearts, and we’ll find all our heart, mind, and soul needs in Him, in His Heart (Jeremiah 29:13). His Word is our light when our worlds get dark.

“Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalms 119:105

  1. It’s through His Word in us that we will shine and the world will know we are His.

What we put in comes out. Plant an apple tree seed, an apple tree will grow. Our hearts are just the same. If we plant hatred in it, hatred will come out. If we plant love in it, love will come out. By reading God’s Word, we are planting its seed in our hearts, and as we continue to nurture it by spending time with the Source it will sprout from our hearts into everything we do; and everything we do, small and big, will point back to Him and the world will know we are His because we shine His light through all we do. Because He shines in us, we shine over the world. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, creation pointing back on the Creator through its creation.

“…Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the Word of life.” Philippians 2:15b-16a

  1. It’s through His Word that He directly speaks to us, and He wants to directly speak to you.

This is something that God has heavily been speaking into my heart. It’s so easy to replace God’s Word with Christian blogs, Christian books, Christian podcasts, Christian friends, and other Christian resources. All these things are good, don’t get me wrong. But those things or people should never replace God’s Word in our life. God wants to directly speak to us. For example, if you’re in a relationship with someone you wouldn’t want to communicate with that person through their best friend all the time. Occasionally it’s okay because it’s sometimes hard to get a hold of a person. But there are some things that regardless of how long it’ll take you to reach that person you’ll wait because it needs to be said directly to the other person. My point is there are some things that God wants to speak directly to us, and He can only that through His Word. He wants a direct relationship with us. Connect to the Creator and listen. There’s nothing like listening to the Father’s voice as He whispers into our hearts and connects with us.

“Faith (the beginning of our relationship with God) comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of God.” Romans 10:17

(Be sure to check out Maali’s blog over at Heartfull Whispers! Show her some love and tell her I sent you) 

With all the love,

A

Untitled Love (By Celina Kay)

Happy Friday, Friends! I can’t tell you enough great things about the community that I get to be a part of as a college christian girl blogger. My new friend, Celina, shared the following post on her own blog last week and I can’t get enough of it. I told her that these words could have been my own, and they needed to be shared. So, with her generous permission, I’m sharing this with you today. I hope your heart feels touched and understood like my own did.

Dear You,

I’m coming to realize that all I’ve ever wanted since I was a little girl was to feel cherished, irreplaceable, and safe. My favorite and most memorable childhood pastime was playing dress up. Sitting here and thinking back on these simple times, I can still feel the joy that raced through my heart as I sang and dance around my house, pretending to be someone else; someone of the utmost importance and value. As I grew older I learned that one way I could find this sense of security was by pouring my heart into the characters that surrounded me.

I find this to be one of the biggest reasons for my love of period dramas. A favorite thing of mine to do is find a character that I can relate to and fully experience the dramatic events that they go through. Heck! Even if I have nothing in common with the character, I will seek out one tiny thing to hold onto that connects me to them until I deeply feel their pain, their joy, and their story.

Take Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. I have pretty much nothing in common with her. I am not a spoiled Southern belle, I do not have a 17-inch waist, and though I may have the tendency to exaggerate for embellishment, I am not nearly as self-centered, bratty, and prone to hysterical outbursts as she is. Even with all of these key differences, my young heart somehow became very connected with hers as I watched her story unfold. Even today, I feel precisely what she feels when she goes through the events of the movie. When her heart is taken advantage of by Ashley, my heart is taken advantage of. When she falls for Rhett Butler, I fall for Rhett Butler. When Rhett leaves Scarlett to Ashley at the end of the movie, I feel every single piece of her heartbreak once she realizes how stupid she had been to cling to unavailable Ashley for so long.

The point is that I have always found ways to invest my whole heart into the lives of others. Sometimes this has been such a wonderful thing. The ability to connect at the deepest levels to others can create powerful bonds and bring a lot of beauty into this world. But more often than not, I have allowed it to come to the point where I have given others power over my heart, whether they asked for it or not. Instead of guarding my heart within my connections, I have left it–my most prized possession–totally vulnerable to many who enter into my life, simply because I have wanted to be cherished and unrejectable. Being open and loving is a miraculous thing and I’ve come to see that there must be some self-protection when pouring into the hearts of others. A balance in order to benefit everyone you come in contact with. If you empty yourself without maintaining resources to replenish yourself, any attempt at helping others will likely be insincere and fruitless.

Over these past couple of years, I have been working so hard to learn how to not let others have control over my life. And, I’ll tell you, it truly is a choice. I’ve had to learn how to take responsibility for my reactions because I am the one who decides how I handle encounters with others. There are two sides. They act and I have the power to react in any way that I choose. Oh boy, has it been one heck of a process as this has been one of the greatest battles for my sensitive heart to overcome. Though it has the potential to be if not tended to, I don’t see my sensitivity as purely negative. I simply want to know how to be sensitive to others without letting their problems, criticisms, or emotions rip me up inside. What’s the healthy balance between showing empathy and fostering my own strength? I’ve been fighting against the habit of allowing empathy to drag me into the lowest of lows when it should really be a beautiful thing used for healing and the good of others. I really believe that time and self-examination are the keys to finding this balance within myself. Time is just a tricky thing to wait on.

Now over these past few weeks, I’ve specifically had love on my mind and many questions have come to me. How do I love without giving so much that I end up wounded? Or is love about giving until you cannot give anymore and risking taking in some wounds? How do I love with complete purity, sacrifice, and steadfast dedication? Is this possible and how do I love myself in the mix of all of this?

With all of these questions inside of me, I absolutely believe that the heartbreak we often experience in this life is worth the love that is gained through it. If I love with all of my heart and experience disappointment, it will have all been worth it because I truly believe that love calls for true sacrifice. Still, I don’t believe that it calls us to give up the deepest parts of ourselves to just anyone. That’s where wisdom and discipline come into action. How can we love if we are empty? We must protect the core of who we are. Then, we can find the strength and discernment to truly love.

I want freedom to encompass my love. Loving others without the chains of fear holding me down. Loving sacrificially while remaining true to the core of who I am. And I know that I can’t truly display or even accept this kind of love until I heal the wounds of my past and understand that I am cherished, endlessly wanted, and of value because of the truths that God has spoken into my very being. Through this painful process of life, I am learning important characteristics of this love that I can often be caught daydreaming of.

Love will give. Wait. Hope. Stand firm and protect. Prioritize. Sacrifice. Accept. Challenge. Forgive. Love fights. It is not for the weak.

And perfect love heals.

So may I, and all those I come across, discover the courage to act with this kind of powerfully infinite love.

(With a fullness of) Love,

Celina Kay

PLEASE head over to Celina’s blog (Dear You, Love Celina), and soak up her wisdom and joy. You won’t be disappointed. Be encouraged, friends. 

Hide the Broken

I had major anxiety at Target the other day, for no reason other than that’s what my mind likes to do. Panic.

My service dog, Malibu, was alerting like crazy. People were obsessing over the “cute dog” in public. I was trying to find an empty aisle to get away from reality. (the tupperware aisle in the corner is ALWAYS a safe place, FYI)

Thats when I heard the sound of something breaking nearby. I looked around the corner and a girl about my age was holding a cute little mug that was clearly in two pieces. She was looking around nervously, probably conflicted about what to do next. She put it in her basket as if she was going to keep the broken one, or at least admit to her mistake.

A few minutes later, I had made it to the coffee aisle (where I needed to be in the first place, obviously). I saw the same girl across the aisle, again holding her broken mug. I watched as she carefully put it back on the shelf, amongst all the other similar mugs. Then she walked away. She had successfully hidden her broken pieces with a sense of order and guilt. Nobody had to know what had happened. She could walk out of the store free and with a mug in one piece.

My panicked  brain started to solidify into coherence and symbolism, the two most important aspects of my thoughts if you ask me. In every sense, that girl and I had a lot in common – her brokenness was just more literal and tangible.

Here I was, with a dog who wouldn’t take her eyes or her tongue off of me, in the midst of an anxiety attack, seeking solitude and wholeness. I was broken, possibly beyond repair, but hey – we all are. I was hiding my pieces in the tupperware aisle, out of sight and out of mind.

Why is it so natural for us to hide the broken pieces? Why can’t we accept our flaws for what they are – beautiful and unique and vulnerable and real?

I don’t know the answers to those questions.

What I do know is that I’m loved for every part of me, the broken and the whole. No part of me is  deserving of hiding. I’m free of all those chains, whether I recognize it and accept it or not. I’ve been made just as I should be by the One who makes no mistakes.

I know that the same is true for you, too.

Trust me, I just know.

Let’s stop hiding.

With all the love,

A

 

Love That Sticks

One of my besties and her roomies (who are also my besties!!!) introduced me to my new favorite ministry: LoveThatSticks.

Love that sticks is a social media based ministry run by a sweet girl in Houston Texas. She makes and sends out paintings and encouragements for those who need them. Here’s how it works:

You message her on Instagram and let her know what you are looking for – a care package for a friend who is having a hard time, a thank you package for someones generosity, or even just a word that’s been on your heart for yourself. You can also request specific quotes, colors, or even the medium (canvas, watercolor, wood…).

I told her that Jesus wrote “Brave” and “hope” on my heart daily. That’s all I told her, the rest was in her hands.

Next step: payment. What I think is the most beautiful part of this ministry is that she only requests what you feel called or capable to give. PayPal her any amount, and she’ll have your order shipped to you within days.

I sent $15, for reference…. and wow was I blessed with what she sent me.

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I received about 20 watercolor quotes, all speaking peace and hope and bravery over my life. I also received a wooden magnet and one small canvas. The words on each piece came directly from the wisdom of God and straight into my heart.

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I could not have been more encouraged when I opened my package!! These will make great decorations in my new apartment, and I know many people who use them as reinforcements in their prayer nooks or quiet time spaces.

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If you are interested in placing an order for yourself or a loved one, message @lovethatsticksministry on Instagram today and tell her that I sent you! I promise you won’t be disappointed, in fact, you’ll only be uplifted!

With all the love,

A

The Girl With The Dog 

I’m at work right now.

I can hear my bosses footsteps down the hallway. He’s with someone. He asks if anyone’s working in the nursery yet.

“The girl with the dog is here”

I hold my breath.

“Allyson. Her name is Allyson.”

Sigh of relief.

I have major identity issues, stemming from the time I was little and first diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome. From the age of twelve, I became known as a diagnoses. The acronym CRPS became attached to the end of my name. Doctors knew my symptoms better than they knew my personality. They knew my favorite medicines better than they knew my favorite foods. They knew the name of my favorite hospital staff better than they knew the name of my best friend.

I became “the girl who can’t walk.” I was introduced as “Ally with chronic pain.” I was more often a patient, rather than a person. I was my own disease.

When I came back to college after learning to walk in 2015, I was able to shed that identity. My new friends didn’t have to know sick-Ally unless I told them about sick-Ally. Strangers didn’t know I had a disease, let alone any pain at all. I was finally Ally… for a bit.

Then I glued a service dog to my side. I gave myself a 70 pound visible sign that said “hey look at me!!!! Im disabled!!!”

Please don’t misunderstand. I love my girl more than anything. She saves my life daily, that’s why I have her!

But when people see her and not me – when people acknowledge her and not me and ask her name but not mine – who do I become? I’m no longer Ally. I’m the girl with the dog. I’m Malibu’s handler. I’m a second thought.

But, I’m not any of those things.

I AM Ally. I’ve been Ally this whole time, and will continue to be as long as the Good Lord let’s me. I’m content knowing that HE knows my heart and sees my every quality, good and bad, for what I’m worth. My identity is much more secure in Jesus, rather than in my dog or my former wheelchair-bound life.

So, I want to challenge you. Are you seeing people for who they are? Or are you seeing them for what they have – a disability, a child, a dog, a different appearance? Do you know them? Like, really know them? Or are you going to let them continue to be seen as “the girl with the….”?

With all the love,

A

Malibu Miracles

By now I’m sure that you’ve met my dog, Malibu. She’s a rescued St Bernard/Great Pyrenees who is in training to be my service dog for CRPS, Anxiety, Panic, and more. She’s my best friend and I probably couldn’t love her more if I tried.

In the month that I’ve had Mali, she’s attracted a lot of attention. People always want to stop and ask about her, or compliment her behavior or appearance (friendly reminder: do not pet my dog!!!). Last week we had our first (actually, 2!) Malibu Miracle. Here’s how it went:

I was on campus, headed to class with Mali by my side. I noticed this girl running up to me and I figured she was just a dog lover who wanted to pet her. Wow, I was wrong.

This sweet girl asked if my dog’s name was Malibu. Wait… how did she know that? I said yes, and she was nearly jumping out of her skin when she told me that she had adopted Malibu’s brother! We talked for a while and found out that they live right down the street from me, and we knew we had to reunite them.

We were both told at the shelter that the two pups were very attached to each other. They were best friends, and when Aragon (now Winston) was adopted without her, Malibu became very depressed and lonely. Reuniting them sounded like the most exciting possibility.

So, this past Monday night, Winston and his sweet owners came over to play. What started as an overwhelmingly sweet reunion turned into a mellow hang out between two siblings. I couldn’t help but miss my own siblings the entire time.

I’ll leave you today with a few sweet moments captured from that special night:

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Look how much bigger he is than her!
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Like brother, like sister. They have all the same behaviors!
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Even their tails wag in sync
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New friend Jasper came to play and Big Brother was VERY protective of Little Sister

With all the love,

A

Rabies in the Name of Jesus

Happy weekend!! Today I’ve got a little story for you. Recently, I hinted at the fact that I have a fear of cats after being attacked by a stray last fall. I asked if you wanted the full story, and the people spoke! So here’s what happened:

Last year, I had the privilege of being a young life leader of Freshman girls at my university. I had an incredible group of more than a dozen girls, and the best co-leader ever. Early on in our fall semester, I got a late night phone call from one of my girls. I remember seeing her name on my phone and thinking ” Yes, Lord! A chance to love this girl and serve you!”

Well, turns out homegirl found a stray cat on campus, and she desperately wanted for me to bring it home with me until we could get it to a shelter. I knew THAT wasn’t going to happen, but I also knew that my sweet girl wouldn’t go home until I came to assess the situation.

It gets a little blurry from here.

I remember showing up and seeing the cat resting peacefully on my girls lap, but the next thing I know… Its teeth are in my arm and its claws are embedded in my shirt. I shook it off of me and calmly told my girl to head home, that the cat ran off into the trees and it will be okay.

Knowing that wounds like this would seriously set off my CRPS, I texted my friends as I got into my car. “Meet me at the apartment in 5. We’re spending the night in the hospital.” Sure enough, they were there when I got home.

You see, I went to the hospital in preparation of the massive pain flare that I knew was coming. All I knew was that I had two bites and an 11 inch scratch on my ribs that hurt REALLY bad. Rabies was a foreign concept to me, but it was the first thing the doctor brought up when he got in the room. Yep. I needed treatment.

The doctor educated me a little bit on the risk of rabies. Essentially, any stray in an area like this has a high risk of contracting rabies due to the large bat population (who knew?), so I needed the shots as a precaution. The best (read: worst) part? Rabies is 100% fatal once symptoms begin. Needless to say, I chose to go through treatment.

What does rabies treatment look like? WELL LEMME TELL YA. It looks like needles. Lots of needles.

Your days become numbers after exposure to rabies. That was the first thing I learned.

Day 1: a tetanus shot. A rabies vaccine. A rabies shot into each wound (about 4 for me). Another shot in the leg just for fun.

Day 3: More anti-rabies serum in each arm.

Day 7: ….again.

Day 10: More….

Day 14: …..

FOR SO MANY DAYS.

And friends, listen here – these aren’t just your friendly little flu shot pricks. These things HURT. After one of my first shots, a friend had to cut up my chicken at dinner because I couldn’t lift my arm. No joke.

The first few months were full of caution, as you have to get tested for rabies any time any symptoms appear, and symptoms range from cold-like to neurological (which, hello, I have a neurological disease.)

It was stressful.

It was traumatic.

It was exhausting.

I have a phobia of cats.

Moral of the story: PLEASE DON’T TOUCH STRAYS. DON’T EVEN LOOK AT THEM.

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The last time I voluntarily picked up a cat – my cat-nephew, Tuna

With all the love,

A