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Month: April 2016

The Girl With the Semicolon Tattoo

The Girl With the Semicolon Tattoo

Today, April 16th, is Project Semicolon Day, a day when people all around the world join together by wearing a semicolon to declare that their stories aren’t over yet.

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended a sentence but chose not to.

You are the author and the sentence is your life.”

Project Semicolon was founded by Amy Bleuel, and it’s all about suicide awareness and prevention. My mom told me about this wonderful group and the idea resonated deeply with me! For along time, I’d been thinking about getting a tattoo, but this was the first time something resonated so deeply with me that I’d be willing to permanently engrave it into my skin.

Almost exactly one year ago, I thought about suicide for the first time in my life. Not many people know that. I’ve pretty much always struggled with depression, anxiety, and self-harm, but this was a new low for me. Thankfully God is faithful and I didn’t give up!

Placing a semicolon on my arm is a daily reminder that my story is not over yet. Click To Tweet

That was worth permanently engraving into my skin.

The Meaning Behind My Entire Tattoo

Semicolon Tattoo

  • The anchor, which holds within it a cross and a heart:
    • The cross stands for faith in Christ.
    • The anchor stands for hope, because “hope is the anchor of the soul” (Heb. 6:19).
    • And the heart stands for love.
    • Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love!
  • The flowers: These stand for me… part of God’s beautiful creation, but delicate. Frail. So I need Jesus!
  • The vine: If you look closely, you’ll see that the vine wraps around the cross. Because of the frail nature of the flowers, the vine represents clinging to Jesus! He is my support and the only One who gets me through the hard seasons!
  • The color purple represents royalty. We have been adopted by God and now we’re His children!
  • The semicolon is the whole reason I got the tattoo. It stands for not giving up.

My Battle with Depression and Suicide (For Those Who Care to Read This Long Story…)

Depression and anxiety began early for me. Because of some challenging life circumstances, I grew up with these underlying beliefs:

  • I was never safe
  • Very few people truly loved me.
  • My safety depended on my ability to keep everyone happy.
  • Conflict was never ok and it should be avoided at all costs!

When I made it into my current position at work, I quickly learned that conflict is a common part of managing people. But the problem was, any time there was a conflict, my mind would just shut down. 

My learned response was: conflict isn’t safe. Tell them what they want to hear, then get out!

Well, that’s not a very successful management philosophy…. So I began researching and gaining tools that would help me navigate conflict in a healthier manner.

Conflict is ok and can

actually be quite useful

when handled in a healthy manner.

Slowly I gained tools for resolving conflict and maintaining friendships in the process. My courage grew and I began addressing conflicts here and there, even though every part of my brain would tremble in fear and want to shut down!

Something interesting happened…. When I voiced a disagreement, no one began yelling at me. No one struck me or threw a chair across the room. …Perhaps conflict was safe. My confidence grew and I thought, yes, I’m getting better at this whole “conflict” thing!

But then one day, a co-worker disagreed with how I was training her and she started yelling at me. Once again, I froze. I felt that old fear rise up. I didn’t know what to do or how to respond. My mind just… shut down.

How do you forgive when you have been so deeply hurt?After that meeting, my depression came back with a vengeance! And my brain was not helping at all.

This was the progression of lies:

I thought I was getting better at dealing with conflict, but once again my mind shut down and I couldn’t handle it.

I’ll NEVER be able to handle it. There’s something actually broken with me.

I can’t function in life. I’ll never get better. I’ll never be able to contribute to society. I’ll never make a difference.

Why am I alive at all? Why am I even trying?

I shouldn’t be alive. I have no purpose.

Why bother?

I’m just tired….

Wow! That was a hard, challenging place! The enemy attacked me with all sorts of lies. My unhealthy thinking was at a max. At the same time, I was not taking care of myself:

  • I was overworking myself at my job
  • I wasn’t getting enough sleep
  • I wasn’t taking time to rest and be with friends
  • My exercise routine was non-existent
  • My diet consisted of donuts, hamburgers, french fries, and ice cream (yikes!!!)
We're holistic beings, and I was running myself into the ground. Click To Tweet

My Sister Saved My Life

Thankfully, this wasn’t the end! As my thoughts turned to what life might look like if this progression of thoughts were to continue, I remembered my sister.

I have a twin sister and she is so important to me! I knew that, if I were to die (no matter the method), it would devastate her. And I just couldn’t do that to her. I’ve never told her this, but she quite possibly saved my life!

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Help

Around that time, my sister also said something that really changed my perception on going to counseling:

“No one questions us when we go get our annual physical. Well, the brain is a physical organ in our body. Why should we question getting a brain check-up once in a while?”

She was right! And I’m so thankful I listened to her.

I took three steps that made all the difference:

  • I started seeing a counselor who helped me process through my painful memories and unhealthy thought life.
  • My PCP got me on some medicine to help manage my anxiety levels.
  • I got connected with the Mental Health Grace Alliance in Waco, which is a wonderful nonprofit that has helped me learn the value of self-care and taught me the tools to live that out, through their Thrive curriculum, which I highly recommend!

These three pieces together have helped me immensely in the recovery process! I already feel like a different person….

Long story short, I got my tattoo as a daily reminder that:

  1. My story isn’t over yet.

  2. I must cling to Jesus, because He is the one who will help me get through life’s challenges.

  3. I am royalty. I’m loved and I’m worth taking care of myself.


Thanks for reading! I hope this story was encouraging for you! I want people to know they don’t have to feel ashamed for encountering challenges in life and that it IS ok to seek help!

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My Bedtime Routine and Why You Should Have One

My Bedtime Routine and Why You Should Have One

About three years ago, I went from working 40 hours a week to working 60 hours a week, basically overnight. The first thing to suffer? My health. And boy did it suffer! With that came a significant increase in my anxiety symptoms.

At one point, I met with my friend who’s a 4th grade reading teacher and asked her how she manages the 60-hour-work-week lifestyle. She said something that stood out to me: “Michelle, you know what is super important? Having a bedtime routine and sticking to it!”

I was taken aback. Aren’t bedtime routines only for children ages 10 and under? And… my routine at the time? Uhm, not your shining example…

  • Get home from work
  • Watch Netflix until 2am
  • Fall asleep

Obviously… that wasn’t quite working!

Bedtime routines are for adults too, especially those struggling with anxiety. Click To Tweet

Here’s why:

  • Having a routine lowers my anxiety levels, because there’s the sense that I know what’s coming next.
  • Having a routine is something I can easily fall back upon when my mind doesn’t have the capacity to try something new.
  • I never know whether I’m going to get up the first time my alarm clock goes off in the morning, or if I’m going to be racing out of bed and straight to work at the last minute. So my bedtime routine includes specific steps that help prepare me for a smoother morning.

Here’s what my bedtime routine looks like now (…or at least on most days):

1.) Prep my lunch for the next day (so that it’s grab and go).

Since I don’t have much time (or energy) for cooking, I try and do meal prep on the weekends. I’ll cook one large meal (like a family-size lasagna) and eat a little bit for lunch each day during the work week. Since I’m still single with no kids, this seems to work well.

  1. Each night, I’ll dish out a portion of that large meal into a travel container, just what I need for the next day.
  2. Then I grab 1-2 small snacks. That normally includes a Fiber One 90 calorie brownie, which gives me something sweet, but substantial (thank you Fiber!), and if I’m doing well, I also pack a zip lock bag with a portion of frozen fruit.
  3. I place everything in a plastic grocery bag (Recycle! Don’t throw them away!) and it sits over night in my fridge. …Yes, the brownie goes in the fridge too. Everything together in one bag. Spending the night in the fridge ain’t going to hurt my non-perishable snack. And I don’t mind my frozen fruit thawing out over night. That means they won’t crack my teeth when I try and eat them the next day….
  4. In the morning, I just pass by the fridge and grab the bag on my way to work.

Lunch Prep

This process takes maybe five minutes per night, and it’s the first thing I do, because my roommates are normally chatty and it allows me to get something done while still interacting with them. It’s also a cue to them that I’m gearing down for the night.

P.S. Depending on what I cook for my large meal, this isn’t always the healthiest option, but it helps keep me sane. I use a 7-day pill container for my medicine as well as a women’s complete vitamin and a fish oil supplement. That helps get me some nutritional value when my energy level just doesn’t allow for healthier cooking. … Or another healthy option would be one of those tasty Bistro Bowl salads, like in the picture above.

Bedtime2.) Head to my room, turn on my bedside lamp, and turn off the overhead light. 

This dims the lighting and sends a cue to my brain that it’s almost time for sleep.

3.) Personal hygiene 101…

  1. I brush and floss my teeth. Final call if my roommates are still feeling chatty….
  2. I brush my hair and always pull it back into a pony tail. That’s because my hair is long and flowing, and I have a cat who just loves to crawl all over my hair while I’m trying to sleep!
  3. I wash my face. This comes after brushing my teeth, because toothpaste can sometimes aggravate the skin.

4.) I decide on tomorrow’s outfit.

This saves me a TON of time every morning!!! And it helps me sleep relaxed. At night, I have more time to check my calendar to see what types of appointments I’m going to have the next day, make sure my clothes have dried properly (without wrinkles), and perhaps even check Pinterest for something cute. It’s much more peaceful to do this at night time!

5.) I kick everyone out of my bedroom, ideally at least 30 minutes before going to sleep.

It’s time to be alone now! I love my roommates, but because I’m an introvert, I need to wind down each night by being absolutely alone. Just me.  …If I ever get married, I’ll have to figure out how that will look… but for now, being single, it works great!

6.) I set my alarm.

Ok, I have a terrible habit: the snooze monster… ahem, I mean, “button.” I’m terrible about hitting the snooze button for more than an hour almost every morning!!! Sometimes I’ve even gotten into the habit of setting my alarm for at least one hour before I need to be up. Because I know I’ll snooze. Does anyone else have that problem?

The best method I’ve found for slaying the snooze monster is to set my alarm for around when I think I’ll be ending a REM cycle. That’s when your body is naturally sleeping at it’s lightest and it’s easier to wake up. There’s an Android app that helps with this: Sleep Cycle. One of my readers told me about it. Sleep Cycle takes out all of the guess work. I tell it how long on average it takes for me to fall asleep. Then I tell it what time it is when I’m going to bed, and it tells me what time for which I should set my alarm. (Proper grammar right there….)

Sleep Cycle App

7.) I put my phone away.

Ok, I need to work on this one. But ideally, the phone goes away at least 30 minutes prior to sleep, because those LED lights keep me awake!!! And also because every time I check my phone, I somehow get sucked into the Facebook vortex and, before I know it, another hour has gone by… and I’m still awake!!

8.) I calm my mind with some light reading (or Sudoku).

Ok, Sudoku annoys the crap out of some people, but for me, it’s very relaxing! My mind prefers it when things are black and white…. When there is one “correct” solution to a problem. When things can be figured out. Sudoku helps give me that sense of peace…. plus I’m also good at Sudoku, so that helps too! Overall it relaxes my mind before going to sleep.

9.) The light goes off.

10.) I close my eyes.

Ok, confession, I added this last one (which is kind of a given, right?) just because I wanted to end on number 10…. I like ending on a 3, 5, or 10.

So there you have it! That’s my bedtime routine! I’m still working on being consistent, but hey, at least I have a one now…. What is in your bedtime routine? Anything good?

When You Just Need Some Validation…

When You Just Need Some Validation…

Does anyone love me?

Journaling_at_StarbucksSitting here at Starbucks, drinking my grande java chip frappuccino, I stare down at the empty page in my journal. What do I pray? What should I write? It’s my custom to have a daily devotional, a time meant to grow in intimacy with Jesus, but I so often fall into the habit of “performance.” I want people to like and admire me… because it helps me feel validated, like I’m an ok person. So I often focus my quiet time on uncovering some great theological truth that I can share on Facebook. Then I’ll finally feel like I’m on the right track. I’ll feel validated, satisfied in my own deep (prideful) “wisdom.” Especially if my post gets a lot of Facebook likes!

But today? … Nothing. A blank page.

He loves me! That is enough!

How do you forgive when you have been so deeply hurt?These last few months have seemed… so dry. I’ve been tired. Not physically, but in just about every other sense of the word. Tired.

I haven’t wanted to go to church. I haven’t wanted to spend time with Jesus. Sometimes I haven’t even wanted to get out of bed. I’ve just been tired. A mess.

But here’s the amazing truth…

Even when I feel like an absolute mess, God is still absolutely committed to me! Click To Tweet

God loved us first! When we hated Him, when we were evil, even then, He loved us! Even then, He let His Son take our place on the cross. So… now? I don’t need to have it all together. That means, even on my worst days, He still loves me!

He loves me!

If I can remember that,

I’ll be ok.

I feel it again today: the nagging lie that I must come to some great revelation if my time with Jesus here at Starbucks is to be “worth it.” But if I’m seeking validation through my actions, I’m missing the gospel. There was nothing we could do to earn God’s grace and forgiveness. Yet He still loved us and He sent His Son to die on the cross, in our place, that we might LIVE! 

Why is it so hard to believe that He loves us, just as we are? We don’t need to earn His love, especially when spending time with Jesus, journaling or reading the Bible. That’s when we should be at our most peaceful with God! Our most secure. Why can’t we rest and simply hang out with our Friend?

I’m not saying there’s something wrong with studying the Bible or seeking to grow in our understanding of Scripture. I actually believe that is quite important! But what lies behind our drive to study the Word? Is it so that we can impress people as we spout off various Bible verses we have memorized? Is it because we want to be the teacher’s pet at Sunday School (and on Facebook)? Or is it because we hunger to know our Savior better? Because we want to stare into the depths of His soul and discover more deeply His love for us?

Y’all! The Creator of the universe loves me AND YOU!! He chooses to hang out with us. He longs to be with us!!! Oh if only I could never lose sight of that truth! What a comfort to my soul! Everything else could be falling apart, but I’d still have one thing–one Person–who is FOR ME! 

Even when there is nothing else I have to cling to, there is nothing else I need but Jesus! Click To Tweet

Encouraging Scripture Verses About God’s Love for Us:

  • “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” –1 John 4:9-10
  • “Who is this coming up from the wilderness Leaning upon her beloved?” Song of Solomon 8:5
  • The Good Shepherd“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name…. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” — Psalm 23:1-3, 6
  • “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” — Ephesians 2:4-5
  • “For I am persuaded , that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 8:38-39

Oh, what joy is found in those passages! The next time I’m tempted to seek out a brand new “most-liked Facebook post” during my time with Jesus, let me just turn off my phone and simply focus on these verses! Lord, make these ring true in my heart today!


 

Thanks for reading! I hope this post was an encouragement for you. If this blessed you, please share the love with others! You can also subscribe to this blog if you want to hear more encouraging messages.

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