Eight Years

Today marks eight years since the day that turned my life upside-down. Eight years ago, I tore my achilles tendon- leading to the onset of my now life-long battle with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. 

In honor of the past 8 years, I’ve decided to share with you the ~short~ version of my chronic illness testimony. I hope that through it you discover a sense of hope and motivation to embrace hardship in your own life, no matter what you’re currently facing.

You’re never alone.

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the ankle that ruined me… the cross that saved me

I was 12 years old when the pain started. I had no grasp of the concept of ‘forever.’ The words ‘chronic’ and ‘incurable’ were foreign to me. In the span of 18 months, I went from the highs of making the school volleyball team, to the lows of being diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Before CRPS, I was happy, busy, and active… I was healthy. I was ‘normal.’ I had a memory bank full of good times, laughter, successes and love. My dreams resembled those of every other overachieving little girl. My future was bright, my faith was strong, and my heart was full.

Pain changed everything. Being so young and having your body begin to fail you is nothing short of devastating and incredibly confusing. I very quickly became a person that I swore I would never be. My diagnosis dictated my every decision, my every move, and my every thought. My spirit was overcome with anger and hatred for the life that I was living. My thoughts were clouded by dozens of the most hard hitting questions: ‘Why me? What did I do wrong? When will it end? Is the fight even worth it? Where are you, God? Why won’t you heal me? God, why have you done this to me?’ I fell victim to the traps of the enemy and the lies of chronic illness. I began inflicting emotional pain onto people that I loved, because I thought that if I had to walk through hell, they should too.

It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 years old and in remission that I realized I had it wrong all along. The most defining moment of my battle came when I made the decision to stop being a victim of chronic illness, and start being a survivor instead. As I faced the reality of relapse right before high school graduation, I clung so desperately to the fraying ends of the rope I had woven of hope and bravery. I moved forward through the darkest months of my life, holding on to the thought that maybe, just maybe, God had something great for me waiting up ahead. Sure enough… He did. I discovered an entire community of people facing similar (yet vastly unique) battles against various chronic ailments. I found support. I found friendship. I found love. I rediscovered Jesus. I was reminded of the irreplaceable purpose and tremendous potential that I possess. Through the encouragement of the Word and incredible friends, I have been able to replace the lies of the world with the truth and promises that God provides. He is sovereign and almighty. No matter what these earthly doctors tell me, He is the ultimate physician. He knows my every pain and every hardship. He’s supplies me with the strength I need to rise up above my illness each day and share His love with the world. He’s promised me the ultimate gift: an eternal life free of these chains that bind me, free of pain, free of suffering, and free of darkness.

I am sick. I am broken (spoiler alert: we all are). I fall short. I mess up.

But in the very same breath of life, I am loved. I am worthy. I am strong. I am brave.

I’m a survivor.img_2729

With all the love,

A

Tiny Plant… Big Joy

I’ve hinted before that I’m a passionate girl. Along the same lines, I’m a constant joy seeker. The two go hand in hand as my passions so often lead to abundant joy. When life takes those unexpected (and seemingly frequent) turns towards hardship and pain, I’m the first person to dig up even the tiniest specks of joy from the depths of darkness.

On the bad days, the first place you should look for me is the river. If I’m not there, check the garden section of Lowes. No, really. You’ll probably find me there standing in front of the shelves of succulents. I could stand there for hours, if  we’re being honest.

You see, I’m fascinated by all things tiny. Tiny humans (aka babies). Tiny trinkets. Tiny animals. And especially tiny plants.I dare you to tell me that tiny plants don’t bring you joy.

Recently, during one of our daily  rare trips to target, Angelica and I spotted the biggest blessing in the clearance aisle. It called my name from a mile away.

Meet Namron!img_2580

Namron (Norman backwards, if you didn’t catch that) was adopted into the Ally-household with more love than a tiny plant could ever need. He definitely has a wild side, and we have to keep our eyes on him constantly- and not just because he’s so dang cute! You see, he lives on a table next to my door (he’s a guard plant!) next to my “genie lamp” (touch the base to turn on). Any time Namron is left unattended, we come home to find that genie lamp has been turned on or off. Sneaky tiny thing!

Now that you’ve met Namron, please enjoy our Newborn Tiny Plant Photoshoot!

With all the love,

A & Namron

Meet us at the river

 

My best friend and I are runners- Not the healthy, fit, muscular kind of runners (although I do love running, and finished two 5K’s within 24 hours a few months ago), but the lets-get-away-from-here kind of runners.

Lately, more often than we’d care to admit, we’ve been inches away from falling into the traps of the enemy. No matter how intentional and careful we are with our hearts and spirits, we are certainly not immune to difficult days.

So what do we do when the world tries to bring us down? When we feel stuck? When we’re lost?

We run. We grab our keys. We pack our backpacks. We tighten (or in her case, loosen) our chacos. We run.

Where do we go? The answer to that question is almost always “nature.”

Our favorite spot on the river, where the sound of the rushing rapids drowns out the noise of the world.

A secluded trail that leads us to a quiet creek surrounded in Texas’s most beautiful wildflowers.

A pond hidden along a winding path, offering the clearest view of the brightest stars in the darkness of the night.

Here’s the thing: We aren’t running from our problems. We aren’t running from the people or things that have left us hurting. We aren’t running from the pain.

Instead, we carry all of those burdens with us, and run straight towards The One who can free our hearts from those chains and clear our minds of the lies the world feeds us.

Recently, on a day that shattered our spirits, a day that we heard many hateful lies and hurtful comments, we dried our tears and peeled each other off of my bedroom floor.

“We need to run”

We threw our bibles in my backpack, put on our swimsuits, and got in my car.

“Meet us at the river, Jesus. Meet us where we are.”

We ran, arms and hearts wide open.

We talked. We prayed. We read scripture. We listened.

Right there, amongst the moss covered rocks and flowing water, we exhaled the negativity that suffocated us, and we inhaled the peace and truth that The Lord so generously fills our lungs with.

After all, there’s no better way to feel close to the creator than to be in His creation.

We ran to Him, and He was there.

He met us at the river. He always does.

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our favorite spot on the San Marcos River

Friends, find your safe space- your happy place. Run. Ask Jesus to meet you there. I promise you that He’ll never turn down the invitation. He’ll meet you at your river. He’ll meet you where you are.

With all the love,

A

 

 

Long Distance

I’m one of those girls that will refer to everyone as my best friend. Here’s the thing though: I mean it, every single time. All of my friends truly are the best, and I couldn’t love them more.

The hardest part about having so many precious humans that I love so deeply: I can’t be with all of them all of the time. As a matter of fact, most of my friendships are long distance.

Shout out to Chicago, St Louis, New York City, Phoenix, Cleveland, nearly every city in Texas, Canada and even Finland for being home to my people. Also, thanks for forcing me to memorize all of the world’s time zones- a skill that definitely comes in handy every once in a while.

How does this work for me? Honestly, it doesn’t. “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” is sometimes true, but mostly it’s just a Band-Aid phrase used to patch up the wound that distance creates.

So how do we make it through those long days/weeks/months/years without seeing each other? Obviously, there’s the typical response of “technology is a beautiful thing,” (snapchat is SUCH a blessing- added bonus that the puppy filter looks way too naturally cute on me) but really there’s so much more than technology in long-distance friendships.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of snail mail. Cards for every occasion, letters for no reason at all, postcards from every city. It’s all tangible evidence of a love that can’t be physically felt or shared in person.

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some of my postcard collection, featuring the homes of many of my favorite humans

What also helps us through the separation is resting in the knowledge that we’re never as far apart as it seems. We all see the same sun rise and set each day. We breathe in the same air. We’re all equally loved and valued. We all have the same ability to impact the world around us, and no matter what, we have the power to encourage each other along the way.

If I’m being honest, I think it’s the long-distance friendships that are the sweetest and most fulfilling. It’s a true testament to the power and strength a relationship can hold. Nothing, not even 5,000 miles, can break the ties that bond us together. Love knows no bounds, and can be contained by no boarders.

There’s no need for “I miss you” when in reality- the only thing missing in these friendships is physical touch. Plus, the longer we go apart, the more valuable and cherished our time together in each other’s presence is. After all, there’s nothing as sweet as that first hug after way too long. In fact, just this past December I went to pick up a friend from the airport after 18 months apart, and we were too overwhelmed to even think about touching or hugging, because being physically separated was more natural for us. Weird, I know, but again: it’s just a testament to the ability of our friendship to survive together or apart.

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A long awaited reunion with the St Louis bestie

As we grow older, friends start graduating, moving away, and taking a different path. Here’s my advice to you, if you have that fear of saying “See you later”: you CAN make it work, and if the Lord intends on using this friendship for purposeful good, it WILL work. It won’t always be easy. There will be phone calls at 3 AM that make you want to go running straight into that friend’s arms. You will miss their presence, but you wont have to miss them.

They’ll still be there. They’ll still love you. They’ll still care.

With all the love,

A

People Hope

I’m a passionate girl. You’ll learn more about my most recent passion for tiny plants soon, but in the mean time I want to introduce you to an organization that combines my most favorite and intense passions: faith, hope, community, and chronic illness/undiagnosis advocacy.

Meet People Hope.

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People Hope is a nonprofit that was started by a woman with a dream and with a purpose: Anna King. Anna has brought to life a vision of unreal hope and love for people who are walking the path of chronic illness or chronic undiagnosis (meaning they are still waiting to put a name to their symptoms).

In the past, People Hope has been a social media based organization- reaching every corner of the world through posts bursting with hope and truth, bringing together people from every walk of life into what we call the “People Hope Tribe.” The Tribe is the most influential and inspiring group of people I have ever had the privilege of being a part of. People Hope has introduced me to some of my most cherished friends, and has given me a space to feel welcome in all of my broken glory.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

People Hope just announced this past week that they are ready to launch their full website, after many many months of planning, fundraising, and prayer! Visit peoplehope.org to find out more about what is to come. Mark your calendars for September 19- I promise you that People Hope throws some of the best Internet parties in the world. No matter who you are or what your life looks like right now, you want to be a part of this for sure. People Hope is for YOU- no matter who you are.

A few months back, a fellow Tribe member who I have grown to know and love asked what People Hope means to me. Here was my exact response:

“Oh wow haha I’d have to write a novel to find all the words to answer that. I guess to summarize: I’ve been sick for a REALLY long time, and struggled through my teenage years trying to choose between being “sick” and being “human” and in some way, People Hope opened my eyes to the reality that I don’t have to choose… Being sick is okay, I’m still worthy of love, I’m still full of purpose and potential… My diagnosis doesn’t change any of that. People Hope is a solid reminder that we are all perfectly created in God’s image, and our flaws and struggles only make us even more beautiful. It’s a reminder that I need daily, and People Hope provides that!! Plus, I love loving on others, and fighting these battles together. No one should be alone, ever. (haha told you I had a lot to say)”

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If you’d like to know more about People Hope or how you can join the Tribe, please contact People Hope or me! Also follow them on Facebook and Instagram for daily encouragement, and use the hashtag #PeopleHopeTribe to connect with other incredible humans!

With all the love,

A

Dear New York City

I miss you.IMG_2993

I miss you, and the way you make me feel so perfectly small and humble.

I’m missing the constant noise and movement that would send my mind into overdrive back home, but instead opens my senses to the beauty of the world around me on every street corner in the city.

I miss the smells of street food, coffee and cigarette smoke that burns its way into my naïve little soul.

I miss being unknown by the masses, and I miss the wonder of your people.

I miss the languages, the accents, and the dialects that evolve from block to block.

I miss your sunsets from rooftops above and your darkness in the tunnels below.

I miss the contrast, the instability within your routine.

I miss your people. My people. Our people.

I miss you.IMG_2966

With all the love,

            A

Teaspoon of Sprinkles: Part 2

Last week, I left you with a cliffhanger while explaining why I chose the name Teaspoon of Sprinkles for my blog. Today, I’d like to let you in on the history of my love of spoons.

If you know me personally, chances are that you know about my life with chronic pain. If you’re new to my life, first of all- Hi! Welcome! I’m Ally and 8 years ago I developed a disease called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Basically, my nervous system is broken and my brain can’t turn the pain signal off. Although my journey through chronic illness has had many different seasons and an abundance of highs and lows, for the most part my daily life has consisted of pain and various challenges. Currently, I experience full body burning pain 24/7 and often deal with a hypersensitivity to touch and sound- meaning that it causes pain to touch my skin, and I feel loud noises. It isn’t unusual for my arms or legs to turn purple, and I actively manage debilitating muscle spasms and tremors.

If you were to run into me casually on campus, you’d have no idea of the war raging inside of my body. CRPS is what we call an “invisible illness.” It’s very real and very significant, but it isn’t outwardly visible. You would only know that I have it if I were to tell you, or if you were to witness one of my flares.

This is where the spoon comes in.

A woman named Christine Miserandino created the Spoon Theory in an attempt to explain what it’s like to live with a sickness or disability. Although Christine battles Lupus, the parallels between all chronic illnesses are endless. Friends, please take the time to read Christine’s words. Read the Spoon Theory and allow yourself to get a glimpse into my daily life, and even more so into my heart and the hearts of millions of people worldwide who are walking the road of chronic illness.

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A very special and artistic friend painted me a very special and artistic spoon and it made me feel very special and not artistic

Here’s the take away:

Sick or not sick, I feel strongly that it’s important to be intentional with our time, with our energy, and with our hearts. I may have fewer spoons in my pocket than you at the start of each day, but we still have the same opportunities to choose where we spend them and whom we spend them with. Personally, I love to spend my spoons on intentional time with my favorite humans (especially this one). As Christine mentions, we are careful not to waste or drop our spoons and we learn to live with a spoon in our back pocket.

I bet you’ll never look at a spoon the same way, will you? I hope that this has brought you some insight into the life of myself and other people you may know battling various illnesses. Please share the spoon theory with anyone and everyone that you feel may be encouraged or blessed by its message. Whoever you are, and whatever your connection to me is, I want to thank you for being here with me right now. Thank you for knowing me. You are all worthy of all of my spoons.

With all the love,

A

(all credit for the spoon theory goes to Christine and her website butyoudontlooksick.com, of which I am not affiliated)

Teaspoon of Sprinkles

You may think I’m only two posts deep into the blogging world, but I assure you I’m not. Teaspoon of Sprinkles is a space I’ve been dreaming of for years, and creating for months. The launch of this site on Monday was a day I never expected to see, quite honestly. I thought the planning stages would never end. The dreams would never stop. The time would never be right.

Well, the time is finally right. And I am so so so glad to welcome you into this new journey.

Here’s a little history of Teaspoon of Sprinkles:

You already know that I’m a writer. Blogging is in my blood. My mom runs a website/creativity blog, and I introduced you to my sister’s blog earlier. I had my first taste of blogging while running a Caringbridge site during the thick of my illness in 2010. Nearly a year ago, I was asked to contribute blog posts to a website dedicated to chronic pain. I’m known for long and meaningful Instagram captions. Sharing my thoughts with the world via the Internet feels natural, and it was time for all those thoughts to have a home.

Enter: Ricky.

About six months ago, not knowing that I was dreaming of my own blogging platform, my dad named my blog. Here’s the thing though- the name he came up with is not the name you see. Unfortunately, his idea was taken. Teaspoon of Sprinkles is the most natural variation of his original suggestion.

So, why Teaspoon of Sprinkles?

Well let’s start with the easy part: Sprinkles. I’m a girl of color, in every way. Sprinkles are like edible glitter to me, and I can’t get enough. Last year, I was known for ALWAYS having a jar of rainbow sprinkles in my purse, ready to brighten up any and every meal, ice cream cone, and milkshake. Sprinkles are what we call “An Ally Quirk,” of which there are many. My mom used to tell us “Sprinkles are for winners,” but I’m here today to tell you that you’re all winners, and you all deserve ALL of the sprinkles. You’re welcome.

Now, teaspoon. First of all, tea parties are not just for three year olds, I can assure you of that. Tea will never fail to warm my heart (unless it’s iced, of course!). You could also say that the word teaspoon ties into my love of baking- If you haven’t binge watched Great British Baking Show on Netflix yet, please do that tonight, and please fall in love with sweet Norman.

It’s the “spoon” part of teaspoon that proves to be the most significant, for reasons that many of you may have never expected. In fact, spoons are so near and dear to my heart that this explanation is deserving of its own post.

So, come back Monday to find out why I’m so in love with your favorite soup-eating-utensil. I promise it’ll change your perspective in all of the eye-opening ways.

With all the love,

A

A Writer

I’m a writer.

Here’s the thing about me being a writer, though: I’ve always hated English and writing intensive classes. Both of my siblings are journalists, one of which being a writer by trade (catch her spreading some genuine delight over on her corner of the internet). They were always the English and history kids in our family, while I excelled in math and science.

When I reached the end of high school and found myself unable to contain the words pouring out of me and onto paper, I was shocked. I didn’t tell anyone that I was writing. No one even knew that I had a journal, or that I had dozens of word documents saved on my computer.

As I’ve grown older and learned more about myself, I discovered that writing was so much easier than verbal communication. I’m pretty good at holding my own in a conversation, good enough to trick the world (and myself) into thinking I was an extrovert for 18 years, but when it comes down to the words that need to be said- the hard-truths, the important reminders, the unavoidable emotions (good and bad)- those are most easily communicated in writing.

It was no surprise to my people when I agreed to start my own blog- in fact, they begged encouraged me to do it. While talking with a friend a few months ago (while drugged up in the ER, nonetheless) she stopped me mid sentence to ask if I had a blog. I told her to stay tuned for that, and now here we are.

So, what can you expect from me here? Well, to be honest, I’d rather you not expect anything at all, that way you’ll never be disappointed (an important life lesson that I just recently learned)! Instead, I’ll tell you that my intentions are to use this as a space to offer insight into all aspects of my life- obviously that means the life of being chronically sick and the abundant lessons and experiences that come with any diagnosis, but also the life of a college girl following Jesus into uncharted territory and finding identity in Him along the way.

Fair warning: I’m a broken human.

Spoiler alert: so are you.

But that’s what’s beautiful about this life here on Earth: We all get to be broken together. After all, it’s those broken cracks that let the light shine through.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Ram Dass. He says “We’re all just walking each other home.” This life here on Earth is just an avenue to our final destination in Eternity, and we’re lucky enough to get to share in the twists and turns of that journey together.

So, join me here on that walk. Lets do life together. If you’re here, reading this, I want you to know I’m happy to have you. I hope you stick around. I want you to know that you’re never alone. I’m always here. And I want you to know that you’re loved beyond comprehension. Just trust me on that one.

With all the love,

A