Saturday, July 23, 2016

I Still Matter

One day somebody sent me this electronic flyer....

It sounded interesting.  
It caught my attention.

I enjoy artsy kind of stuff, I enjoy being creative and holding a finished product that looks beautiful, despite how I feel on the inside.  The fact that I can create something apart from the darkness that sometimes lingers within and above and all around me, is truly amazing! Although, it doesn't always feel amazing because when I don't see much good in me, it is hard for me to see anything I create as good, but then a few days later I look back and my husband often hears me say, 'hey this sketch isn't so bad.'  I am definitely my own worst critic.

I over think.  Should I go? What if I don't know what to do?  Usually when I create something, I get my idea from somewhere else.  What if I can't do what they are doing in this art group?  What if I totally miss the idea?  What if I get really nervous?  What if...all the fear and anxiety and doubt flooded my thoughts.  So I decided to go check out the website. I read about who they are and what they do and how to get involved. I read blog posts they shared and I left the website feeling a little more at ease than when I entered. I thought to myself if this group is any kind of reflection of this website, and this website made me feel more at ease, then maybe I should give it a try. 

"I Still Matter supports mental and emotional health through art and creative expression." 
This seemed to be like something I really needed to check out.  I sent an email to the email address on the website with a lot of questions and was pleasantly surprised by a prompt, personal reply.  I was nervous about going to the group and my worries became less as the founder offered to connect with me sometime before group for coffee and even offered to sit with me during the group if that would help me to not feel as nervous.  Her reaching out to me, during a moment when I didn't feel like there was much good in me, really meant a lot.  I made up my mind.  I was going.  I would like to say all the nervous energy just drained away and the doubts disappeared and I felt confident going forward but this one little fact remained --- this was way out of my comfort zone.  How does that saying go?  "Recovery is scary but so is remaining exactly the same." 
As the day approached I felt a mix of anticipation and curiosity and doubt and anxiety and sadness and fear and I kept thinking, what am I doing?  Some little voice in my head kept telling me it wasn't the place for me, I wouldn't fit in, would they understand, would they get it, would they think I was standoffish if I didn't have much to say, would they think I was rude, maybe I just shouldn't go.....all those thoughts....are so draining.

The clock ticked on and I found myself going through the motions of getting ready but still not entirely sure I could do this. 

Once I got there, I went in and took a seat.  I was greeted and welcomed to the group.  They seemed genuinely happy that I was there. I felt included.  I listened as they talked during our art project, and realized some of the things they were saying were the way I always think.  Could it be?  Could I have found a place where I don't feel so alone?  Could I have found a place where I feel like I belong?  

The art project was "Breakdowns and Breakthroughs." We were reminded, "with every break down there is some kind of breakthrough." I must say I am somebody who LOVES when simple things take on deeper meanings.  The activity involved water color paints, salt, tissue paper, white crayons, rubbing alcohol, and paper. We were each given a sheet of paper and instructed to make 8 squares. We were told that water colors are not an easy medium to work with, much like life.  In the first square we were told to pick a color and fill it in with paint and then we were given salt and told to sprinkle the salt on that square and let it sit...that represents our daily routine.  In the next square we covered with a color of paint and then took a piece of tissue paper and kind of made patterns in that square as we sort of blotted the square of paint....that represents our emotional struggles. In the next square we once again chose a color and painted the square, this time we took a q tip and dipped it in rubbing alcohol and touched the square we had painted...this represented interpersonal relationships. The next square we used a white crayon to make lines and shapes and then colored over it with the paint....this represented the invisible connections. The next box we kind of made splatter marks with one color and allowed that to dry and then put another color over the top of it....this represented the layers of our self, our mental health and what we choose to show others. The next square was splatter style painting....this represented our daily thoughts and frustrations. The final two squares were covered in paint and then with a dry brush with a little bit of water we made water drops....because when it rains it pours!  Each box represented some kind of breakdown and related it to some aspect of our daily lives. As my paint brush filled with each of the different colors and spread out across the page, I felt my doubts and fears and anxious thoughts disperse as well. I could take a deep breathe. My finished squares looked like this: 

And then she said, "now lets rip it up."  I sat there staring at the page, thinking well I kind of like what all this represents and I don't really know how I could tear it and still keep it in order and remember what it all meant....for me just having to tear that paper felt like a major breakdown, literally and figuratively.  I couldn't wrap my head around it nor did I want to physically break this paper down. I was once again reminded that with every break down there is some kind of breakthrough. Ok, if I have to tear it I guess I can try to stay on the lines and not 'ruin' any one square.  So typical for how I am, even when I feel like I am breaking down in life, I still want it to be my way, under my control. So with 8 squares we were then given shape cutters and told to pick a star or a heart or a diamond or a circle and cut shapes out of our squares. With the shapes we made cards and inside the card we were told to write some kind of positive affirmation and then put it up at home where we would see it every day. Or we were told how nice it would be to mail somebody a card.  Yes, I said mail!  When was the last time you received something other than junk mail when you walked out to the mailbox?  I have yet to find a positive affirmation to put inside it.  I chose to stick with hearts and stars, and now that I am writing this blog I think my positive affirmation for inside the card is going to be, "I Still Matter." This is what my card looked like:

Here is another view, with different lighting!

What a powerful, visual representation of how the breakdowns of life, while they are not fun to live through, they aren't for nothing. As confusing as the process of a breakdown can be, there can also be beauty found in who it helps us become. I would have never thought that my torn up pieces of paper could create a card that is so bright and happy and pretty...much like I can't imagine how the shards of my broken spirit could ever produce light or that any good could come from my mental collapse.  This project offered me hope during a time when that very feeling, feels like it is fading away.  
If you are living with a mental illness or have friends or loved ones who are, then I would definitely suggest marking August 16th on your calendar, and checking out this community art group. 

Monday, July 18, 2016


I thought about reactivating my facebook account.  I miss the daily reminder of what happened 'on this day' so many years ago.  It shows me how much I forget but it also helps me to remember. Thinking about that made me think about an afternoon last week when my dad was discouraged.  We pulled up my blog and showed him videos of when he could not even move his right toes, much less walk or dress himself or go to the bathroom on his own, when he couldn't swallow, when part of his skull was missing, when he stood for the first time, spoke for the first time, etc. I think sometimes people don't realize the magnitude of just how much his stroke has changed our lives. There were many people praying for him and for that I am grateful, but every day life as we knew it 8 months ago is so different now. I am grateful that he is still here but there is also a degree of grief as we mourn what we have lost from the stroke.  I think some of us are just coming to terms with this concept. Even my dad is mourning what he has lost from this stroke. This "miracle" has left him unable to live normally. While it has affected all of our lives, we can see the miracle from the outside a lot more than he can feel it from the inside. Some days are better than others, that is everybodys fate I suppose. It was nice to provide encouragement to my dad.  It left me thinking about how neat it would be to have somebody record different times of my life and then later when I am discouraged, they could give me a link to a time when I couldn't do then what I am doing now. There is no highlight reel in life.  People often put the best face out there but underneath it all they are dealing with a task or situation that tests their abilities. 

I guess these pictures attempt to paint an outward display of what it looks like when you look back over a more trying time of your life.  In the first picture he was watching as he just started to move his toes, and only with a lot of concentration.  The second picture is him looking back at a picture from shortly after a piece of his skull was removed, but because of the amount of swelling you wouldn't even know it was missing. 

We had a family cook out on Saturday July 2nd .  Grandma and Pop didn't want to be on the road on the fourth of July.  We ate, we talked, we sang. Singing comes easier for my dad.  After watching the video of him singing on Saturday I decided to pull up the video of him singing back in December.  I couldn't believe how much his voice has improved and how much of the right side of his face has come back. 

This is my dad singing back in December. 

Here is a video of my dad singing on July 2.  You can see how much more he can move the right side of his face and you can hear how his voice has come back. He sings the same song from above, just a little later in the following video.

With My Eyes Wide Open

With My Eyes Wide Open
Written By Brian "Head" Welch 

Book Overview:

He left KoRn to help himself. He went back to help others. And along the way, he nearly lost everything.
A life-changing spiritual awakening freed Brian “Head” Welch from a stranglehold of drugs and alcohol and prompted him to leave the highly successful nu-metal band KoRn in 2005. What followed was a decade-long trial by fire, from the perils of fathering a teen lost in depression and self-mutilation to the harsh realities of playing solo and surviving the shattering betrayal of a trusted friend. In this intensely inspiring redemption saga, perhaps most inspiring is Brian’s radical decision to rejoin KoRn and reconcile with the tribe of people he once considered family in the metal music scene.
Brian returned to his musical roots with a clear head and a devoted heart. Though his story is wild, hilarious, and deeply poignant, the message is simple: God will love you into the freedom of being yourself, as long as you keep the relationship going and never, ever quit.

My Thoughts:

I enjoy reading.  I really enjoy reading that gives me the opportunity to step into somebody elses shoes and try to look at life from their perspective. I didn't really know much about the band KoЯn prior to requesting this book.  I was intrigued by part of the overview that talked about his struggles with a teen lost in depression.  Being somebody who struggles with depression, I was curious.  I enjoyed reading the book.  Brian "Head" Welch from the band KoЯn has had his own run with depression.  I like how this book clearly shows us that nobody is immune from making mistakes but that everybody can find forgiveness.  Brian had his fair share of difficulty, some from the choices he made, and some from the devil trying to get him off track.  I know the book was mostly about Brian and its his comeback story, personally I am wondering if his daughter Jennea has any plans on writing a book.  That is one I would definitely want to read.  Jennea ended up going to a girls boarding school for a time while she became more self confident and stronger as she fought back against depression.  I would love to hear more of her story.  I like how the book ended, more like a to be continued because really Brian just brought us up to where he was as of publishing it.  I like that it included a letter from Jennea at the end of the book.  I would recommend this book to somebody who likes to get an inside picture of people they look up to or to somebody who is a die hard KoЯn fan. Ultimately it is a story of redemption, for the individual and for the band.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

All Things Bright and Beautiful

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Written By Cecil Frances Alexander
Illustrated By Katy Hudson

Book Overview: 

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
First published by Cecil Frances Alexander in 1848, this favorite hymn has become a mainstay of churches and Sunday school classes everywhere. Here artist Katy Hudson brings new joy to the words with her fresh and bright watercolor style. Readers can join in the fun as they follow two little girls and their brother on a day filled with the discovery of all things bright and beautiful.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this book with my boys.  One of my boys is 9 and one of them is 5.  While my boys enjoyed it, I do feel that it would be a book geared more towards younger children. In the past I have volunteered in a Sunday school class setting with two year olds.  This book would be great for that kind of setting. I think it would hold their attention because of the bright colors and the children all throughout the story are young.  It would be great for naming animals as well. I like the message that this book conveys.  A simple, yet profound reminder that we can find God's touch everywhere we look, including the people who grace our path. 

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one of the products mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog, thanks to FlyBy Promotions. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Life We Never Expected

The Life We Never Expected
Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs

Written By Andrew and Rachel Wilson

Book Overview:

What do you do when hard or painful circumstances turn your world upside down, resulting in a life you never expected? Andrew and Rachel Wilson grappled with this question after both of their children were diagnosed with regressive autism. Refreshingly honest, this book explores the highs and lows of raising children with specials needs, reflecting on the broader question of how to cope with suffering of all kinds. Sharing personal stories from their lives and encouragement rooted in the truth of God's Word, Andrew and Rachel highlight lessons they've learned related to fighting for joy and thriving in the midst of trials--ultimately pointing readers to Christ, the One who promises to make all things new.

My Thoughts:

I enjoy reading books!  I really enjoy reading books that give me a different perspective on the struggles that others may live with.  These could be the struggles of the person or the struggles of those who care for them.  While the difficulty faced may feel different, each is being affected by one main conflict. Seldom do we ever want any kind of prolonged difficulty in our life or the life of those we love, yet that remains out of our control and in the hands of the Almighty. This book is written by parents who had a vision in their minds eye that turned out to be very different than what God had planned.  They are parents of two children with autism. The layout of the book made it very easy to read a long, to pick up and read even if you only had a few minutes of time to do so.  I finished the book in 2 days...I was hooked! The book is separated into five cycles and each cycle has five subheadings: Weeping, Worshiping, Waiting, Witnessing, And Breathe.  Some of the wisdom shared among these pages could be applied to more than just raising children with special needs. One quote that I decided to write down in my little note book for future encouragement, " If what you think you have is greater than what you think you deserve, then that's where thankfulness comes from.  If what you think you deserve is greater than what you think you have, then that's where bitterness comes from." I really enjoyed the section titled, "The Unresolved Why," it talked about the unanswered why's that we have when we endure suffering or hardship. I can't tell you how many times I have wondered why something is or isn't happening.  In the end why it happened, or didn't happen is of little importance.  Knowing why doesn't always change the feelings surrounding the struggle. I like the way Andrew said that we may never know what the answer is to that question but we can always know what isn't, it isn't because God doesn't care or doesn't love us or is distant. I will conclude this review with one more of my favorite quotes from the book, "So if you're mired in despair at the moment, wondering how you're going to get through the week, let alone the year, it's worth bearing in mind that, in all probability, it won't always be like this.  The old dreams die, but new ones form.  The clouds close in, but the sun finds a way, eventually, of breaking through."  I highly recommend this book!

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one of the products mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog, thanks to FlyBy Promotions. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, July 1, 2016


Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom From Shame
Heather Davis Nelson


Shame is everywhere.
Whether it's related to relationships, body image, work difficulties, or a secret sin, we all experience shame at some point in our lives. While shame can manifest itself in different ways—fear, regret, and anger—it ultimately points us to our most fundamental need as human beings: redemption.
Shame never disappears in solitude, and Heather Davis Nelson invites us to not only be healed of our own shame but also be a part of healing for others. She shines the life-giving light of the gospel on the things that leave us feeling worthless and rejected, giving us courage us to walk out of shame’s shadows and offering hope for our bondage to brokenness. Through the gospel, we discover the only real and lasting antidote to shame: exchanging our shame for the righteousness of Christ alongside others on this same journey.

My Thoughts:

Once I picked this book up, I couldn't put it down. I was not quite sure what to expect when I read the title.  I guess I always thought about shame as something that you got as a result of wrong behavior. I felt it was linked to one specific thing and when forgiveness was offered and accepted that the shame would slowly fade. I thought of it on a large scale, I never knew how many different ways that shame could effect us. There are a few things that I struggle with (who am I fooling by saying a few?!?!) and it was neat to gain a different perspective on those feelings, a perspective that I would have never thought about if it weren't for this book.  For example, I struggle feeling like I just don't matter to people, that I could disappear and nobody would notice, and when I don't show up for bible study and never hear anything, it confirms those feelings.  I found this quote from the book very enlightening, "Shame always wants us to believe that we are invisible, unseen by others, that we have no voice, and that we do not deserve to be noticed." I never would have made the link that shame was part of what was contributing to those thoughts. I also really enjoyed the chapter on social shame. I feel like underlined and/or highlighted that entire chapter. One point that she made that I really liked was about how Jesus' closest friends on earth abandoned him during his hour of greatest need. Feeling like an outsider, that really resonated with my heart. Another thing about this book that I really enjoyed were the questions at the end of each chapter.  Those questions would make this book the perfect candidate for a recovery group or a small group study. The questions aren't too intense but really bring your focus back to the main idea of the chapter and allow for open dialogue with others.  I highly recommend this book, I will keep it at the front of my bookshelf and revisit it often for inspiring quotes and encouragement.

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one of the products mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog, thanks to FlyBy Promotions. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."