A Step Back from Social Media

(This was originally a guest post that I wrote for my friend Ally’s blog...but I wanted to share on my own website too because I think this is at least somewhat of a relevant topic to many people who have social media accounts these days):

Hi I’m Janie for any newbies out there! Few things about me before I get to the good juicy stuff below:

1.    I’m a 22 year old nutrition student and aspiring wannabe food blogger.

2.    I can do the worm with my eyebrows.

3.    I’m the baby in a family of 5.

4.    I enjoy walks outside, bookstores, eating yummy food, and visiting cute coffee shops.

5.    I really love Jesus but I want to love him more than I do.

When Ally asked me to write something on what God’s been teaching me recently, I didn’t know what to share at first, and that lasted for a couple weeks honestly. I get asked often by family and friends what God’s teaching me. It seems so simple, but most of the time I’m really challenged with awareness of what God’s putting on my heart. Anyone else struggle with that? Yes? No? Maybe? 

After pondering for awhile and trying to just be still one day as I sat outside on my porch, something dawned on me. WOOHOO FINALLY! So having a food/lifestyle blog typically means using social media often to keep up with it and trying to get people to see your stuff amongst the billions of other food bloggers out there. I can take this post in lots of different directions or complain about how hard it is (yadda yadda yadda), but that’s not the point. 

I started @livehealthyandfree on Instagram when I was 17 years old right before my senior year in high school, which was about 5 years ago.  A couple years later I started a website/blog called www.janiesgotachicken.com (no you did not read that wrong - I know it’s a strange name). The first few years of doing this blogging was so fun and lighthearted for me. It steadily grew without me even trying very hard because I seriously had no idea what I was doing and no big goals at the time besides simply sharing delicious healthy(er) meals, healthy lifestyle tips, and opening up about my own story and struggles with health in hopes that it could encourage anyone who decided to read or listen. I’ve SO enjoyed connecting with like-minded people on social media who have similar stories, struggles, and interests in the health and wellness world, and I’m so thankful I started it because I’ve gotten to learn from every single person I follow since every single person has something to bring to the table no matter how big or small his/her following is. 

However, as Instagram has changed and TONS more food bloggers have popped up over the past couple years, competition became a thing all of a sudden, making my mind start creeping to unhealthy places trying to keep up with my own health & wellness blog and make myself seen or known in the large sea of foodies. 

Red flag red flag red flag.

My following and number of likes on photos plummeted over the past year, and this summer especially it really started getting to me. I could not open up Instagram anymore without comparing to other people who have better pictures/recipes/thinner bodies and hating myself and getting angry, and all my posts just seemed so forced and unnatural to me. I became lost with my own food blogging, and I am not kidding you, I stressed out SO crazy much about the numbers that there were probably 50 nights this summer that I either could not go to sleep or I woke up in the middle of the night for hours stressing and full of anxiety over my Instagram account, frustrated as all get out that mine wasn’t doing as well as it used to do and not nearly as well as most of the bloggers I was following. Something so fleeting like Instagram started consuming me to my core and I couldn’t shake it off. 

I finally began praying and asking God to do with my account whatever he wants. It wasn’t until then that I slowly began releasing the angry grip I had on my social media and letting God grip it in his hands. 

No I’m not deleting my account or anything, but instead of trying so hard to make myself seen and known and popular in the Instagram community, a weight has lifted off my shoulders as I feel like God’s redirected me in a new and healthier way to use my blog. I finally came to terms like a month ago with how damaging social media was becoming to my mental health. I was idolizing it and craving being noticed and liked above anything else. My quiet times with God went kerplunk because this stuff was always on my mind!! But God totally used these past several months to open my eyes to see what I was doing and the sin it was firing up in my heart and to finally desire a change.  

This life is not all about sharing recipes, it’s not all about health, it’s not all about mindful eating, it’s not all about essential oils and coconut oil (although all these things are great in and of themselves!). Life is also not all about likes and followers and number of comments and making it onto the “explore” page. And it SURE AS HELL isn’t all about making myself known. And I’m sorry I got to that place mentally. 

God’s been using all these social media struggles and hiccups and sleepless nights to whisper in my ear conclusions and new motivations for @livehealthyandfree. If what it takes to become a popular or “known” blogger in the IG health & wellness community is being on Instagram 2-5 hours a day, liking everyone’s photos, being pressured to post daily, and commenting on ALLLL my friends’ and non-friends’ photos to “support” one other (AKA usually just trying to get your own name out there to be seen, followed, and have your own photos liked and commented on by them), then it ain’t worth it to me to keep competing. With Instagram’s algorithm, it has become way too much for me to do and keep up with without getting consumed by it and idolizing the numbers game. 

Instead of doing all these things to be seen and popular and liked, I felt God telling me just to breath, relax, be free and have fun with it again like I used to, post when I can, don’t post if I don’t want to, comment on people’s pictures if I truly have something to say instead of just BS-ing it, be my quirky self again, and above all use it to glorify God and be a light in a social media world of craziness and sometimes darkness.  

I’m sick of trying so hard to pull myself up onto a pedestal instead of living my life proclaiming the name and glorious love and news of Jesus. THIS is my goal in life. THIS is what I want my blog and job someday to ultimately point towards. I pray that God will continue to use me as a light for his kingdom and rid me of my selfishness. I pray he will continue to teach me that my worth is not in numbers (whether that’s in followers, photo likes, weight on a scale, number of real-life friends, body fat percentage, etc.). My worth is in knowing that I am a daughter of a King who loves me more than I can comprehend, and one day I’ll get to be in his presence for all of eternity. Lord let my whole life be pointed to this truth each day. 

My pastor asked this question a few weeks ago, and it’s something I keep coming back to because it’s an awesome way to check my heart and remember what the motivation should be behind everything I do and say (even on social media): When is the last time you did or said something simply because you love Jesus?

Journey With Calorie Counting

Hey Guys! Today I’m sharing a guess post written by one of my friends from college, Georgia King, who’s also on the road to become an Registered Dietitian. (You can visit her blog to learn more about her!) So many of us in the health and wellness world have stories of different struggles with calorie counting and making it an idol or obsession that inevitably has spiraled us downward at some point in time. But without these bumps in the health lifestyle journey, we wouldn’t learn, grow, or develop deeper, richer knowledge on what it means to truly live healthy and free (pun intended) from being a slave to alllll things numbers and the disordered eating that follows. Let’s talk more about all of our stories and struggles and stop hiding from embarrassment or shame because someone in your circle of life could be struggling with the same things, and getting it out in the open is the first step to freedom…and THAT my friends is a good feeling. So without further ado, here’s Georgia’s journey with calorie counting:

 This is Georgia. She’s a beaut.

This is Georgia. She’s a beaut.

“We've all been there at one point or another. An insecure teenager willing to do just about anything for the approval of others. In my case, I was a young sophomore in high school when I discovered the magical idea of calorie counting. Upon first hearing about it, and hearing the success stories of people who had tried it, I was immediately convinced that this would be my one way ticket to the perfect figure.

Looking back, realistically, I was a healthy weight for my age and height. Nevertheless, the idea of tracking exactly what I put in my body was very appealing to me. I guess this curiosity may have been the budding dietitian inside me. This was the beginning of my 4 year journey with calorie counting.

At first, it was a very educational experience. I was forced to learn how many calories were in certain foods so I could "budget" my daily intake. This is when I believe calorie counting was most beneficial for me. To anyone considering it, I would encourage you to do so only if you lack the general knowledge about your calorie needs and what foods are best to fulfill these needs.

As time went on, I became better and better at staying under my calorie goal. But naturally, the process wasn't as new and exciting as it had been when I first started. So I started coming up with ways to cheat the system in order to eat the foods I really wanted. One of the main ways I did this was not measuring out my foods. Portion control is a huge aspect of calorie counting and without it, the entire process is essentially pointless. So yes, I was "calorie counting," but I wasn't being honest with myself. And this defeated the purpose of all of my efforts.

Over time, I admitted to myself that I wasn't calorie counting correctly. So I tried to fix it. And in a way I did. I began measuring out my portions and made sure I was being honest about everything I entered. I still cheated every once in a while, but for the most part, I was entering everything I ate. But I still wanted to eat my favorite tasty foods. I would eat tator tots for "lunch" or ice-cream for "dinner" and enter those in as my meals. To me, everything was fine. As long as I stayed within my calorie goal, I was in the clear.

By doing this, I wasn't giving my body the nutrients it needed. I was so focused on calories, that I had lost touch with what really mattered. Over the years, I was surprised when I didn't lose weight, despite my adamant calorie counting and daily exercise. In fact, I ended up gaining a bit of weight in the process.

It wasn't until winter break [2016] that I was forced to confront the reality of my situation. Over this break, I had taken a trip to Italy. Because of their exotic foods, I found it nearly impossible to calorie count, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Rather than basing what I ate on how many calories I had left, I would simply eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full.

It sounds so simple, but it's something that I struggled with when my food diary was constantly hanging over my head. I was shocked when I came back from the trip, thinking I had been stuffing my face like a mad woman, to find that I had actually lost weight. I was suddenly optimistic, thinking that maybe I don't have to spend the rest of my life confined and restricted by my calorie counter.

Since that trip, I decided to take a break from calorie counting and see what happens. So far, I've noticed a significant improvement in what I eat. My refrigerator is stocked with fruits and vegetables that I eat freely whenever I'm hungry. I've somehow stopped cherishing Cheez-Its, my go-to snack, and tried to eat simpler, more natural things, like a banana with peanut butter.

At lunch, rather than choose something small but unhealthy, I'll have a huge salad topped with tons of veggies and protein. I'll also include a piece of whole grain bread with butter. This meal will keep me full for a while and leave me feeling satisfied and guilt-free. In the end, I realized I was eating fewer calories than I had been before, simply because I wasn't constantly trying to cheat my calorie counter.

I will not deny that calorie counting has its benefits. For someone who is just beginning their journey to a healthy lifestyle, this could be a good place to start. However, for those of us who are weary travelers on this journey, and know exactly what our bodies thrive on and don’t thrive on, there is another way to go. If you are in my situation, I strongly encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and ditch the calorie counting. You may find yourself eating better than ever.”

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Thanks for reading everyone! And if you’d like to share your story or current struggles with calorie counting or just how you got into the health & wellness world, shoot me an email at janie.hughes424@gmail.com because I would LOVE to connect and hear from you and where you come from😊💙 (Yes, even if we come from completely opposite backgrounds or have different motivations for learning how to live healthy lifestyles). Over and out! Byyyye!

Letter from My Big Brother

Date: September 2015

Sharing a letter from one of my older brothers which I came across today when cleaning out all my crap in the basement from my apartment that I had yet to unpack from 3 months ago as well as 21 almost 22-years-worth of random things that needed to be sorted through and/or thrown away (aka: way too many stuffed animals and pottery that I painted when I was like 7). It's just like Hunter to turn an ordinary observation as he people-watched into the most encouraging, Gospel-centered notes I've ever received. Hunter, my brother on earth and in Christ, is one of the wisest people I've ever known, and I am so incredibly grateful for his huge heart for Jesus as well as to simply call him my older bro! Reading this letter again 3 years later, I found myself just bawling in my basement because of how thankful I am that God put me into the greatest family of all time. I don't feel like I deserve it, but man...I honestly get left speechless when I just stop and think of the gift they all are in this earthly life.

To preface this letter: I was a complete wreck going into college. Did NOT want to go. Panic attacks were all too common that summer. Anxiety reached a new high. Self-conscious about everything. Satan tried to convince me day in and day out that I would never fit in being so introverted and reserved and that I wouldn't succeed academically, among other lies. To be completely blunt: I was scared shitless. It was a hard summer. Today when I was cleaning out my stuff in the basement, I was reminded of the heaviness I felt in my heart that summer going into college as I came across so many notes of encouragement from different family members. And as for this particular one, I can vividly remember reading these simple yet wise words from my brother that brought a great deal of peace and comfort and brightness into my heart again during these tough, emotional first couple weeks of college. 

~~~

"Little Sister, 

People are very different.

I'm sitting by this canal in downtown Indy trying to read and journal, but I can't stop watching the people running past me -- old women barely picking up their feet, groups of college girls talking the whole time. There are couples on bikes, a dad pushing a stroller and wearing a headband and dancing as he goes, and even some power walkers. It's pretty cool to watch them go by. They actually remind me of you. Today is September 6th [2015] and I knew I talked with you on the 4th, but I woke up today and felt bad for not wishing you a happy birthday yesterday. So...I'm sorry. Happy Birthday Janie!

Anyways... as I watch these runners and walkers and runners with walkers and think about you, I consider Psalm 139:14-16. It says, 'I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.'

Watching people run is actually really funny. Some people look like they're dying and others jiggle too much, but EVERYONE looks weird. Just watch and you'll see.

College is a weird time too. Strangers from all over come to live and learn together and no one really knows what they're doing. So, in order to feel accepted and normal, people start acting like one another. It's not always bad, but if everyone started running the exact same way, would I find the same joy in watching them? No!! Robots are lame. I think God feels the same way. He loves the differences in people. He CAREFULLY MADE those differences...for his purpose. It wasn't a slip of the hand that gave this lady a super weird stride. God even took extra time to put that hitch in her step. He made it for himself!

Janie, he made you for himself too. 

I bet you feel different than most of the students around you. You might feel like a slow learner or less of a people-person, but HE WANTED YOU TO BE THE WAY YOU ARE. You get to know God personally and in a way that nobody else even will.

Keep doing you Janie-poo. There's no right way to get through college just like there's no right way to exercise. Be ok with people who run faster and don't look down on people who run slower. LOVE YOUR STRIDE - God made it just the way he wanted. And you GET to run for fun because Jesus already ran and won for us. He said, "It is finished!" He made you to run for him, to him, and with the strength he supplies. God's children are very different, but we are all loved perfectly by our Father. That's cool.

I love you. Call me if you wanna chat!

- Hunter"

~~~

Hunter...Hunty-Boo...Doctor Buns...? If you're reading this, I love you and thank you. You're a wonderful big brother. Mwah!

And Forrest...FoFo...Eldest brother...Chief Two-Buns...? Don't forget I love you too. 

And God...thank you x1000000 for letting me be the lil sis to these two goobers. 

Whole30 Thoughts & Observations

As some of you know, I did my first Whole30 recently. Not as a way to restrict and lose weight (nope, I'll have none of that) but more so as a tool for my overall nutrition education experience as well as a tool to further pinpoint the foods/food groups that cause unwanted symptoms and digestive problems because of my SIBO. 

I didn't do it 100% faithfully, which may defeat the purpose and not really work with the whole figuring out what foods cause indigestion yada yada yada. Travel and crazy new work schedules threw me off a handful of days, but so is life and it's okay. I don't want to stress it and put that much obsessive pressure on myself to be so strict with something that's so minor like this. I will probably do a legit Whole30 again in the near-ish future when there's not as much going on because I truly think it can be a helpful tool for the short-term, mainly for people figuring out serious unwanted digestive symptoms related to food, which was the case for me. Or it can be beneficial for those who mentally struggle with certain kinds of emotional eating or food addictions that blind them to the WHY behind constantly reaching for food even when they aren't hungry. This is a huge issue for so many people, and I've dealt with it before as well. You aren't alone!

So anyways, even though Whole30 can get a bad rep from some people (everyone has different opinions and that's OKAY), if used with the right intentions, I think it can be a great reset and HUGE educational tool. Here are nine of the things I learned about the process, myself, and my digestion through my {somewhat faux} Whole30 lol:

  1. Do it with someone -- or at least make sure the people you live with or frequently hang out with will 100% support you because it can take a little extra motivation some days apart from yourself. When you don't feel supported or if people around you don't know you're doing a Whole30, it is SO DANG EASY to just say "Oh what the heck, screw it" and quit way early. Maybe this is because you've been served a meal that's non-compliant and you don't want to be "rude" or you're getting negatively pressured by friends to drink alcohol or indulge in a decadent dessert with them or even if your family or roommate is always bashing you because of it for whatever reason. These are some potential tough obstacles to get over in the 30 days of whole, real food, but if you're aware and you either mentally pep-talk yourself regarding these possibilities, or simply get someone or a group of people to do it with you, it can seriously make ALLLL the difference in your execution of Whole30.
  2. Awareness -- hyperawareness is okay in this situation especially if you're trying to figure out digestive problems related to food. It's necessary to learn how to tune into your body before, during, and after you eat and make either mental notes or use a notebook to write down how you feel with the foods you're eating and any unwanted symptoms that you may experience. Once you get a rhythm of this awareness of symptoms and your body begins undergoing its super cool internal reset job, it will be easier to recognize reoccurring symptoms -- both positive and negative -- and pinpoint the foods that may be causing a particular pain or unwanted side effect.
  3. It's just 30 days -- You can do anything for 30 days. If you've ever watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, you may remember she said in an episode somewhere, "You can do anything for 10 seconds. Just count to 10, and once you get there, start over and count to 10 again!" Same kinda thing! haha. So just because you can't eat any whole grains or dairy or legumes for 4 weeks (which are all fantastic healthy food groups for our bodies, which produce good bacteria in the gut and can help you poop #fiber) doesn't mean you're going to screw yourself up long term without these few food components. 30 days really is not long whatsoever in the grand scheme of life. Anyone can do it. I promise. Your body can survive without these things for a month. No need to freak out.
  4. Low FODMAP is for me -- My biggest symptoms related to SIBO currently are abdominal distention (think tummy bloat on steroids - like legit looking pregnant sometimes!) and gas which is the reason behind the distention I believe. Foods high in FODMAPs ferment in my gut and produce gas which makes my stomach hurt and leaves me feeling uncomfortable and irritable for hours or days. It sucks, and I've been dealing with it for a loooong time. Even though Whole30 is all about real food, lots of veggies, low sugar, etc., I still dealt with some of the same kind of gas (less often but still very much present). This just goes to show me that it wasn't solely dairy or solely sugar or solely gluten or solely legumes that my body was struggling with. Although I don't know what foods exactly have been causing these issues for me on Whole30, I at least know that I need to go back to focusing on eating Low FODMAP food for the most minimal gas and other unwanted symptoms (for my body PERSONALLY! I was diagnosed with SIBO last summer by a GI doctor, so this doesn't necessarily surprise me).
  5. Sugar is a culprit -- Also not super surprising because of SIBO, sugar of any kind tends to give me gas and an upset bloated tummy (really not a big fan of the word tummy). I will still always eat a balanced, unrestricted diet with treats on the reg, but it was cool to recognize that I truly felt better overall with little sugar apart from fruit, dates, and sweet potatoes. Even when I decide to have ice cream or baked goods or cookies or whatever, I can now have a lil conversation with myself like, "Janie, you're going to have some not-so-fun symptoms that come back if you have ____, but is it worth it in this situation?" The answer can most certainly be YES a little uncomfortableness is totally worth it to me right now! As long as I'm making conscious decisions, yet still listening to my body, being wise, and honoring my health, I can choose to say yay or nay freely and confidently. 
  6. Fail to prepare, Prepare to fail! -- The only way to succeed with the most ease during Whole30 is to be SO prepared (or as much as you possibly can) with a fully stocked fridge of compliant meals and snacks that you can grab at any time if you're hungry. It's worth it to take a few hours one or two days during the week to meal prep a bunch of real-food snacks, pre-cut veggies, and dishes of any sort that you can quickly get onto a plate without having to think much of what to make in the moment when the munchies hit. Not being prepared with Whole30 meals and snacks is the time when people typically find themselves struggling to stick with it. Snacks can be anything from meatballs (so many fun different flavors and recipes out there), carrots dipped in almond butter, fruit and nuts, chicken and sweet potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes slathered with cashew butter (trust me it's amazing), roasted veggies, bacon (heck YAAAS), leftovers, etc. 
  7. Not for everyone -- Don't do it just bc you want to jump on the fad. I think I would only recommend it if you're trying to figure out health problems or struggle with some kind of emotional eating or if you really need to get off the processed foods train to jumpstart a more real food diet and make some new healthy habits. Some people thrive on doing a black and white switch in diet when trying to begin a healthy lifestyle, while others may need a more gradual approach. There's no right or wrong answer. Whole30 could be a useful tool for some but it's by no means the only way. Also women: just a HEADS UP...not having grains and dairy could potentially stop you from getting your period if your body is sensitive and you've struggled with amenorrhea in the past. This could be a big red flag that it's not for you. And that's OKAY. Seriously it's okay. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Healthy diets look SO different for everyone. Some people thrive on high carb, low fat/protein, while others feel so much better with low carb, high fat diets. Whole grains and gluten can be SO healthy for some, while it causes serious painful symptoms for others. Dairy is tolerated smoothly by some, while it screws another person's digestive tract up, which means it would be important for him/her to  get calcium and protein from other food sources. Don't compare your body's needs to someone else's. I hate this phrase I'm about to say, but I'm going to say it here anyways bc this is the best context to say it in my opinion: YOU DO YOU HONEY!!! 
  8. Doesn't mean restriction -- Not everyone who goes on Whole30 has disordered eating. Check your "WHY" for doing Whole30 if you're contemplating doing it. If you're still in a place of dealing with a cycle of food restricting, don't do this. It should not be a tool to restrict calories. For me, I made a very conscious effort to get in enough calories and nutrients at each meal and snack EVERY DAY because I am 100% anti-restrictive diets. It leads to disordered eating and often times eating disorders, so I am very passionate about this and can't wait to keep educating and teaching people about healthy non-restrictive diets as an registered dietitian one day. Personally, I need a lot of calories because I work out 5-6 times a week, so I always made sure to pack my plates full of protein from lots of high quality meat and eggs, healthy fats from nuts/nut butter/eggs/avocado/oils, and enough carbs from fruit, veggies, and a hefty amount of potatoes of all kinds. I never felt deprived, which made the whole thing so doable. Don't be afraid to get full. Having a full and fed tummy is a healthy gift. Not everyone has the opportunity to fill their bellies with enough food. Don't take this for granted, and remind yourself that it's okay and frankly a good healthy thing to feel full. Filling yourself up with enough nutritious calories will prevent always scrounging around for more food every hour. Our bodies need food. So eat! 
  9. Empowered AF -- when you get to the end of the Whole30 month, and you were prepared with meals/snacks to get you through each day, I can promise you you'll feel like an empowered, accomplished bad ass. 'Nuff said.

Periods, Recovery, & Gut Health

OMG SHE SAID THE P-WORD!!!

{Cue all the boys running away} Yeah sorry boys. We're talking about the periods today. 

So here's the ish... 

As I've mentioned before in previous updates on this blog and on my Instagram page, I was diagnosed with a gut issue called SIBO, which stands for small intestine bacterial overgrowth. I go more into what SIBO is a few posts back. 

My GI doctor put me on very strong antibiotics for a couple weeks that work solely in the small intestine to kill off the extra bacteria, and then a 3-month round of another lesser-strength antibiotic. He also told me to eat low-carb and follow the low FODMAP diet to avoid certain types of carbohydrates from fermenting in my gut, which just means more bacteria growth (the opposite of what we're trying to do here). 

If you're curious of what FODMAPs stands for >>> Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols.

I was not able to be super strict with the low-FODMAP diet this past semester because it was too challenging with the inability to control all meals in college. I did my best though, trying to consume a lot less carbohydrates than I used to prior to being diagnosed with SIBO, and I upped my fats to keep my calorie intake up. Being very restrictive of calories due to a health diagnosis is tempting but in cases like SIBO, not eating enough will be just as detrimental to your gut health and healing as eating all the fermentable foods they tell you to avoid.

My weight dropped again a little bit after being diagnosed with SIBO due to the relatively drastic change in diet, and unfortunately I lost my period again for about 4 months, which scared me honestly. Amenorrhea is a serious issue for many women, especially those who have dealt with or are dealing with eating disorders. 

I dealt with an anorexia-type eating disorder for a few years in high school and lost my period for almost all that time up until the middle of my sophomore year in college. I was on the "pill" (aka birth control...let's not get into the pill controversy here though lol) for about 1 year to help jumpstart my hormones to give me some kind of a period because periods are VITAL to women's health for so many reasons. For example, menstruation builds bone mass to prevent osteoporosis early on or later in life, helps with hormones, and makes reproduction possible!

As we all know (or should know) periods are a sign of good health and should not be embarrassing to talk about or ask questions about. I know it can seem uncomfortable at first, but periods are not a bad scary horrifying thing. It's the way God made women and it's pretty freaking cool if you begin learning about it. Learning about the menstruation cycle in my physiology class this semester made me even more in awe of the human body and the processes that God created it to go through. It's actually nuts. And complicated. And confusing. And just super duper amazing. 

 Anywoozles...

To be completely honest, when I didn't have a period for 3-4 years, I thought it was the greatest thing for most of that time because 1) You save a shoot-ton of money (HA!) and 2) No PMS madness and 3) No self-conscious freak-out moments thinking you're leaking and it went through the back of your pants or something. TMI? Sorry pals. 

It wasn't until mid-way through my recovery that I started really learning and realizing how unnatural and unhealthy it is to NOT have periods during this crucial developing stage I was/am in in my life. Once I started learning more about the cycle and how in order to have kids, I NEED TO GET MY FLIPPIN' PERIOD BACK, this ended up being my biggest motivator to recover from my eating disorder. I don't know God's plan for my life or if he even has a lovely man in store for me, but if one does come around that God wants me to marry, heck I want to have some babies for cryin' out loud!! Family is so important to me and if it's God's will, I would love to have my own someday.

If that's not the best reason to gain weight and recover from an eating disorder with amenorrhea, I'm not sure what is :)

Fast-forward to now. I was kinda thinking that my lack of period this past semester was due to solely my weight going down a little bit from this whole SIBO thing and bad digestion pain and what not. I was planning on maybe seeing a hormone specialist soon to help me out a bit with some wisdom and getting it back because I know I need my cycle for my bones and potential baby-making someday lol. Just bein' real.

Right after Christmas, I went on a study abroad trip to ITALY (holla!) with other nutrition major students at my school. I knew going into it that I'd be eating lots of dairy, cheese, gluten, sugar, and carbs, which are all major triggers for SIBO and my stomach pain. I really wanted to eat everything and not miss out, so I endured any digestion pain that came with all the fantastic homemade pastas, pizzas, gelato, bread, cheese, tiramisu, cookies, hot chocolate, and so on. 

To my surprise though, Aunt Flo came for a visit the day we left to come back to the U.S. 

SAY WHAT?!? 

I was seriously the MOST happy to see Aunt Flo! Shocked and thrilled at the same time. I know most people dread this time of the month, but when you've lost your period for so long and you know it's essential to so many aspects in our body's health, Aunt Flo is one to be greatly celebrated :)

As I was reflecting on her visit, it occurred to me that the big decrease in carbohydrates that my doctor told me to do for SIBO may have actually spurred on the amenorrhea. And I just had finished 2 weeks in Italy, enjoying all the carbs, gluten, sugar, and dairy, and BAM-A-LAMMA-DING-DONG look what happened?

Hmmmm.... 

I could be wrong because I'm no researcher or doctor or scientist, but my hypothesis is that the eating of more carbohydrates on this trip, along with a complete balanced diet of all the other components of a meal like fats and protein (and probably a little less stress) made my period come back because my body trusted me again. Oh man that is a good feeling. My body finally trusted me.

Moving forward, I'm not entirely sure what my diet will look like because I'm still healing from SIBO, but it just goes to show me that in order for me to have real, consistent periods, I think my body needs a truly healthy balance of ALL the food groups. Hopefully one day when the gut bacteria in my intestines is all balanced out again, I will be able to freely and comfortably eat and digest gluten, dairy, carbohydrates, and more without digestive discomfort. Because if there's anything in life I want right now...it's for a healthy body with a real healthy period (along with more Jesus of course). And in order for that healthy period to come, I think I need ALL the foods and not drastically cut out a certain food group. Plus that's no fun... amiright?

One Year Later

October 12, 2016.

The date my hip surgery would finally be "the answer" to all my problems.

Oh silly, naive Janie :) Will you ever learn? 

After 2 years of frustrating, unknown pain around my hip and groin, doctor-hopping-galore, and a year of failed physical therapy, I finally was diagnosed with a torn hip that needed quite a bit of mending. 

Although I am so grateful I went through with this surgery, it was not "the end-all be-all," and my life has not been all rainbows and unicorns since October 12, 2016 like I thought it would be.

There have been too many ups and down over this past year to count, but I can without a doubt say that God has used this surgery and a messy year following to open my eyes a bit wider and to teach me more things than I ever thought I would learn in a lifetime. 

With that being said, I just wanted to share a handful of my reflections, areas of growth, and lessons I've learned throughout this past year since I had this hip surgery that kinda sorta...okay REALLY...flipped my life around and gave me a new perspective on health, my faith in Jesus, eating disorders, nutrition, bodies, and a just a deeper understanding of who I am in Christ and what I'm actually living for. 

So, welcome to my life and inside my head and heart! Here are some things God's been graciously teaching me again and again, even when I keep forgetting and turning away...wow this alone amazes me that God never gives up on me...maybe that should be my number one thing I've learned...

1. God never gives up on me!!

I have been through hell and back dealing with body image struggles, a full-blown eating disorder in high school dealing with anorexia/orthorexia/excessive-exercise. And though I have time and time again turned my back towards God and tried to control my life, my time, my body my way (only to destroy my body and idolize my image to the max) God has been oh-so-gracious to keep pursuing me even when I'm far from faithful to Him. When I haven't wanted to look up and listen to him as he was continuously nudging me to stop doing what I'm doing whether that's related to under-eating, over-exercising or tearing apart my body when I look in the mirror, he just has not stopped trying to run after me. I was either 1) so oblivious to him trying to tell me to "Hold your horses Janie with all this body idolatry!!" or 2) too stubborn, selfish, and prideful to even try to listen because I liked the way I was doing my life. I LOVED control. So it was probably both actually. Hip surgery obviously leaves one unable to exercise (and barely able to even move at all for that matter), soooo that finally got me to listen to God for the first time in quite a long time. It was like the loudest wake up call. But I SO needed it! God finally got my attention

2. "Listen to your body" took on a whole new meaning

After a major surgery like this, "listen to your body" becomes a lot more mandatory unless you want to rip your hip again and go through the whole recovery process. #NoThanks. It's been a rocky year with random hip flare-ups (still get them!!), but I've learned/am learning what my body can and can't take and how long I can do certain things before I've gone too far. It's a process -- a frustrating process -- but it's been so important for me to finally learn to put this phrase of listening to my body into practice. One full year later -- as of October 12, 2017 -- I am able to go to the gym again. It makes me happy. It fills me with joy that my hips (and knees...that's another story) allow me to do some exercise again, but also I've had to learn to be SO discerning and wise about when to go to the gym and when to take a break and refrain when in my heart I want to go but my body is telling me otherwise. For example, just a few weeks into this school year I made the decision when I was physically hurting to take a week off of exercise completely. A year ago, I would never let myself take even a single week off of exercising though I was dealing with a lot of pain. Now I can take a lot of days off and strangely enough, sometimes I feel BETTER when I don't exercise and go to the gym (My hips, knees, shoulder, and GI tract will second that). Rest (looooong rest...like not just a day off people) can be amazing for our bodies. I promise. So, I'd call this "listen to your body" learning a win in my books!

3. Thankful heart for what my body can do

At first, not being able to even walk or stand was so mentally frustrating to me. It brought me wayyy down. And I will say, there many tears shed this year over not being able to do what I love anymore. Even still, I so quickly can go down the path of dwelling on what I can't do these days, like long-distance running and fun circuit workouts, which I absolutely loved so much. But this year, I began setting aside those negative emotions involving the inability to do certain activities and replacing those negativities with a new sense of thankfulness for what my body CAN do. And man oh man, I can do a lot. I can do a lot that other people with worse injuries and disabilities cannot do. Reminding myself of this has totally helped shift my negative feelings to thankful feelings. Though I cannot run much or very far at all anymore and though I have to be hyperaware of the exercises I can do, I am able to get up in the mornings, walk around campus, walk a handful of miles without hurting much, do yoga, sometimes zumba, spin classes, and elliptical (though awfully boring!!). I am able to do so so much even if my favorite things are taken away. I need to continue to look up and thank God for all that he is still allowing me to do. I don't deserve it, but I gotta say it sure is fun to move again in little and big(er) ways :)

4. Amazement and a new fascination with the human body and the healing process (kinda relates to #3 I guess)

My body went through hip surgery at age 20.

My scars may still be there on my hip for the world to see when I'm in a swimsuit, but the incisions HEALED, the torn hip HEALED (...well...with the help of anchors lol). 12 months later, though not perfectly better or like my body used to be a few years ago, I am healed enough to walk, cycle, hike, yoga, and EVEN jog a teeny tiny bit without my hip and knees hurting too bad. 

Our bodies are smart enough to heal after big traumas, and that just goes to show that God created the most marvelous masterpiece with these human bodies. They are truly amazing, and it's so fascinating to me to learn more about how our bodies work and how food especially can heal a wide array of diseases, disorders, etc. Our bodies flippin' rule. Let's appreciate them for all they can do!!!

5. I felt God kicking me in the butt (in a tough-love kind of way). My eyes were opened wider to see my sin with body and exercise idolatry and comparison.

God definitely used this surgery and long-recovery process to reveal to me some lingering fears, struggles, and battles that came with having an eating disorder and mental illness. For example, God challenged me with the lie in my head with having to "earn my food" by exercising. When you get a surgery like this, you're sitting on your butt for a lot of your life afterwards. There was absolutely no way to "earn" my food. None. At first, it was scary to be honest. But quickly, I fought that fear and realized that my body still needed quite a bit of food to help heal my body from the surgery trauma I went through. Our bodies NEED lots of food even if we don't exercise. If I wanted to be healthy and be good and kind to my body, I had to eat despite barely moving besides flexing my quads and glutes on that couch in front of my TV. Lol. I'm having a major "TBT" right now to my first round of PT exercises on my couch which literally involved flexing my glutes and quads to prevent blood clots. Even that was SO PAINFUL TO DO!! Anywho...God also used the surgery/recovery to reveal to me how strongly I cling onto trying to control how my body looks and how I constantly deal with comparison between other girls. I get so jealous, which leads me to being extremely judgmental and critical of my own appearance and personality sometimes. This year has been an eye-opening experience to see more of my sin and to run to Jesus more often asking for major help to turn away from it. 

6. Thankful for wise (and some cute:)) doctors who can diagnose and heal

Not only am I thankful for my very attractive surgeon (Oolalaaa) who put some anchors in my hip but also for my physical therapists (all like 10 of them) for sticking with me all these years despite my oh-so-complicated/confusing/uncommon pains I'd come to them with. They always stuck with me even though they were probably sick of seeing me basically every other day.

Fun fact: There was a time when they were looking for some assistants to hire. Since I knew the place like the front and back of my hand and I was a pro at all the PT exercises you could possibly think of and I knew how to work with all the equipment, they joked about just hiring me because they wouldn't have to train me at all for the job.

7. Thankful for god providing money

God provided my family with ample money to pay for too many MRI's, endless doctor's appointments, follow-ups, chiropractor appointments, PT appointments, and a pricey surgery. He didn't have to do this, but he did. What a Guy! I am SO undeserving, but he cares for his little hurting children's hips, and he graciously has provided for my family and I year after year.

8. There is more to life than exercise and my image.

When something you love is taken away from you (for me: sports and long-distance running), it is incredibly painful to come to terms with it even if it just temporary. Like SO painful. When running and all the other things I loved to do were taken away because of my mysterious physical pains and then surgery, it broke my heart to pieces (heck I'm still broken and sad! I won't ever be able to do what I used to do and that is HARD to take in still), but it forced me to see beyond these things. It forced me to question myself and my motives for running, over-exercising, obsessing over my food, and my constant thinking about my outward appearance.

I'm far from perfect and still am prone to falling back into the trap of thinking my body has to look perfect, thinking I need to exercise more in order to look more beautiful, and thinking I have to eat completely healthy 100% of the time to achieve that "ideal image." However, this year has challenged me to continue facing these lies I put in my head and start counteracting them with truths that there is more to life than exercise, food, and looking "perfect." I once thought I would be satisfied if I lost "X" amount of weight and achieved my "ideal look," but I am continually challenged that that satisfaction will never come from looking a certain way. In Christ, I am more than my outward appearance.

9. God deepened my love and passion for nutrition.

Since I got surgery, something sparked in me with deepening my love for nutrition and our bodies (probably because I became so in tuned with my own over this past year). AND I LOVE IT. It became more clear to me this year that this major of Nutrition and Dietetics is what God has been shaping me for. I have dealt with multiple eating disorders. I have been underweight. I have been slightly overweight. I have been underweight again. I have had numerous nutrition-related issues that are NOT talked about in a textbook in school. I had to learn I have to often go against what I read in my nutrition textbooks and online because not everyone fits into the typical "healthy-living" lifestyle they teach in school. I have been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal disorder called SIBO, which goes deeper than the typical IBS and leaky gut. I have dealt firsthand with the mental battles that come with having an eating disorder. I have dealt with depression, general anxiety, social anxiety, and control issues which all often come up in this world of nutrition and eating disorders. I have played all the sports. I have dealt with SO many injuries due to the sports and overuse. This surgery was like a "cherry-on-top" of all the bumps and hardships I've experienced thus far in life, and I am positive it won't be the last "cherry-on-top." 

But I am thankful for every single part of my story with all these things. I trust God is using them for his glory and my good, and I will continue to pray that he will guide me in my pursuit to become a Registered Dietitian one day and that he will keep using my struggles and previous battles 1) to have compassion on others who are in their own dark valleys and 2) to drive my passion for nutrition and helping others overcome their own nutrition-related problems.

10. Jesus is my everything.

I am nothing without Jesus. When I am weak and hopeless and hurting and sad and walking through dark valleys, Jesus is always strong and loving and caring and mighty and compassionate and merciful and forgiving and life-giving and light-giving. God has been showing me once again through this year of hip surgery recovery that Jesus alone is my lantern in the suffering and dark valleys I have faced and will face in the future. He is all I have, all I need, and all I should be looking to instead of turning to control of image, exercise, and food. He is my everything. He alone satisfies. 

And I will need to relearn these lessons and constantly be reminded of all of them again and again in my life because I am a silly little forgetful, sinful, broken lady. But praise Jesus for never ever giving up on me even when I slip, fall, bruise myself, get lost, and am one stubborn girl with fingers in my ears saying "La-la-la-la-la I can't HEEEAR YOUUU" when he's trying to teach me something or tell me to stop doing what I'm doing.

God, I am underserving of your continuous grace, but man, do I love you or WHAT. Thank you for all you've taught me in this one messy year of recovery, and thank you for teaching me these things again and again in the future. I know I'm going to need some review and more drilling into my head (as painful as it is sometimes). You're the real MVP. 

Stay gracious.

<3

Meal Cure (the Healthy Cure for "What's For Dinner?")

Are you a mom who daily gets asked the dreaded question, "What's for dinner?"

OR are you the one asking your mom this question, which is probably (and maybe secretly) stressing her out? 

OR are you in college and struggling to know what eating healthy means and how to cook on a tight budget?

OR are you newly weds who want to start cooking together but don't know where to start when it comes to healthy meals?

OR are you a single 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70-year-old looking to find cheap, easy, quick meals that can be made in less than 30 minutes when you get home from a long day of work absolutely pooped, HANGRY, and wanting to eat ASAP? 

WELL YOU'RE IN LUCK MY FRIENDS!!!

I was recently introduced to a fairly new company called "Meal Cure," and I was legitimately blown away by it when the creator of the company, Shaunna, contacted me after coming across my Instagram (@livehealthyandfree). She shared with me what her business is all about, and now I want to share with all of you! Including a yummy sample recipe from Meal Cure below⬇️

What is Meal Cure?

Meal Cure is an online meal planning service that provides new recipes for 5 meals each week that take less than 30 minutes to prepare. The recipes are EASY, SIMPLE, DELICIOUS, NUTRITIOUS, and FUN (#winning). It's a healthy and inexpensive meal-planning service that basically does all the hard, dirty, stressful, annoying work for you when it comes to cooking, especially for your family after a long, tiring day.

For many years, the creator of Meal Cure, Shaunna, worked as a full-time medical doctor and a health coach, along with having to care and cook for her family of 4 boys and her husband. She is the mastermind behind all the research, planning, and organization that Mealcure revolves around. 

Shaunna writes:

"IMAGINE:

Always knowing 'what’s for dinner?'
Having dinner ready in under 30 minutes!
Feeling confident and proud knowing that your dinner is healthy and nourishing for the whole family
Having meals that keep you on track with your health goals and also coordinates well with healthy weight loss and maintenance plans
Having all of your ingredients you need on hand
Grocery shopping in record time with ease with a ‘done for you’ organized list of less than 30 key ingredients
Discovering that nutritious does not have to mean boring, time consuming, or complicated
Saving time and money by being prepared and eliminating waste and last minute trips to the stores and take out."

Meal Cure is seriously like a God-send!! It's what most moms dream about, and sure enough -- something that does the hardest work for you exists. This unique meal-planning service includes a very organized and easy shopping list for you to take with you when you go shopping each week that will keep you from wasting money on extra food that you may tend to forget about and have to throw it out. 

Why Meal Cure?

What we feed our bodies MATTERS! Our body is legitimately made of up the components of the food we eat. Not to mention, 90% or more of diseases and health conditions can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle, and nutrition is the biggest part. It really does make a difference, and generally, the medicine world is now going in the direction of using food and nutrition to heal naturally. Since what we feed our bodies matters, Meal Cure is centered around superfoods. Shaunna sends out a weekly video highlighting a new superfood of the week where you can learn why a particular food is so awesome for our bodies (these videos actually get you excited to eat these foods!). 

The recipes she creates aren't complicated recipes by any means, so you can relax and finally enjoy cooking again with your family or spouse or roommate. Meal Cure is meant to take the stress and chaos out of dinner-making, and replace it with health, joy, and ease. I don't know about you, but to me, when I first heard about all this, I thought it was a glimpse of paradise. 

Dietary Restrictions?

If you have dietary restrictions, the recipes are very adaptable, and the ingredients can be substituted and/or excluded easily. The recipes are always written as gluten-free, but you can always swap ingredients that are whole wheat/whole-grain if you're not G-Free.

How Much is Meal Cure? 

You can buy a subscription to Meal Cure monthly ($9.97/month) or annually ($97/year -- this is the best deal), or you can even buy a 3-month subscription gift for someone ($39). 

DISCOUNT: Get 20% off your subscription when you use my coupon code "JANIE20" at the checkout! I triple dog dare you to try it out because this ain't expensive, but it's still worth every single penny! I know I am SO looking forward to utilizing Meal Cure as I walk into another stressful year in college soon. 

How can I sign up for Meal Cure? 

Click on this link in orange below to sign up! 

https://mealcure.com/?wpam_id=28 

Sample Meal cure Recipe: 

"Quinoa Taco Lettuce Wraps" (Vegetarian) 

Click here for the recipe!

Hope you'll love Meal Cure as much as I do! I cannot wait to use it during the busy school year ahead.

"But what you eat, does matter. Every one of our 100 trillion cells is made up of the building blocks that we feed it through the food we eat." - Dr. Shaunna

Gut Health Update

Ever been asked if you were pregnant? ...when you were definitely NOT?!? 

-- Janie shamefully raises hand with red cheeks -- 

Fall of my sophomore year in college, I was at my home gym in the locker room, and a woman blatantly asked me the dreaded prego-question. 

OUCH.

Asking a young woman this question, who has dealt with a horrible eating disorder, numerous mental battles with anxiety/body image, and is no doubt 100% a virgin, is quite possibly the worst and most dangerous thing ever. Like why you gotta do me like that lady?

WHY O' WHY?!?!?

Why am I bringing this up? Well, as weird as it may seem (and putting all of my hurt emotional feelings aside), this question sparked in me an interest in gut health and figuring out why my stomach often looked different from everyone I knew. I realized that my abdomen was more often than not naturally distended to a rather severe degree, and it looked like I was in my third trimester of pregnancy. And I'm not exaggerating here -- if I didn't want it to be so obvious, I would try to suck it all in which was uncomfortable as well, especially having to suck in for a long time! When I thought back to how long this abnormal abdominal distention had been happening to me, I believe it started mid-late elementary school (although I can't pinpoint it exactly). For so long I thought I just got dealt some unfortunate genes, and this is the way it's going to be forever. And I basically said goodbye to any ounce of hope I had for ever being confident or even slightly comfortable in a swimsuit again. 

Besides a distended stomach (and I'm not just talking about bloating here), I've been experiencing a handful of other very frustrating symptoms too. So this summer of 2017, I decided to put my time and energy into exploring the "what-on-earth-is-wrong-with me" and the "why" behind all of my gut issues and make steps to healing my gut once again.

After seeing a few doctors and GI specialists, attempting to try some different gut-healing diets to pin-point my food sensitivities, getting put on some medications, and finally taking a Hydrogen Breath Test, I got diagnosed with SIBO.

What does SIBO stand for?

SIBO stands for "Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth." 

What were my symptoms?

  • Frequent constipation with lower abdominal/intestinal pains on either side
  • Not feeling relieved after a bowel movement (if I wasn't constipated ) ...Yaaa we're going to get close here talking about poop :)
  • Abnormal abdominal distention
  • Gas
  • Belching
  • Uncomfortable bloating
  • Pain in the middle of my left side randomly
  • Occasional nausea while eating or after eating
  • Weight gain
  • Random cramping in my stomach
  • Occasional acid reflux
  • Occasional fatigue 
  • Food sensitivities

What is sibo?

Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth sounds kinda strange and scary. And at the most simple definition, it is exactly what it sounds like -- you have an excess of bacteria in your small intestinal tract. This is actually a major cause for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). The bulk of gut bacteria should usually be in the large intestines, but sometimes when there is GI motility dysfunction, this overgrowth in bacteria in the small intestine occurs. This could be the result of not enough stomach acid, intestinal damage from toxins, or decreased speed of the small intestine transferring material to the colon. The bacteria can interfere with normal digestion and absorption of food, and it's associated with damage to the lining or membrane of the small intestine (leaky gut syndrome). Overgrowth then produces "excess quantities of hydrogen and/or methane gas. These gases are not produced by humans but are the metabolic byproducts of fermentation of carbohydrates by intestinal bacteria" (ndnr). Thankfully, there is testing that can be done to measure the hydrogen and methane gas being produced in your system, which is the first step in figuring out if you have SIBO too. 

How do you get SIBO?

There are a handful of different ways you can get SIBO, like diabetes, celiac disease, and medications but here are some other ways that are most commonly seen:

  • A diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and alcohol will feed certain strains of bacteria
  • Low stomach acid
  • Antacids
  • Ileocecal valve syndrome
  • Lack of breastfeeding
  • Damage to muscles or nerves in the digestive system

What's the best test for Diagnosing SIBO?

Hydrogen Breath Test. The breath test is known as the gold standard for diagnosing SIBO. It's inexpensive, non-invasive, and the most accurate from it's ability to provide more detailed information compared to other testing methods. 

What was my experience with it? The day before I had to eat a very specific bland diet (only like 5 foods are allowed) and fast for 12 hours before the test in the morning. Once I was ready to start the test, I had to drink a cup of this sugar water -- it was SOOOO sweet!!! Thankfully you only have to drink it once! -- and blow for 3 seconds into a tube connected to a syringe. Then, they took my breath sample and measured it on a special breath-test device thingy. I repeated these breath samples every 15 minutes for an hour and then every 30 minutes after that. It was super easy, but the whole test can last anywhere from 2-4 hours. Mine took 3 hours exactly, but it changes with every person I think. 

What Do you do once you have SIBO?

1. Antibiotics: If your tests come back positive, the doctors will prescribe a few specific antibiotic meds to assist your gut in getting back to normal. 

2. Change in Diet: Unfortunately, as much as I am anti-diet in most cases, I will have to make a sad and pretty big shift in my diet to be best for my gut health. A low carbohydrate and low sugar diet is enforced by the doctors if I want to be good for my gut that's dealing with SIBO. Why low carb? Carbohydrates feed the bacteria in SIBO and help it keep overgrowing, which is the opposite of what we're trying to do here. 

There are several diets that have apparently been very beneficial to people with SIBO, but the best results have come with the SIBO specific diet. It combines the Specific Carbohydrate Diet with a Low FODMAP diet. Here is a reference food guide for the SIBO diet.

Read this for more info on dietary treatments and different food guides if you know you deal/have been diagnosed with SIBO.

3. Other tips

  • Chew food very well
  • Space out your meals
  • Eat mindfully
  • Avoid foods that you know cause gut irritation (if you don't know what foods you may be intolerant/sensitive to, keep a food journal and jot down what you eat and how you feel for a while, try an elimination diet, or get tested for any food intolerances)
  • Eat whole foods
  • Eat low sugar :'( and lessen carbohydrate intake in general (SO SAD!!!)
  • Find ways to calm your internal stress (meditation, yoga, walks, read a book, or other self-care avenues you love)

Well that's a wrap!

There is so much to learn about SIBO, and my journey with learning to deal with it is just getting started, but I am so thankful for a diagnosis finally. To those of you struggling with GI issues -- I know how frustrating it is to be in the dark about what's actually going on/what to do/who to go see professionally/what tests to do/how to eat/etc., but don't give up. Keep moving forward, making connections, asking questions, being curious, finding good doctors, and know you're not alone dealing with digestive pain and problems. For me, I am just now diving in to the healing process after years of unknowns, and I have no clue YET on how I will go about handling this new and very particular change in diet, especially in social settings, but here goes nothin'.

XOXO!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099351/

http://ndnr.com/gastrointestinal/sibo/

http://www.siboinfo.com/

http://www.medicinenet.com/small_intestinal_bacterial_overgrowth_sibo/article.htm

https://blog.kettleandfire.com/sibo/

http://www.truevitality.com.au/articles/ileocecal-valve-syndrome-2/

"What's That? Somethin' to Eat?" (St.Louis Style)

My grandma's famous phrase that my family always jokes about now was, "What's that? Somethin' to eat?!" 

My family kinda likes food a lot, and when we have family gatherings it always revolves around a meal -- usually brunch or lunch. When my sweet, joyful grandma, whom we call(ed) MeeMee, saw something pleasing to the eye on a dish or someone's plate that she wanted to take a bite of, she would say "What's that? Somethin' to eat?!?" It's become one of the many silly memories of her that we remember when we're gathered together as a family for a meal. 

Apparently, the love of food in my family did not just stop with MeeMee. I think the food genes may have gotten stronger when God decided to create me  :D ...if food genes existed of course.

I've been born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri (Go Cards!), and one of my favorite things to do with my family or friends (or even by myself) is to seek out all the yummy foods in the STL area! Now that's my kind of fun!

I've decided to share some of my favorite spots to dine in my hometown, the 'Lou. And I'll probably keep adding to this list here and there because I definitely have not gotten to try out every place yet. If money, time, and stomach space weren't an issue, I totally would've left my footprint in every restaurant, diner, ice cream parlor, cafe, and coffee shop by now. 

Guess I'll keep keep truckin' along, slow and steady, making my way through all the St. Louis eats.

Disclaimer: These places are in NO particular order of my favorites, and I realize a lot of these places are chains.

1. Cafe Napoli -- Located in Downtown Clayton. Actually, I did put this as Number 1 for a reason. It is my very very very favoritest restaurant ever. Every single menu item is phenomenal. Very nice restaurant. High standards for their food. Pricey but worth it for a special evening. It's a little dressier, but no need for fancy clothes. I recommend making a reservation in advance.

What do I recommend?

  • Filet Mignon - I get this 75% of the time
  • Chilean Sea Bass
  • Farfalle Genovese (creamy pesto pasta) + Chicken
  • Chicken Marsala
  • Salad: Bella Napoli
  • Appetizer: Shrimp Cocktail - the presentation is so cool...it's like dry ice.
  • Appetizer: Toasted Beef Ravioli

2. Half n Half - Located in Clayton. Go early to beat the masses, especially on the weekends, or just be prepared to wait. There's waiting for a good reason though. 

What do I recommend?

  • Tess's Toast - Incredible.
  • Veggie Brussel Sprout Hash with Sunny-Side-Up Eggs
  • Oven-Baked Oatmeal
  • Avocado Toast (no feta for me) - top with an egg!
  • S'mores French Toast - For those with a chocolate-y sweet tooth even in the morning! (Me!) 

3. City Coffeehouse and Creperie -- Located in Clayton. My family has a "Birthday Breakfast" tradition where we either make the birthday boy/girl his or her breakfast of choice or we go out to a breakfast place of choice. For years, this would be my go-to celebratory birthday breakfast spot and I always got a strawberry crepe. Now my tastebuds have matured quite a bit, so I now love SO many more of their fun crepe combinations:

What do I recommend?

  • Bacon/Ham, Egg, Cheese (+ spinach for a little health boost)
  • Bananas, Sour Cream, Brown Sugar (+ walnuts)
  • Sante Fe
  • Frittata Crepe
  • The Fiesta
  • Fajita
  • Tuscany
  • Raspberry Beret
  • Monte Carlo
  • Peanut Butter or Nutella + Banana Crepe
  • ***There is a gluten-free buckwheat crepe batter that you can sub instead of the regular gluten-full crepe batter

4. The Shack - Various Locations. An upbeat breakfast/brunch/lunch place where the rules of no writing on the walls finally bends. You are legitimately encouraged to make your mark somewhere on the walls or booths or bathrooms in the restaurant. Hmm... I think I like the way they roll here :) Their menu is hilarious too. Often a wait on the weekends. Be prepared to wait if you don't get there early.

What do I recommend?

  • Waffle & Chicken ("The Mother Clucker of Fried Chicken on a Waffle with Syrup, Candied Pecans, Green Onion & a Hint of Sriracha. Served with 2 Eggs your way and Hash Browns") -- It's awesome trust me. The only thing my older brother ever orders.
  • Breakfast Tacos -- Throw back to the amazing bfast tacos I ate in Austin, TX.
  • "The King Lives" Pancake
  • S'mores or Gooey Butter Cake Pancakes
  • Breakfast Banana Split  (Greek Yogurt, bananas, berries, granola)
  • Sweet Avo-Rito Burrito
  • The Kitchen Sink Skillet
  • Cereal Shakes (Yes, for breakfast...it's acceptable)

5. Bailey's Range - Located Downtown. This place RULES. Great atmosphere. Sometimes a wait - but usually not bad. The burgers are 100% grass-fed, pasture-raised from a local Missouri farmer. Everything is made from scratch. Besides beef patties, they also offer bison, lamb, chicken, and veggie burgers.

What do I recommend?

  • Basic Burger
  • Buffalo
  • The Carolina
  • Dave's Chophouse
  • Create your own
  • French Fries
  • Milkshakes/Vanilla Malt

6. Five Star Burger - These beef burgers are fresh and all natural coming from pasture-raised, grass fed cows with no antibiotics. Definitely a winner burger spot.

What do I recommend?

  • 5 Star Burger (the original)
  • Breakfast of Champions (sunny-up egg, cheese, roasted tomato-bacon jam, and hollandaise sauce)
  • Veggie Burger (no mushrooms for me) -- First veggie burger I ever liked, and the only veggie burger I ever order when I go out to eat. The red pepper mayo is delicious and I hate mayo usually.
  • 5-Star Salad (no gorgonzola for me) with added Chicken Breast

7. Insomnia Cookies - During my freshman/sophomore year in college, I had a friend who I would always go with to get some freshly baked, HOT cookies at midnight or 1 a.m.. Sometimes on a school night. Always worth the 1.5-2 mile walk from our dorm -- great for some quality conversation and bonding time while simultaneously getting really excited about the box of 6 cookies we were each about to buy. (They also deliver, but we were too cheap to pay the extra couple dollars for that. Also, walking burns extra calories which just gives us a greater appetite for more cookies. Now you see how my brain works.)

What do I recommend?

  • White Chocolate Macadamia Nut
  • Peanut Butter Chip
  • Snickerdoodle
  • Chocolate Chunk
  • Double Chocolate Chunk
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup (Delux cookie)
  • Cookiewich (2 cookies of your choice with your choice of ice cream in between...insane)

8. Hot Box Cookies - Located in the Central West End

What do I recommend?

  • Peanut Butter
  • Peanut Butter Reese's
  • Chocolate White Chocolate
  • Snickerdoodle
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Red Velvet
  • Monster

9. Crushed Red - Various locations (Clayton, Kirkwood, Olive Blvd, maybe more). Chopped salad and flatbread place. Perfect for a light lunch or dinner. Their ingredients are very fresh, which is a huge factor for my sometimes choose-y tastebuds.

What do I recommend? 

  • Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with lowfat chipotle ranch dressing
  • Create your own salad + AVOCADO (...always avocado)

10. St. Louis Bread Company - No not Panera!! lol. This isn't a top favorite of mine, but I had to put this in the list because #proudstlouisan. I'll still give you some of my favs.

What do I recommend?

  • SCONES - especially the glazed cinnamon, orange, or strawberries and cream scones
  • Pumpkin Muffies (aka muffin tops...the good part)
  • Cinnamon crunch bagels w/ plain cream cheese
  • Asiago bagels toasted w/ butter
  • Summer strawberry poppyseed chicken salad
  • Spicy thai chicken salad

11. Clementine's Naughty and Nice Creamery - Located in Lafayette Square. So.Frickin.Good. A little pricey, but worth every last bite. They've got some really fun unique flavors that you don't want to pass up! Flavors are seasonal and change frequently I believe.

What do I recommend?

  • Gooey Butter Cake
  • Salted Crack Caramel
  • Sweet Corn

12. Ted Drewes Frozen Custard - TOP STL FAV!! Rated the top Frozen Custard in the world. That's saying something. Check out their story! Fun Fact: My extended family in STL shares Muny season tickets, and our seats have been right behind Mr. and Mrs. Ted Drewes for YEARS. Sooo does this make me famous now? I think Mrs. Drewes died a couple of years ago, but my family still jokes about trying to see over her "beehive" hair. 

What do I recommend?

  • My go-to flavors: Oreo concrete with extra oreos (duh), s'mores concrete, hot fudge sundae (they do this simple combo perfectly), the 'Dutchman,' 'Southern Delight,' Mint Oreo concrete, strawberry concrete, or 'Turtle.' Okay... I like it all.
  • My mom always gets a killer combo: Marshmallow and pecan concrete.

13. Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream - Located in the Central West End. Wonderful Ice cream. Beautiful atmosphere. High quality ingredients. They partner with local farms whenever possible.

What do I recommend? 

  • Cookies n Cream (Literally every place I go)
  • Gooey Butter Cake
  • Bangkok Peanut
  • Brambleberry Crisp
  • Churro
  • Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks
  • Sweet Cream
  • Salted Caramel
  • Roxbury Road

14. Andy's Frozen Custard - Located in Kirkwood or on Hanley Road. Don't hate me other St.Louisans reading this, but I think I like Andy's better than Ted Drewes. Here, they just have some seriously amazing, incredibly tasty, fun flavors.

What do I recommend?

  • 'James Brownie Funky Jackhammer,' which is vanilla frozen custard blended with peanut butter and brownies filled with a core of hot fudge
  • 'Triple Chocolate Concrete,' which is chocolate frozen custard blended with chocolate chip cookie dough and melted chocolate chips. Unreal.
  • Anything and everything

15. PW Pizza - Located Downtown. My family does Pizza Surveys of all the pizza places in STL, and this is at the top for me. All natural, fresh ingredients makes their pizza pies 5x better.

What do I recommend?

  • Pulled Piggy - personal fav
  • Big Balls
  • Hawaii Five-O (on honey wheat crust)

16. La Pizza - This hole in the wall place has held a spot in my family's heart for years and years and years. It's where we go (usually carry-out) when we want to go back to the basics -- cheese and pep. 

What do I recommend?

  • Half Cheese / Half Pepperoni

17. Sugo's (Italian) - Located in Ladue just across the street and north of the Frontenac Mall. LOVE THIS PLACE!! A nicer Italian restaurant with not your average "ehhh" lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs. No This place rocks. You can call to make a reservation ahead of time, but often you don't have to wait too long to get seated. My family often carries-out on Sunday nights after church. 

What do I recommend?

  • Toasted Ravioli
  • Homemade Lasagna (my all time fav)
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs (they're huge! but the best meatballs around.)
  • Pizza
  • Bolognese (my dad's go-to)

18. Salt n Smoke (BBQ) - Located in the Loop

What do I recommend?

  • Hush Puppies and Maple Butter
  • Burnt Ends Toasted Ravs
  • Pulled Pork
  • Brisket (Ask for burnt ends!)
  • St. Louis Cut Ribs
  • Bestie Combo (choose 2 or 3 meats if you can't decide!)
  • White Cheddar Cracker Mac
  • Pit Beans w/ Smoked Bacon

19. Juniper - Located in the Central West End.  "A Southern Table and Bar."  Our family knows the owner of it, and we are all big fans of this restaurant! Disclaimer: The menu can change frequently. I also recommend making a reservation, or you may not get in for the night.

What do I recommend?

  • Chicken and Waffle appetizer ("Make that 3 please." It is above and beyond my favorite chicken and waffle dish I've ever had)
  • Bread Plate (comes with a variety of baked bread-y goods)
  • Fried Chicken (it's a winner)
  • Cornmeal Crusted Catfish
  • Shrimp n' Grits
  • Mac n' Cheese
  • Brussel Sprouts

20. Pappy's Smokehouse - Located in Midtown, STL. Overall, this has got to be my top favorite BBQ place in the city.

What do I recommend?

  • Pulled Pork
  • Brisket
  • Turkey
  • Baked Beans
  • ...actually...you can't go wrong with anything on the menu

21. The Vine - Located on South Grand among the many ethnic restaurants and cafes on the block. My mom and I honestly go for one thing and one thing only... (although we've never eaten something here that wasn't delicious)

What do I recommend?

  • Lebanese Nachos with Chicken (...Out of this world)

22. Lulu's Local Eatery - Located on South Grand. Vegan comfort food! I'm no vegan, but you don't need to be one in order to fall in love with all their food! I've gone on too many Lulu's outings to count -- some with my mom, some with my roommates (who also adore this place), and some with just myself. I actually love to take myself on foodie dates alone and not have to make conversation :) #introvertlife #notashamed. They have a seasonal menu that changes from summer to fall and winter to spring, so some of these may only be available for 1/2 the year. Also, don't be alarmed when you see jackfruit on the menu -- you'd be surprised how delicious it actually is!

What do I recommend?

  • Buffalo Cauliflower Bites (It's a must!)
  • Tater Tots
  • The Robo Special Wrap
  • Sweet Potato Falafel
  • Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger
  • Buffalo Cauliflower Wrap
  • Buffalo Caesar Wrap
  • Chipotle Black Bean Bowl
  • Spring Roll Bowl
  • Enchiladas
  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Loaded Tater Tot
  • Homemade Cookie (if there's any left...I never knew a vegan cookie could taste as good -- if not better -- than a regular cookie)
  • Okay I think I've named 70% of the menu...can't go wrong with anything

23. The Mudhouse - Located in South City on Cherokee Street. This was a usual morning working spot for my Dad for many years, and I fell in love when I finally got to come with him one morning to this comfy yet hip coffee/breakfast/lunch shop. It's the best hole in the wall place in an area with not much to offer food/shopping/living wise.

What do I recommend?

  • Mud Slinger (+ham)
  • The Breslin
  • Granola (housemade with yogurt, nuts, and fruit)
  • French Toast

24. Blues City Deli - Located in Dogtown. There will be a long line around lunch time, but it goes pretty fast and is SO worth it. There's not much seating inside, so it may be easier to take your sandwich to-go, but if you see a seat, snatch it quick! 

What do I recommend?

  • Italian Beef (AH-MA-ZING ...I sat by a true Chicago native, and he says it's twice as good as any Italian beef sandwich he's eaten in Chicago)
  • Every sandwich is a winner

25. Nora's - Located in Dogtown. My Dad introduced me to this one too, and it is a small 

What do I recommend?

  • The Quban
  • The Big Bad Wolf
  • Tamm Avenue Turkey
  • Reuben

26. Bogart's Smokehouse (BBQ) - come when it opens! you may find a line that goes down the side of the street. They serve until they run out of food for the day, so go early to claim your BBQ! 

What do I recommend?

  • Ribs (best ribs in town in my opinion)
  • Pulled Pork
  • Beef Brisket
  • Applesauce, baked beans

27. Charlie Guitto's - Located On the Hill and in Chesterfield. Italian food holds its own private section of my heart. The famous STL appetizer, Toasted Ravioli, is exceptionally delightful here.

What do I recommend?

  • Homemade Toasted Ravioli
  • Lasagna

28. Nacho Mama's (Tex Mex) - Manchester/Rock Hill - In our house, a week does not go by without buying a large bag of tortilla chips and a pint of their homemade salsa (if not actually going in for a meal)

What do I recommend?

  • Chips and salsa
  • Enchiladas (my mom only gets the cheese, but I love the pork or chicken enchiladas too)
  • Chicken Fajitas
  • Tex Mex Platter or Super Tex Platter (I think it comes with basically one of each -- enchilada, taco, chalupa, etc.)

29. Mission Taco - Various Locations

What do I recommend? 

  • Any Tacos (I loved the baja fish, habanero chicken, chicken al pastor, and carne asada tacos)

30. Zia's - Located "On the Hill." Be prepared to wait if you don't call to make a reservation! Especially if it's prime time to eat dinner. Their food is a little pricier than other Italian restaurants in the area, but they do it so well and they serve some very generous portions! No wonder there's always a line. I recommend casual clothing, but probably not sweats and a t-shirt (they'd probably still serve you of course, but you wouldn't fit in.)

What do I recommend?

  • Toasted Ravioli 
  • Lasagna
  • Fettuccini Alfredo

31. Crown Candy - Throwback to when my grandma used to take my older brothers and I here for a fun diner-lunch and dessert! 

What do I recommend?

  • Milkshake
  • Malt

32. Stacked STL

What do I recommend?

  • Appetizers: pretzels, mac n cheese balls, guacamole bites
  • Burgers! (En fuego, The Wet Nap, or any of the others!)
  • Bourbon Bacon Caramel Brownie

33. Sauce on the Side - Located in The Grove, Clayton, and Downtown. Helloooo Calzoooones!!! Choose a specialty calzone off their menu or create your own -- so many different combinations you can make, and if you like pizza, I'm sure you'll enjoy this place. Fresh ingredients and hand-tossed dough made daily! Also, they have salads and dessert calzones too.

What do I recommend?

  • Roasty Toasty
  • Meet Me in St. Louie
  • Figgy Piggy

34. Guerrilla Street Food

What do I recommend?

  • The Flying Pig
  • Chicken Adobo
  • Wandering Pig
  • Fried Lumpia

35. Gioia's Deli

What do I recommend?

  • Hot Salami & Roast Beef Sandwich
  • Italian Trio

36. Mango - A modern Peruvian restaurant. Nice-casual. Menu changes with what's fresh.

What do I recommend?

  • Lomo Saltado
  • Plantain Chips & cilantro-lime dipping sauce
  • Tortilla Cakes
  • Mango Sorbet

37. Pastaria

What do I recommend?

  • Crispy Risotto Balls
  • Pappardelle (smoked pork, mascarpone, apples)
  • Strozzapreti (Bolognese)
  • Pistachio Ravioli 
  • Pizza

38. Cafe Osage - Seasonal menu with local ingredients. West-Elm-y atmosphere. Absolutely lovely. Fabulous food.

What do I recommend?

  • Brioche French Toast
  • Biscuits & Gravy
  • Osage Scramble
  • Omelets 
  • Greens, Eggs, and Ham
  • Baked goods
  • Bison Burger
  • Blue Corn Biscuit Sandwich
  • CAN'T GO WRONG :)

39. Russell's On Macklind - Cute Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner spot. Smaller menu than a lot of restaurants, but their options are wonderful and well-liked by all (for the most part at least). They have some awesome baked goodies (including some STL famous gooey butter cake), which should be a must when you order. Also, they use local ingredients from Missouri and Illinois farmers whenever possible.

What do I recommend?

  • Baked goods/Dessert! (gooey butter cake, muffins, all of the above)a
  • Breakfast sandwiches (Fried egg sandwich, breakfast grilled cheese, etc.)
  • Oatmeal
  • Quiche
  • BBQ shrimp & grits
  • Burger
  • Meatloaf
  • Pork Chop

40. Katie's Pizza & Pasta

What do I recommend?

  • Neapolitan Meatballs
  • Charred Cauliflower
  • Ted's Meatball Pizza
  • Pear Pizza (EVOO + Pear + Prosciutto + Fontina) 

41. Sportsman's Park - Located in Ladue. Restaurant & Bar. This used to be be the place I went every year on my birthday along with the City Coffeehouse and Creperie for breakfast like I mentioned above. Though I still have a special place for them in my heart, I went through a very very very long phase of being obsessed with chicken fingers. Like majorly obsessed -- so much so that I went to a lacrosse camp in middle school and my teams name was "The Chicken Fingers." I can't believe myself sometimes. The one place that fueled this obsession was Sportsman's park. They have always had some killer chicken fingers that I never failed to order every time I went.

What do I recommend?

  • Chicken Finger Platter with CURLY FRIES

42. Gooey Louie - Serving a St.Louis original creation, Gooey Butter Cake. What is this gooey butter cake I speak of? Only the greatest sweet treat you will ever put in your mouth. Ever. Ever ever.

What do I recommend?

  • Original Gooey Butter Cake
  • Any other flavor!

43. The Block - Located in Webster Groves and Central West End. Vegans and vegetarians, look away! This restaurant is all about them meats! Their ingredients are just the best - Local and farm-fresh. Not only is it just a restaurant, but it's a butcher where you can buy their meats right at the counter too and cook it yourself. Lunch from 11 am - 2 pm M-F and Dinner from 5 pm - 10 or 11 pm everyday.

What do I recommend?

  • I think their menu changes - but all their meats, sandwiches, appetizers, and entrees are awesome!

44. Yen Ching - Located in Brentwood on South Brentwood Blvd. The only Chinese food restaurant my family (including extended family) goes to when the Chinese craving hits.

What do I recommend?

  • Egg Rolls
  • Fried Rice
  • Yen Ching Chicken
  • Spicy Braised Chicken
  • Broccoli Beef
  • Chicken Fried Rice

45. Dewey's Pizza - Various Locations. If you like cheese - this pizza is 100% for you! 

What do I recommend?

  • Caesar salad
  • Cheese Pizza
  • Pepperoni Pizza
  • Hawaiian Pizza
  • Southwest BBQ Chicken

46. First Watch - yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. "Janie, these are everywhere. First Watch is nothing special." And my answer to that would be... "BUT HAVE YOU HAD THEIR BANANA CRUNCH PANCAKES?!" If your answer is no, then you need to locate the nearest First Watch and experience these pancakes. That is all. 

What do I recommend?

  • Banana Crunch Pancakes (Basically banana + crunchy granola inside their yummy pancake batter)

Podcast Story Time

Hi everyone!

Last week I got to share my story of eating disorder recovery on my friend Emily's Podcast, Beauty in Christ. I talk about how suffering through an eating disorder and trudging along the rocky roads of recovery were some of the biggest (and first) shapers in my life that brought me into developing a desire to know and love Jesus and as well as a hope in Him that is better than every gift in the world. 

You can find it two ways:

1. It's on the Podcast app: search "Beauty In Christ" and the episode is called "Walking Through the Hard Places of Recovery." 

2. On Emily's website: http://beautyinchristthebook.com/podcast/walking-hard-places-janie-story/.

Fun fact, Emily and I met through Instagram! She has become such a sweet, encouraging-as-could-be, Jesus-loving friend of mine, and I am absolutely thrilled that God brought the two of us together just through a fun and silly app on a phone. Social media isn't always a horrible thing people!! Also, Emily's heart for the Lord and her continuous gaze towards the gospel is what this world needs more of. Emily, if you're reading this, thank you for being you and thank you for being a light in this world for Jesus. As for the podcast, Emily brings people on her podcast here and there to interview them, asking them to share their stories, specifically revolving around eating disorders and recovery. She asked me if I would share my stories with a past eating disorder and the long recovery road, and even though I was a little nervous, I hopped on the opportunity especially since I had never shared my story verbally before. And I am so glad I got out of my comfort zone and did it! It was humbling and liberating to share my messy roller coaster of a life with so many people. Listen if you'd like! Stories are so special. 

Honesty Hour: Finding My Own "Healthy"

Wow it's been a while since I've written a blog post on Janie'sGotAChicken! Time for some Janie thoughts?

Anyone?

....No? :)

Well, even if no one reads these blog posts, writing helps me reflect and process and delve deeper into my own thoughts, emotions, and truths, and recently, I've been feeling nudged to open up and write a little bit about some things that have been on my mind and heart.

Come with me into the mind of Janie:

For starters, here's a song that describes what my year has been like emotion-wise and growth-wise. MercyMe puts real life suffering and genuine faith simultaneously into this beautiful song, which has reminded me to continually raise my gaze even when I'm hurting inside. Take a listen: Even If.

I can't exactly think of a good way to smoothly transition into this but here goes nothing... Okay so many of you know I have a fun little food blog on Instagram (IG) where I share meals and snacks and get to interact with people from all over the world, and I think it's pretty darn cool. I absolutely love having the account even though I get the weirdest stares literally all the time when I'm taking pictures of a colorful salad, smoothie bowl, or piece of chicken (duh). My favorite part of it is following almost 400 crazy awesome and beautifully unique fellow foodies and nutrition nerds (I say that in the most loving way possible) and getting to follow their lives and hear their stories. Every single day these ladies and gents inspire me with their creativity with meal and snack ideas, their enthusiasm, their encouragement and compassion for each other, their knowledge on nutrition and our bodies, and their seemingly endless variations on peanut butter and avocado toasts that never fail to surprise me. For me, having this IG account has been an outlet for creativity, education, outreach opportunities, and a place where I can just be me and share my passion and interest for food and our bodies with like-minded people.

However, not even a foodie IG account is always rainbows and unicorns (can we all just ROFL at the fact that the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino was an epic fail? :D Idk why I think it's absolutely hilarious...Is that bad?)  I've been learning some big lessons through IG, and recently I have had to protect myself with it. And my protect myself, I mean protect my mental health.

First of all, I've had to unfollow quite a handful of people that I used to follow like religiously. I have nothing against them as people, but to protect my mental health I've had to stop following accounts that post body pictures. I'm not saying it's bad, but cueing into my own head and heart I know that seeing those body pictures everyday -- whether that's at the gym or posing in mirrors at home -- it makes me go into whole new worlds of comparison, which is so incredibly damaging to me. It may not be for everyone, so if you get motivated by people who post pictures of their lean, strong, ripped, skinny bodies, etc., by all means keep on following them. I'm not saying there's a right or wrong way to go. But I will say, ask yourself if it's building you up or breaking you down. Secondly, and similarly, I now try to limit my time on Instagram and not spend endless hours at a time on it for the sole reason of just comparison. It is so stinkin' hard not to compare my body and my abilities to other people. I hate that I compare and get jealous, but I DO!! GAH! 

Lastly, on Instagram about 95% of the foodie people I follow are runners (or they do some kind of other super duper intense fitness thing). Eating healthy foods to fuel our bodies and being active are indeed two of the biggest ways to live a healthy lifestyle. I'm studying Nutrition & Dietetics at SLU, and obviously I think that's one of the basic things that most people know about being healthy, and I agree. But! (There's always a but :D) Recently I have been very bothered about something and almost antsy because it's been driving me up a wall -- and maybe it shouldn't, but I can't help it, so here I am writing about it. Feel free to disagree. But recently, I've seen on my Instagram feed and Instagram stories only one kind of "healthy" being promoted. Maybe it's just the people I follow, but RUNNING is the only thing ever being encouraged it seems like. 

It has actually become a little aggravating being surrounded constantly by people talking about it, and it's been challenging to me because of my physical pains and inabilities to run anymore (I'm going on 2 years-ish and it is flippin hard). And I know I come from a place with a tad bit of bitterness because I can't run, but even putting that bitterness aside, social media, magazines, books, and websites only ever promote running like it's the only way to stay healthy and be good for your body to lose weight, keep weight off, etc. But what if you legitimately cannot physically run? What if your body was not designed to run? What if it's not wise for your body type or health condition to run? This happens more often than not to the majority of people dealing with aches and pains and serious medical conditions. What if running isn't in the cards anymore? Are you hopeless in ever being healthy again??

People, websites, and social media need to keep this population in mind when talking about fitness. They need to be aware and make an effort to not single them out. I never realized this until running was taken away from me with my hip surgery and awful knee pains now. I think it's a problem, but it's something that can be worked on and changed a bit -- that is, awareness and inclusion of people with all body types and medical conditions, by promoting other DOABLE activities for living a healthy lifestyle other than just solely running which is not always a wise option.

I still think running is an awesome activity that provides so many health benefits and endorphins (I mean...cross country was my FAVORITE, so I get it! running is amazing!) and it's a great way to stay "lean" if that's your goal and you're able to do it. But having my favorite thing taken away by the snap of 2 fingers has been the hardest struggle and is still a struggle I face with the constant bombardment of runners everywhere and telling everyone to run whether that's on IG and other websites or in books and magazines. It could just be a part of my mental health that still isn't very strong and maybe it won't ever be, but this bombardment of hearing "everyone should run" has been getting to my head and spirals me down, which I know it shouldn't have the power to do so. That's why I've been trying to pass quickly over IG posts and pictures that I know will trigger my mind into going to places it shouldn't. I'm really trying to be mindful of these things. This whole "mindfulness" is something new to me actually!

This all may sound like the pettiest struggle ever with this whole running thing, but coming from a past of dealing with body image issues, it is a real thing. And this is not just on Instagram by the way -- hearing people in real life talk to me or others about their bodies or working out and running or whatever -- it's a battle in my mind that I'm always fighting when a conversation like this comes up. I love exercise but it's a touchy subject for me, as it brings up more feelings to the surface than I'd honestly like to admit.

{Side note: It's so freeing to be able to write what's on my heart and in my head, even if no one agrees or cares for that matter.}

I still have dreams to run even a few short miles again one day because it is something I fell in love with, but for the time being, I'm on a long journey of growth and learning. I'm on the long journey of figuring out MY "healthy" and learning that running is not everything. I will continue to fight the comparison thoughts on Instagram and promote (to myself at least for starters!) that there are numerous other wiser ways to move my body right now that my body will thank me for instead of hating me for.

Learning what works for you and your body is SO DANG IMPORTANT. Whether that's with food or exercise.

Personally, being forced to learn a new definition of the term "healthy lifestyle" after all of my medical conditions and pains that have come to the surface has taught me more about nutrition and overall health than when I was super lean and strong from solely being a long-distance runner. Not to mention, through this drastic change in my perspective on what "healthy" means and my inabilities to do so many things now, God has and is continuing to shape me into a maturing woman of faith with a firmer and firmer trust and foundation in Him and a love for Jesus that honestly I don't know how to put it in words. But it is oh.so.real.!! I am amazed at how God has used something like legitimate daily physical pains to plant seeds of faith in my soul. I'm not thrilled that was the only way to get my attention, but boy oh boy does he have it now ;)

And I hate it, but I still struggle mentally with anxiety, waves of depression, and uneasy thoughts of comparison and jealousy when I hear people constantly talking to me about running and things that I know have been taken away from me. God has allowed (and is allowing) trial after trial and long suffering after long suffering in my life with actual physical pain, but each one of these unique yet similar times of suffering is shaping me and teaching me more than I ever thought I would learn in life. The book-knowledge we learn in school does not compare to the deeper knowledge and realness of who God is and this mysterious and intangible but genuine hope that God produces through suffering.

It is a gift. 

That's almost painful for me to write bc suffering is suffering. Being in it, it's a heartbreaker -- a genuine heartbreaker where the pain is so painful, mentally or physically. But through the deepest of pain and heartbreak, if you can gather up enough energy to just lift your head up a little bit and whisper, "Jesus," he will work in you to produce an indescribable but sure hope in him. He will meet you, walk with you, and carry you when you have no strength, and remind you that he will win. And he has already won! And that is the best gift we can ever ask for. This life is a tiny blip in the bigger picture of eternity with Jesus. Suffering is SO not lasting because this life of sin and pain and hard long suffering is SO not lasting either. And ironically this intangible unseen hope that is rooted in the hearts of those whose faith is in Jesus is the most real thing there is in this life, and I thank God this is lasting

~~~

And it is wonderful

~~~

For those who don't know me, for those who know me but don't know me, and for those who know know me -- I am probably not always the most open person and I'm probably not always one that can easily make sparkling conversation with people, and I may be a quiet little mystery in your eyes whether that's through a cell phone screen, across the sanctuary at church on Sunday mornings, bypassing me on campus while walking to class as I'm usually in my own oblivious world of thoughts, or sitting a seat or two away from me in a classroom. It's not easy for me to open up. But to set the record straight -- although I'm quiet and awkward and may come off as stand-offish (I'm sorry if I do!) and although I'm mysterious and different from most girls, I really really like sitting down and talking honestly with genuine people and being real with one another. Why? Because it is so freeing.  I'm still not always good at this whole "community" thing, because it's new to me and out of my comfort zone to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with people, but I'm learning. I'm trying to be open to learning about openness :) I haven't had many relationships at all like this before that produce God-ordained flourishing just from a little bit of vulnerability. When/if it does so happen that I sit down with someone in the future, one of my favorite topics of conversation is 100% suffering. That probably sounds depressing to most and like I'm a big ball of sadness, but deep suffering and turmoil is what God has absolutely used to shape me and produce in me an unwavering love for Him that does not compare to anything else. So wanna know what get's me going? Let's.talk.suffering!! -- it's where God will always be the hero, though we may not see it clearly in the midst of it or we may not ever see it in this life. But we can rest assured that God is always faithful and his promises will come to pass someday in his timing. 

Suffering is a gift where I have seen God and the gospel come to life. And He has given me new life as well through every single trial. For that I am thankful.

Abraham was "ALL IN"

As I read in my Bibliotheca book tonight before bed, the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, I saw the passage in a new light tonight even after reading this story in the Bible probably over 50 times in my life. Before tonight, I had never really looked deeper or thought beyond the words in this Bible story — like about the emotions — the DEEP, probably painfully sad and scared and possibly even tearful emotions that Abraham must have felt when God tells him to sacrifice his only son and even more so when he and Isaac were literally on their way up the mountain and Isaac has no idea what’s about to happen. He’s as innocent as ever, but his Father knows what is about to happen. His father knows he is about to sacrifice his only son. How hard and awfully heart-breaking that must have been. And even Isaac when he is finally on the alter or whatever it was with wood on top of him as his father Abraham is about to light it on fire and cut him in two and watch his son die in front of his eyes.

Holy Smokes!! 

My heart hurt reading this tonight even though I know the ending of the story. I knew even before I finished reading the first sentence what happens in this section in Genesis with Abraham and Isaac. Yet still I was vividly imagining what Abraham must have been feeling and what was going through his mind with all of this as he was seconds away from going through with sacrificing his son as he followed the orders of God who had spoken to him earlier. 

First of all, this totally points to Jesus, being God’s only son sacrificed on the cross for the sake of his people -- for all the people who believe him (John 3:16). How painful that must have been for God to sacrifice his only son. Now that's even worse than Abraham's experience because God spoke to him right as he was about to kill Isaac saying to HOLD UP and STOP for Abraham had proven that he fully trusted in God and was fully obedient by almost going through with the hardest sacrifice ever! But God didn’t stop Jesus from going up on that cross to suffer. He let that one happen. What love. What love that he would do that for the sake of having relationships with his own — everlasting relationships. Jesus made this possible. 

Second of all, as I read this story, I totally felt like I could relate this story of Abraham and Isaac to my own life. Well... at least Abraham is an example of what I can and should be doing with following God and his word. When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham was probably confused, furious, heart-broken, sad-beyond-belief. But obviously, reading the whole story through, Abraham obeys God by going through with exactly what God had told him. Abraham was going to have something -- or I should say, someone -- so near and dear and loved taken away from him forever, yet that did not in any way stop him from following God’s words and instructions spoken to him. Abraham trusted in God completely. If he had trusted in God only half-way, (I could be wrong), but I don’t think he would make it up that mountain as far as he did and literally be seconds away from losing his son.

Abraham was all in.

He had genuine faith in God’s word and plan. Following God was worth it to him. Following God was worth losing his only son whom he waited so many years for. I feel like my application sounds so much lesser compared to Abraham almost killing his own son, but I think no matter how small or seemingly petty something may be compared to this story of pure faith and obedience by Abraham, it still fits in and can be inserted into this story to be applied in life. What popped into my mind was the question that I asked on my Christmas break 2016: is it worth it? Is Jesus worth it? Is following Jesus and trusting 100% in God’s plans even if I can’t see it right now worth it? Would I do anything, even for example, giving up a huge dream to run long distance or giving up a passion for fitness and exercise in general, to follow Jesus with all my heart and be willing and ready to come with a trusting heart to follow God’s will for my life? Hypothetically speaking, if I were to wake up unable to walk tomorrow, would I still look to Jesus, praise him even in the darkness, and trust in his God's plan? Would giving up these things in this life - this temporary life - be worth it to me?

Will I be ready at the feet of Jesus with a trusting spirit to do his will even with a possible lifelong thorn / physical pain in my flesh? Abraham is an amazing example. He said yes. He showed that following God was worth it to him by being just seconds away from the sacrifice of Isaac. He was ready to give up everything to follow God, and MAN he sure did prove his obedience to God. Who knows what his attitude was at that time, but he showed he was going to trust in God’s will completely — even if that meant ripping away a precious thing from his life that I’m sure he delighted in and loved with all his heart. 

My Prayer: God, I pray for obedience like Abraham’s even when it seems like everything in life is against me, and I experience heart-ache. I pray that I will still follow you and trust you and praise you and love you even if you took something I love away from me or if everything was taken away from me. I pray that I will still follow you and trust you and praise you and love you even if I have unsolvable physical pain forever. Thank you for the story of Abraham and Isaac and the example that Abraham can be to us. He was going to give up everything for you. Wow! I pray for a quiet, bold, trusting spirit that is grounded in the gospel and the love and power and saving grace that it brings. God, your ways are higher and wider and deeper than we can fathom. Praise be to You, my King. I pray that you will mold me into something more and more beautiful each day as you bring me closer and closer to you, as we walk hand and hand together each day, as I go through trial after trial in this life. I pray that my Kanakuk phrase from Summer 2013 will forever stick in my mind and heart and soul: ALL IN. I want to be all in baby! Because Jesus, you are worth it. The gospel is worth it. 

Goodbye and Hello

It's time once again to say goodbye to one year and hello to another. Reflecting on 2016 and looking towards 2017. 

We all ask each other what we hope to accomplish and what our resolutions, hopes, dreams, goals, and predictions are or whatever you want to call them for the new year. 

My family does this too, but we now also have a tradition where each of us thinks of 3 words that we want to focus on and/or pray for for the coming year. Last year, my words were "plants," "friendship," and "love." I can honestly say that I think I learned SO much this year in terms of love and friendship, and I also ate a lot of plants haha. I'm not sure what I was going for with the whole plants thing, but it's cool. I guess I like eating them and I think they're important. 

My words for 2017: (I'm adding an extra...shhhh...)

1. Wait - Waiting for God's timing in everything and resting in the fact that at any given moment in 2017 -- whether good, bad, easy, or hard -- I will be right where God wants me to be at that particular time in my life. I struggle with control and wanting my timing for various things in life, but I want to learn to rest and trust in God's perfect timing for everything, whether that be for healing to my hip and adductor pain or for friendships and relationships or ultimately waiting in hope as I look forward to a new heavens and a new earth when Jesus comes to restore his children to him for good.  

2. Aware - This word to me encompasses many things: 1. Being aware of my friends and just their well-beings (even if they're studying abroad in other countries...s/o to my dearest food-loving friend Shannon K.). 2. Being more aware of my own feelings day to day and not trying to push them away, failing addressing them. 3. Praying for God to open my eyes wider to see his world and how he's working and what he's teaching. 4. Being aware of money and spending. 5. And lastly, just learning to be more mindful when eating food and with hunger and fullness cues and what not, which sounds SO easy, simple, and maybe even silly, but for some it can really be a challenge.

3. Simplify. 

4. Stoichiometry :D - Switching back to dietetics means CHEMISTRYYYY GALORE! Ow-OWWWW! Spring 2017, Summer, and next Fall will be challenging AF but I'm going to give it all I got and see what happens!

...

Since life can be so unpredictable, and we all know that we tend to fail most resolutions, I do not want to make such surface-y resolutions anymore. Side note: I don't want to bash on other people's goals AT ALL. Please don't take this as me looking down on them. I think goals, especially like physical goals and workout out more or getting physically stronger can be fine and healthy for some, but something that has been drilled into my mind and heart over the years, but more so this year than any year in the past, I have learned that these types of resolutions and dreams for a "better-looking-body" or however you want to look at it -- they will most certainly not give you the kind of satisfaction and fulfillment that you are really looking for. They just won't. We will always be wanting more -- always be wanting to go to further extremes to try and to fill up a void in ourselves that we long to be filled -- whether it's intentional or unintentional. 

I want to encourage you this year to look deeper. Look deeper than just "physique-goals" to other words that you can focus on that could actually bring true growth to you as a person and point you with an arrow in bolder font to the ONE who will eventually fulfill ALL the deep longings that we have as humans on this earth. 

There is so much more to look towards and look forward to and hope for and long for than such earthly things, like "getting abs," "slimming down," and just physical goals like these. Exercise and health and eating well are oh-so-important (hence the reason I'm studying dietetics), but it is not everything.

Yep, I said it.  

It is most certainly not everything. And so often in this day and age, there is a huge population that puts every single bit of their being and identity into looking fit and skinny and toned and attempting to attain that "picture-perfect" body that it blinds us from what we should ultimately be looking for and who we should be looking towards instead. I know this because I've fallen into this trap too. I've looked to SO many different trends and diets and workouts and seeing pictures of "fit" people that makes me want to achieve something that really has always just left me more and more empty. None of it works. None of it brings more happiness. None of it brings more satisfaction. None of it brings more worth to you if you look a certain way -- whether you achieve whatever you were hoping for or not. 

And whether my words in this blog post make sense or not, I'm sharing these things because I truly do not want other people to go down roads that I've personally tried and that have ripped me and my mind apart and left me feeling worse and worse and worse. I want people to know before they make goals and wishes and resolutions, especially physical goals, to know that there is SO MUCH MORE that will bring lasting hope and fulfillment than those things. It's a matter of how you're initially stepping into your resolutions and goals for the year and years to come -- the head and heart need to be in the right place before beginning these types of goals. They aren't bad in and of themselves, but when things like looking a certain way or even looking for someone like a boyfriend or girlfriend to satisfy loneliness are the only things you're living for and putting your hope in for fulfillment... you're just going to be sorry and feeling more empty and longing for more. 

The word "wait" is the main word in my list of 3 (...or now 4) words for the year. It popped into my mind a couple of weeks ago, and I decided I'd like for that word to be on my 2017 word list after a conversation with one of my older brothers. Ironically, today at church (January 1, 2017), the center of the sermon was on on waiting in hope. Right when I heard this being preached today, I knew for sure that this was going to be one of my words! I was like... "WOAH NOW HOLD DA PHONE!" (except no one says that anymore so I kept it in my head of course). 

Today, I am thankful. I'm thankful for a sure hope in Christ. He is who I want. He is who I want to want more. I know He is who my soul longs for more and more. He is my hope. He is a real hope and a hope that lives in me and who does life with me every single day! Talk about the best friend ever. 

He is who I'm waiting for.

He alone, one day, will fill that deep longing that we all have to look better, to feel better, to be in relationships, to be successful in our work and jobs, and so on.  

In 2017, and in 2018, and in 2030, I will continue to pray and wait in hope for Jesus to come again to restore this world and completely fulfill the souls of his dearly beloved children for good.

Come Lord Jesus. In your timing.

Is it Worth It?

Recently, or I guess over the past few months or 18 months, as most of you reading this probably know from other blog posts and my Instagram page, I have had a lot of challenges both big and small thrown my way -- starting college, struggling academically through college causing me to change my major from dietetics to something that really didn't light my fire anymore like nutrition does, relationships new and old, drama and frustration and big changes with extracurricular groups, deciding to go back to majoring in dietetics to give it another go next semester, trying to find a church and new friends, mental/emotional/spiritual challenges, and then there's the biggie... having mysterious, frustrating hip and adductor (deep inner thigh/groin) pain causing inability to participate in any of my favorite fitness activities anymore that I had a passion for (especially running) which then leaded to getting hip surgery Fall 2016 to STILL not being healed of my original pains that leave me unable physically to do so much -- so much that I once loved and got to pour myself into to destress and to stay fit and physically strong and healthy. 

That ability to do activities freely, pain-free, easily, without-a-second-thought is gone -- at least for the time being, but I don't see any end in sight at the moment. It could change. My body's physical pain could heal eventually. Or it could stay this way. I really don't know.

My mind has been dealing with a mental battle everyday for quite some time dealing with all of this. Most recently while on Christmas break, I've just been thinking more and more about what's happening with this long suffering with my hip and groin and adductor issues.

What is God doing in me or for me with this physical debilitation? 

Is it for my protection?

Is he transforming me or renewing me? 

Is he preparing me for something?

What is his purpose in this long suffering?

I know God isn't like karma who throws something hard at his people when they mess up or are dealing with certain sins. But I do believe God can throw a curveball in his people's lives to reveal himself or to pull them closer to him or to just teach them some type of lesson. What is it this time? God, what are you doing here?

My physical pain I've dealt with for quite a while has produced in me: anxiety, fear, worsening body image, frustration, more pain, worry, doubt, hopelessness, more struggles with comparison, jealousy, impatience, and tears.

But flipping the coin, as I look back, whether that’s to yesterday or to 3 months ago or to a year, can I see any good in this suffering? --> What went on in my mind when I asked this question: "Yes there's GOT to be some good things throughout all of this suffering that my mind just really likes to overlook...Janie, think think think...what could those things be? Anything at all. Write them down. Make a list even if it's just a couple things. Think."

  • Greater understanding and empathy for the crippled or people who live in chronic physical pain
  • Stronger drive to fight hard (some days I guess...other times it’s reeeal hard to fight all the crazy mental battles that pop up!)
  • Perseverance
  • Deeper understanding and realization that to move is ABSOLUTELY a gift that cannot and should not be taken for granted — that includes being able to walk, to run, and just to workout in any and every single way. (Side note: Honestly, it pains me to see it being taken advantage of, especially in the Instagram world of foodies and fitness, but I know and understand that not everyone has had it taken away to even realize that to move is truly a gift. And just bein' real with you peeps, I will throw out there that I have been on either side of the spectrum -- from completely abusing exercise and hurting my body when I was very underweight and dealing with an eating disorder and not using physical activity in the way it should be used to take care of my body. I overexercised, I underate, I took exercise of all sorts for granted. But most recently, I've been on the complete other side of the spectrum literally just learning to walk again. Unable to do anything easily. Being in pain when I move and having to be so incredibly intentional and sensitive about even the TINIEST move I now make. It's crazy what all I now have to think about that most people do not have to do! And still, after a surgery I don't know if I'll be pain-free and able be active like I would love). To move is a gift.
  • Learning to rely not on something tangible and short-lasting and only temporarily fulfilling to me (exercise and endorphins and the gym as an outlet) but on WHO — the one who is lasting, intangible, unseen, faithful, loving, all-knowing, all-powerful who will bring everlasting fulfillment one day. 

"Okay, good job self! You made your little list. You can come back to it later to add some more because surely there are some more learning lessons that are coming out of this physical suffering turned mental-battle-suffering that may just be slipping the mind right now. ...But okay, now what?"

Aaaand Boom. 

As I sit in St. Louis Bread Co (none of that Panera talk lol) after my chemistry tutoring at 8 a.m. (hello sleepiness zzzzz...) just two days after Christmas, another question pops into my mind. A biggie. Hence my "Boom" above. This question is not as easy to answer as I once would think. But a vital question or questions nonetheless. (beware of possible run-on sentences...we'll see.)

"Am I willing to give up my physical comfort and my interest and love for fitness and being able to be active and move freely (yadda yadda yadda) for something or I should say someOne that will ultimately fill me completely, who will love me completely — my raggamuffin-self and all, who died for ME to offer me this free relationship with him, who he himself gives true freedom, who lives in me and I in him, who is ready with open arms for me to run to him when I mess up and am on my last strands and when I feel like I’ve got nothing left? Am I willing to live boldly and unashamedly for Christ at the expense of dealing with physical suffering and pain? Am i willing to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus even if that means giving up so much -- comfort, maybe people's approval, things that I love, etc.? 

"Am I willing to give up something I love and suffer with the knowledge going into it that I will without a doubt be transformed by God and be made into something more beautiful, more deeply rooted in God and his truths of the gospel, and knowing that this earthly, painful, and very uncomfortable physical suffering will be used for God's kingdom purposes even though I may not know or see what he's doing through me or through it? 

Would I? 

Would you?

...

Would you REALLY though?

That doesn't sound like a good fun earthly life. I mean, real lasting physical pain and difficult mental battles every day? 

Is it worth it? Is following Jesus worth everything in my life?

Is following Jesus worth everything in your life?

...

"In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." - Hebrews 12:14

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." - Mark 8:34

...

Well, I want to say yes. I want to live out my yes answer.

God, please lead me and help me do this. Guide me into living out my "yes." I can't believe I'm writing this, but God renew my heart and transform me daily to be willing to give up anything for you, no matter the cost and suffering. Dang... I need you God, and I already know I need your strength to face every single day and mental battle. I need you because I'm I already know I'm going to falter. But you are everything. Be my everything. God please.

Thank you for the gospel. 

The Lord is My Shepherd

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. 

He restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness, for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love (or mercy) will follow me all the days of my life.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord FOREVER."

Psalm 23 <3

I visited a new church with a couple friends today from school, and at the end of the service we recited this wonderful, refreshing chapter in the Bible. And once again, I continue to be comforted and amazed with this chapter in the Psalms. I first memorized it when I was 6 years old in my Kindergarten class. Shoutout to Mrs. Freyling for being the best Kindergarten teacher out there. No other year in school thus far, in all my schooling years I've been through, has beat this favorite of mine. Keep in mind, I'm 20 years old now in my second year in college at SLU. Kindergarten has still been my favorite. I mean... what can I say... I guess I'm a sucker for coloring books, Dr. Seuss, nap time, snack time, performing nursery rhymes to the class for mother's day, my teacher's Winnie the Pooh clothes (every.single.day.), and being graded on reciting tongue twisters. Can I just go back to Kindergarten forever? 

I will say though, even reminiscing on all of those fun Kindergarten memories above, I do not believe there is a better life-long takeaway than Psalm 23 being engraved in my head and heart. At just 6 years old. No offense to my Kindergarten classmates or anything, but I have a feeling that most of them probably forgot that verse right after we got graded on it for memory. Maaaybe not though -- should I give my fellow 6-year-old friends the benefit of the doubt? Why not. But I sure did forget most of the verses that I had memorize each week during my elementary years -- and even through high school (sorry teachers...there's only so much room in the noggin'). However, 15 years later, after first learning Psalm 23 in Kindergarten, I am still to this day reciting it to myself. I have it hanging on my wall in my bedroom in my apartment, and I will say this to myself all the time -- when I wake up in the mornings, when I lay my head down on my pillow at night, when I am feeling lonely, when I am feeling scared, when I am feeling broken, when I am feeling weak, and even when I am feeling at ease and joyful. We can come to the Word of God and should come to the Word of God with any and every emotion -- both in sadness and in joy and contentment. God is always at the door awaiting for us to come to him and knock on the door to his presence. Isn't that pretty cool?? 

I think so. What a Guy :) He is such a good good Father who strongly desires for his children to come to him in whatever state they're in. 

When I am lost for words in my prayers or thoughts or emotions, I will recite this verse. This has really been part of the glue to my faith over the years. Even though I didn't starting owning my Christian faith until mid-high school, this was one of the few verses that I kept coming back to through the darkest of times in high school, overcoming an eating disorder. When I had nothing, the words in these verses were everything I needed to hear.

When I had nothing, Jesus was everything. 

I encourage you guys -- whoever may read my blog posts at least (I don't even know who does, if anyone, besides my mother lol) -- to take a moment to just read Psalm 23 a few times and let it sink in. If you are a Christian, or if you feel like you're falling away from God because you feel distant, or you just want to learn more about who God is, I encourage you to open your Bible to Psalm 23 and ask yourself, "What do I learn about who God is from these words in front of me?" Let the comforting, reassuring words of this passage restore your heart and soul right at this moment.

And after you read it, maybe tomorrow you can read another Psalm or open up your Bible (or Bible app) to one of the gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John -- to start learning about who this Jesus guy is that people talk about and what he came to do in this world. Once you open your Bible up, ASK QUESTIONS. I'm not kidding. The Bible is confusing and hard to read. I get so confused all the time and have no idea what the heck an author is trying to say sometimes, but that's normal. Read it and get together with someone to talk about it and learn together about who Jesus is and how to apply what you read in the Bible in our everyday lives. Christianity is not an easy road by any means and the Bible is not an easy read. I will say from my own experience with reading the Bible... it is convicting beyond belief and never stops exposing myself to clearly and truly see my awful sin that I struggle to let go of, my brokenness, and my need of Someone greater to help me daily and save me from ALL of it. Reading the Bible is hard, but my oh my is it worth it!! 

Guys, I know not all of you are Christians, and I don't want to force something like this down anyone, but for those of you who claim to be Christians or have a curiosity about Christianity, DIG INTO YOUR BIBLE and see for yourself the wonders of Jesus and his saving grace to the broken, like me. 

As Nike would advertise.... 

JUST DO IT!

& Here's an awesome song I just found and I wanted to share:

"There's a Light" by Todd Smith. 

My Hips Don't Lie (...Shakira told me so)

Me and Shakira both actually. Our hips are very honest #NoLyingAllowed. Well... Maybe my hips have been lying to me my whole life, and even more so for the past 13 months. (More on this to come⬇️).

...

Oh Life, whatta crazy thing you are sometimes. 

Ever since I got back to school this fall, I have been going non-stop, barely getting any time at all to breathe. Honestly, it has been so hard. Not what I was expecting for this fall. The Big Guy knew what I was getting into, but I didn't whatsoever. Not that this ever happens or anything (PSHHHHT), but again I had a totally different idea in my head for how the beginning of my semester would go and the weeks following. Once again, I'm starting to pick up what God actually has in store for me and what He's had in his grand plan from the very beginning of my life and before I was a even thought in my parents head. 

A couple days ago, I was venting and pouring out what's been going on in my noggin and all the crazy news about my hip to my best friend at SLU, who so happens to be one of my roommates. After I was blabbing on about a lot of things, she showed me a screenshot of a story/quote on Facebook.  It happened to be about 9/11 and how there were so many people who worked in one of the twin towers, but at that particular day and hour, these employees were not in the building due to, for example, being late to work because of the subway, having to pick up medicine from the drugstore, taking their kid to school, grabbing a sandwich at a place with a long line, getting stuck in traffic on a bridge while driving, etc. Since these people were running late to work, we all know the feeling of how that goes don't we? They were probably feeling annoying at the world or situation for holding them up. Or they might be checking the time constantly hoping it would magically pause for them. Perhaps they were crossing their fingers the subway would go faster or the traffic would let them through like a police escort would. These feelings about running late are universal. We all know what these folks were thinking or worrying about as they stress about being late to work. 

Little did these people know, their work building was going to be completely destroyed by a terrorist attack while they were only in transit to work. The late ones were actually the safe ones. These people who were late to work for various reasons would still get to eat dinner with their families tonight and tuck their children into bed after reading them a story. Their punctual co-workers would not. 

Why did I bring this story up? The takeaway is that those people who were stressed, annoyed, anxious, and frustrated about being late to work for various reasons were right exactly where they were supposed to be at that particular time in their life. Sure this is also a sad story if you're thinking about the tragic deaths of the other people who were actually in the building. This story is also one to encourage and to flip your thinking around when you're in any situation -- good or bad, easy or hard, happy or sad. God knew they were going to be late for work that day. He knew the underground subway was going to be extra crowded and slow that day so the man who works in one of the twin towers would be safe and would see his family again. God placed each and every one of these late people in certain situations to protect them. They were right where they needed to be at that hour and minute in their life. Nowhere else. 

Going off of that, I also, am exactly where I need to be at this moment in my life. Nowhere else. No other situation. No other mental, emotional, or physical state. I am right where God wants me. 

I wouldn't exactly choose this situation for myself, but I know I'm in God's loving arms, and He is molding me each day in new and different ways that I would not have imagined for my life. God is in control and I am in his hands through it all, and for that I can rest, I can rejoice, and I can breathe.  

I have hip news, school news, Chi Alpha news, work news, and maybe some more news, but I can't think of anything else big like these right now.

I'll start with my hip...because a lot of the rest of the news stems from it, and I know many people are aware that I've been suffering from hip and groin pain for over 13 months (since August 2015). Going back to Shakira and I's hips....I know I said they don't lie, but MY HIPS HAVE LIED TO ME FOR A LONG @$$ TIME, BUT THEY FINALLY CAME CLEAN AND DECIDED TO BE HONEST WITH ME. Thank you hips. Y'all rock. 

Okay brief hip injury overview: I first felt pain in my right groin/adductor/inner thigh area when I was stretching after an easy run last August before I started my freshman year of college. A couple months later after not being able to run or do exercises pain-free, I saw a chiropractor. He didn't help. I then saw a orthopedic doctor. I got x-rays, which came back clean. He started me on physical therapy because he thought my pain was caused from weak hips and glutes. I got an MRI which came back clean. My orthopedic doctor referred me to a hip specialist at a children's hospital, and she diagnosed me with a strained adductor and told me to keep doing therapy. I kept that up for 8 months. However, my pain was progressing from not only just in my groin, but now it was moving to my hip flexor along with the side of my hip. PT wasn't doing anything to heal me (besides giving me a bigger butt and jacked thighs which made me have to buy larger pants and shorts #NiceWorkPT). A couple friends of mine gave me the name of a special chiropractor who is also a physician who I started seeing. He said my problem is adhesion, and I have a lot of adhesion built up on my hip muscles, so he started treating me for that. At first, I thought I had finally conquered this hip-pain mystery because I felt a little better even after my first chiropractor treatment where he dug into my hip at different places (#ouch). Quickly, I began to plateau and I still felt pain. GAH! He set me up to get another MRI but with contrasts this time. 

Which brings me to my most recent news: Last week on September 7th I got the MRI Arthrogram with contrasts. The very next day I got the results from my chiropractor. They found that I have hip dysplasia and a hypoplastic labrum (which I was told means swollen labrum). As for the hip dysplasia, my hip is slightly abnormally shaped, but I was born that way. My ball and socket doesn't fit together as it's supposed to, causing my hip to do more movement that it should. My chiropractor referred me to a great hip doctor who works with hip injuries/problems for professional athletes actually, including men from the STL Cardinal's baseball team #GoCards :D. I saw him on Monday the 14th of September. I was told again that I have mild hip dysplasia, but as for my labrum, it is clearly torn...not just swollen. FABULOUS, JUST FABULOUS! 

Surgery is now a must.

It turns out, I'm actually going to be getting this hip surgery in less month on October 11. The rest of the semester should be a good time. I won't be able to go to school for 2-3 weeks post-surgery obviously because walking ain't an option and ya know... drugs. So right now I've been trying to make many calls and emails to people at my school to see what accommodations can be made so I don't have to redo this semester. Also, the recovery period is quite a while -- about 12 weeks at least and up to 6 months to a year before I'm completely back to normal, so they say. It's going to be a long and hard journey ahead of me once again, but I know this is right where I'm supposed to be. God knows what's going on and is right here by me through it all. Thank you my awesome Father God! 

The other not so great news from the doc was that I will not be able to be a long distance runner for the rest of my life. With the way my hips are made, it is not good for them. Hearing this pretty much crushed me inside. I kept it calm, cool, and collected on the outside when I was in the doctor's office listening to him, but I would be lying if I said I was completely fine with this news. Yes, I am so incredibly relieved to F-I-N-A-L-L-Y have an answer and a plan to move forward. But, there is a part of me that is just absolutely heartbroken that some of my dreams to be able to run more half marathons and a marathon someday are now totally gone and broken. That is so painful to me. I know God will teach me to be thankful for what I can do and not dwell on what I can't. That is my prayer at least. They say I can run in moderation and do 5Ks with friends and even 10K sometimes, but the way I was made, long distance running is not good for my body. It's just really hard when you have a huge passion for something and it's just pulled out of your hands and you can't do anything about it. Hopefully I can find other fun ways to stay active and get my heart pumpin'. It's what I love to do :)

So this hip surgery also means I have to temporarily quit the job I literally just got a few weeks ago, which I felt bad doing, but this situation is totally outside of my control. I am hoping to get back to it when I am fully healed because I actually found a job that I love doing! It's fun and right up my alley!

Additionally, since school this semester has been very difficult and time consuming, I have been stressed and anxious beyond belief. I have some learning challenges, and time is a serious problem for me. If I don't give myself enough time to do the work put before me....bye bye even semi-decent grades. That's been happening, and it's not even a month into school! Something has to change. I had to make some big and uncomfortable and hard decisions over the past couple of days -- one of them being to step down from being a part of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship leadership and being a community group / Bible study leader for a group of girls on my school's campus. I had no idea that I would have to do this and I am very to sad to say I'm leaving. I hope and pray that I will still be able to stay connected to these wonderful Jesus-loving friends whether I am able to still come to some XA gatherings or not. I have no idea right now. I'm just still trying to process all that has happened in the past couple of days with all this news and crazy changes in my life and the rest of the semester in front of me. I will always love my Chi Alpha family whether I get to be in the group or not. These people have made my time at SLU 10x better and comfortable, and I don't know what I would've done if I hadn't met this tight-knit Christian family last year as a freshman. I hate to be leaving Chi Alpha, for now at least, but at this moment in my life, I need to focus on school because ultimately, that's why I am here and I want to do the best that I can as a St.Louis University Billiken student (Don't ask me what a Billiken is please lol...It's our school's mascot). 

My prayer is that God will keep providing the right amount of time I that I need to be able to catch back up with schoolwork, and to get ahead in school as much as I can before I embark on this long surgery journey. I pray for energy, determination to do my best, and to not only do my best in school, but to lift it all up to him -- to bring glory to Jesus' name as I put forth my best effort in school. I pray for a good attitude through it all. School is a challenge, especially with learning disabilities, but this is how God made me. Thank you God for making me the way you did -- both physically and Intellectually. I love you Jesus. Keep bringing me closer and closer to you this semester. Work in me through this long physical suffering. I know this is right where you want me to be. 

 My XA Leadership family :)

My XA Leadership family :)

 Kendall and Eleni - Two beautiful-souled human beings who I was going to get to co-lead a Bible study with this year. I love you ladies, and I'm sorry I won't be able to lead with you girls anymore. You both are WONDERFUL!&nbsp;I can't wait to see what God will do through you and your group as you walk alongside other college women and dig into their lives and show them the great news of Jesus!

Kendall and Eleni - Two beautiful-souled human beings who I was going to get to co-lead a Bible study with this year. I love you ladies, and I'm sorry I won't be able to lead with you girls anymore. You both are WONDERFUL! I can't wait to see what God will do through you and your group as you walk alongside other college women and dig into their lives and show them the great news of Jesus!

 This was our freshman year Chi Alpha posse! We got dinner together every Sunday night, and it was very special and cool to see this group of people take the initiative to do a little something extra outside of the large XA group to get to know each other better and hang out :D

This was our freshman year Chi Alpha posse! We got dinner together every Sunday night, and it was very special and cool to see this group of people take the initiative to do a little something extra outside of the large XA group to get to know each other better and hang out :D

Steppin' Out of Mah Zone

Here I go, spilling what's going on in the Janie-noggin'... 😅😁🙈

So if you didn't know, I'm going to be a sophomore this year at Saint Louis University. And I will just say, I am going into this school year with a completely different feel than last year when I was literally traumatized to even leave my house on move-in day to my dorm. Lots has changed over the course of 1 year, and I seriously am overjoyed about that and where God has brought me spiritually and mentally. 

I am however stepping into something new this year that is totally outside of my comfort zone and has all of a sudden made me super anxious inside just in the past couple of days especially. I'm no perfect human being by any means. I still struggle with anxiety, including both social anxiety and situational anxiety (super broad I know, but hang with me here).  Although I've come far in my trust in Jesus, I still falter every single day big time. And right now, not going to lie, I just feel plain out-right scared. 

This year I have committed to being on the leadership team with an on-campus interdenominational Christian organization/group called Chi Alpha (XA). Being on this leadership team means that I will be leading a small group (community group) and diving into God's word with other girls and discipling them as we walk through these college years together and growing in our faiths with Jesus.

As excited as I am to do this and to see how God is going to orchestrate this year, I am also somewhat paralyzed with anxiety right now (as I write this at 2 a.m. in the wee hours of the morning unable to sleep during this overnight leadership retreat). A lot is running through my head right now, but it just feels good to write it all out to help my brain process, whether it makes any sense or not!

Paralyzed with anxiety...right. Ok back to it! So I wasn't actually too nervous for coming back to school and going on this retreat and seeing everyone again. But for some reason, even as I drove there to the retreat/camp site, I began to feel the creepin'-in-anxiety that I am very much acquainted with from experiencing it many-a-time over the past handful of years. "OH CRAP NO PLZ GO AWAY!!! PLEASE PLEASE PLEEEEEEASE don't come into my feeling-box right now, Mr. Anxiety. You are not welcome. All you do is make things worse. Like pretty please, go take a hike...and never come back. That'd be great. Yeah thanks a bunch. Hopefully see ya never." 

As much as I wish Mr. Anxiety had gone on his everlasting hike, he didn't listen to me. Gosh darnit. I'll have to work on my firmness I guess. Maybe if I call myself "MASTER JANIE STEELE" that would give me a little more power and scariness. Next time :)

Whether it was just overwhelming for little introvert Janie being with so many people all of a sudden or what, the anxiety starting growing even more when I was in the midst of these people -- these people who I love and want to get to know more and who love Jesus. Dude, like these people I get to lead with and who are a part of this whole XA group are amazing human beings. What was up with this social anxiety inside of me? Seriously, this social anxiety takes over and paralyzes me, and I can't seem to get out of my own head.  These the people I should be most comfortable with and just let loose. But when I get anxious like this, it takes away my freedom to be my free, fun-loving self who seriously does want to talk to all these people and make conversation and get to know them more. 

Social anxiety seriously is AWFUL! I am experiencing it all of a sudden which I haven't been used to for a while now, especially all summer. And then right when we came together as a large group being surrounded by all of these absolutely wonderful and happy and hyper XA leaders, who I love and who are thrilled to be back, I got flooded with all sorts of unwanted anxious emotions. I'm going to keep saying this: Let me tell you again, these are FANTASTIC, Jesus-loving people who are just plain awesome, I'm not kidding! And sure, I had some great conversations with a few people, but with so many others, people both in XA and outside of XA at SLU and elsewhere, I just don't know how to connect with them. I feel so distant, and it seems to me like I am just so incredibly different from every single person out there. 

I feel another type of barrier again -- this barrier between me and most people where there's no clicking happening these days. As much as I want it and attempt to make something click between others and myself, I don't feel that happening. I'm not sure what to make of it or what to do honestly. 

Doing this XA leadership thing also scares me to pieces in ways. I am genuinely excited to see God at work on SLU's campus in the near and far future, yet I am also genuinely scared about this upcoming year all of a sudden just being at this retreat, which should be the opposite shouldn't it? Shouldn't I be getting more and more excited and free being in a room with these like-minded people, as we are about to begin a new chapter in pursuing Jesus more, meeting new people, and discipling them through the roots of the Gospel? 

I'm nervous and scared right now as I think about how to go about being a leader (which I've never really done before...ever...), being a disciple, and being a small group discussion facilitator who puts together lesson plans. This shouldn't be my biggest concern and worry, but I won't lie...it is quite a bit daunting to me coming up with these long lesson plans in the midst of an already stressful and busy college year 2.0. I've never done something like this, and it is definitely out of mah zone of comfort!!! I so want to get out of my own head and keep letting Jesus guide me through all of this because it is HIS name that I'm lifting up, not my own. The Bible is God's words to us that he's given to us to know him more and to help guide us in how to live for Him.  I know deep inside me that the Holy Spirit will stir in my heart as I read and pray and prepare lessons this year. I mean, this is so not about me whatsoever, but I feel so much pressure right now. I know that a lot of other new leaders are somewhat fearful and hesitant about leading a group for their first time too. I wish this gave me some more comfort, but even knowing I'm not alone in this scary feeling doesn't do much to help. 

All I can do, at this moment, dealing with this social anxiety and leadership anxiety, is whisper Jesus' name in the dark of the night right now. When I don't know what to do or say or think or how to get rid of mean Mr.Anxiety, I am learning to whisper Jesus' name because His name alone holds so much power and glory and love and peace. 

My prayer tonight: (or this morning because it's now like 2:25 a.m.)

Father God, work in me by the power of your Holy Spirit to do this XA leadership and discipleship for YOU and YOU ALONE. Because you ALONE are our Lord and Savior and God. Forgive me for wanting to please others and do it for my own glory. Keep shaping and changing my heart to do everything, including discipleship and caring and leading other girls this year, to lift up and glorify your name, not my own. Make yourself higher and make myself lower. Please make these words and prayers genuine coming out of my head and heart. God, you alone can bring people to know your son Jesus to keep growing to know you more. I am your instrument God. Please help me and my fellow XA leaders this year remember this and listen to you through your Word, through prayer, through creation even, and through other people with open ears. And give us the push and the strength and the determination and the love to move. To move forward and to keep in step with where you want us to go, who you want us to have a conversation with, what you want us to say. God, this is in your hands. Fill us with your strength and love. We cannot do this on our own. Humble us and bring us to our knees every single day raising our gaze to you. I'm scared and do not know what on earth is in your plans and what's going to happen this year with leading a community group and with discipling other girls, but you DO God. You know, and your ways are perfect whether we see it or not right now. I pray that you will work in big and small ways -- ways that we don't even realize sometimes. You know how this year is going to go down...and the next year.........and even the year after that. God I pray that you will fill us and charge our souls with your peace and comfort and faithfulness. Strengthen our trust in you in unbelievable amounts this year. And when our eyes start to wander off and go straight to our own selves, please PLEASE protect us and lead our gazes back to you and your mission for us and what it means to be leaders in this XA Christian Fellowship group at Saint Louis University. Forgive us when we do stray away. Keep pulling us back when we falter, Jesus. Don't let go of anyone's hand. We love you Jesus because you first loved us. We can love others because you first loved us. We can even love ourselves because you first loved us. We do ALL of this because of your deep deep unfathomable love for us...which I can say, but I do not even understand a tiny fraction of what that looks like. That's okay though. God, please teach us more of your love everyday. Pour out that deep love through us, your instruments, who were made in your image (#WOAH 😱💙), onto freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and even teachers this year. Everyone. LOVE THROUGH US! Even on the hardest of days where all else seems to fail and we have little earthly strength and energy left. Even then. Love. Dwell in our hearts and point us and others to you continually. God, you are our Father. Let us approach you as a Father with all of our worries, anxieties, sadness, excitement, joy, anger, frustration, confusion, questions....everything. Help us remember that you are there for us. ALL THE TIME. Like that's no joke. Drill this into our noggin's!!! Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen. 

God, Hear My Plea

I had lots of random thoughts and emotions and fears and a weird but awesome sense of peace and trust as I was sitting on a bench enjoying my Kilwins cake batter and marshmallow s’mores ice cream flavors on the small main street of Frankfort, Michigan where my family has been going every summer from the time my great grandmother started coming up back in the good ol’ days.

What were you thinking about Janie? Well friends, I’m glad you asked. This is going to take quite a bit of humbling vulnerability for me to share this because it has to do with my current mental health and where I’ve been recently.

After 12 months, I am still dealing with a mysterious hip injury that has not gotten better yet and has caused me to be very restrictive on many exercises and fitness activities over the past year, among other daily activities. It has been anything BUT easy. Why am I having to go through this? What did I do to deserve this hip problem that has made me unable to do some of my favorite activities, like running and other fun fitness classes I used to enjoy so much? Why did God pick me to do this? Where are the answers? Why am I not healing? What do I have to do to get myself back to where I was before this injury happened? Where are the wise doctors who will correctly diagnose my physical pain and help treat me? Why is this still going on after 12 longs months especially not going a day without worrying about it since the day before my freshman year in college started? Did I really need to have an injury like this stressing me out every single day on top of my first year of all the unknowns that college holds? What is God doing here? What on earth can I do? God, please take this away. PLEASE. 

These are just some of the endless questions that have been flooding my head and heart over the past year, but even more so over this summer going into yet another school year with no obvious physical progress with my hip. I have seen chiropractors, doctors, hip specialists, doctors at children’s hospital, etc. I have gotten x-rays and MRIs with no visible issues. I have been in physical therapy for 9 months. I am scheduling appointments now with more doctors, chiropractors, and other specialists. God, I don’t need this right now. I don’t need this physical pain that restricts me from doing so much. 

Something hit me tonight though: Maybe I do. Maybe I do need this. 

Maybe God is doing something in me through these hip issues and the pain I’ve gone through. This is a thorn in my flesh that God has put in me just like he put in Paul to keep him from becoming conceited. God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). 

The Bible says that Paul pleaded with God to have this thorn taken out of his flesh. But God had a purpose for that. He used that thorn to teach Paul something lasting. Something that will intensify Paul’s trust in God, and to fully put his hope and faith in a God whose grace for his people is overflowing and incomprehensible and chock FULL of love. This is everlasting grace in an everlasting God. This is what gives life — this is who gives life — this is who gives eternal life. 

This is what God is showing me. This is what he is teaching me about. This is what he preaching me to do — to rely on him, not partially, not every other day, not once a month, not only on Thursdays, not only in the mornings during my Bible reading time. Not when I feel like it. No. God is preaching to me to rely on him and put all the faith I’ve got into him fully, every single day, every single hour, every single moment when I feel sad or happy or angry or hopeless with my hip problems (which comes along more often than not). Maybe this sounds like a minor thing to some of you, but this hip stuff has rocked my world and shaken it up quite a bit. Through this long suffering of physical pain, God has been and is continuing to reveal to me that although I am physically healthy and recovered from an eating disorder (putting aside the thorn in my side with these hip issues), my mental health is still sub-par and I have a long way to go. This something that I have avoided telling anyone for quite some time, but I have finally come to terms with it and need Jesus more than ever to help me move in a direction pleasing to him. More than just healing the physical body, the mental part of recovery is by far the most challenging and difficult to overcome. It takes so much time and does not happen overnight or when one finally reaches their “goal weight” or healthy BMI or whatever. No, this healing of the mind takes far more time and energy and struggle than it does to gain all the body weight back. I’ve come a long way from where I started no doubt, but there’s still so many more steps to take to keep healing my mind in the days ahead of me. I don’t know if this struggle  will ever fully end. I hear different things from different people about “fully” recovering, but man it is a hard road. I know this topic probably doesn’t make sense to many who have never gone through something like an eating disorder and the mental disorder that accompanies this or walked alongside of someone who’s struggled with this, but let me tell you, it is a real thing. It is no joke and it tries to take over your entire life mostly emotionally, mentally, and socially. Honestly I don’t like bringing this topic up with people because I either think they won’t understand (which happens a lot) or they won’t have any compassion about it or whatever it is. 

I want to get to the point of complete mental healing. I also want to grow so much and be an active follower of Jesus in this broken world. However, my mental health, dealing with this debilitating hip injury, has put some sort of blockade in the path in front of me it seems like. And honestly, I’m just not quite sure how to get over it and/or knock it down. 

As I was eating my Kilwin’s ice cream (AKA the best ice cream ever to exist on this earth…yeah I went there.) on a bench on the side of Frankfort mainstreet, it hit me. I need to let go. I was enjoying the heck out of that ice cream and something flooded over me with this feeling of peace — a peace and urgency and almost this competitive feeling inside of me to knock this blockade down that has been looming over me and in front of me for so long. I need to move. I can’t just keep sitting here waiting for it to just crumble on its own without changing and growing and fighting more. 

This absolutely scares the crap out of me though. I do not know what the next steps to take are. I do not know what will happen next in my path to move forward and to knock this huge thing down in my life that is in front of me.  I do not know what God is going to do with this thorn in my flesh. I do not know how God is going to restore my mental health. Ultimately I know Jesus will restore all things when I get to live eternally with him and when he comes again to make a new heaven and earth, but what about while I am on this earth though? What’s he going to do now and in my days ahead? Knowing that the whole world and all that happens within it is out of my hands is both incredibly, crazily comforting and incredibly, crazily uncomfortable as well because we don’t know what’s going to happen or what God will do in our lives. But the one thing I do know, the single thing I put 100% of my faith and trust in, is that I know that God is using this to show me more of who he is, pointing me to himself, and that his grace and his love for me are all that I ever have needed in the past, all that I ever need now, and all that I ever will need in the future. His grace is sufficient for me. This is what he is teaching me. 

The road in front of me is incredibly uncomfortable, and I can’t do it on my own. I am scared for so many reasons, like am I ever going to get healed?, am I ever going to find a doctor that will correctly diagnose me?, will I ever be able to run again?, will my mind that still has lingering disordered thoughts ever really heal?, will my body keep changing in ways that I don’t particularly like if I have to quit doing almost all activities while I figure out and deal with my injury?, will I ever stop hating on my body and my personality and truly love myself just the perfect way that God made me?, will this constant comparing myself to other people stoppit ever? These thoughts exhaust my head every single day. These are just a handful of the things I find myself idolizing and falling in the traps of putting my identity into. These are the debilitating thoughts that make up this blockade in front of me. And I want to and need to get over it. Badly. Jealousy and comparison storm my mind. I get jealous over other people’s natural academic abilities, people’s bodies, people who get to lace up their shoes and go on a run to destress or get some exercise, people at the gym who are pain-free and can do any exercises and machines they want, and sometimes even personalities. I compare myself to people constantly as well all having to do with these same things above. And I get triggered by all these things including being around people who are constantly exercising, talking about their diets, bodies, not eating, skipping meals, etc. These are just some of the sins and struggles that I keep going back to no matter what and I absolutely want it to STOPPPPP. Like for reals man! It is frustrating beyond belief and takes over my mind and so often spirals me down very very quickly. These are the areas where Satan latches onto in my life and wants me to keep spiraling down even further. He loves it. I despise it. 

There is nothing I want more than to put all of my trust in Jesus. And HOLY MOLY!!! I need Him to help me and to get over this giant obstacle/rock climbing wall in front of me. I have no idea if I am even making any sense, but it was time to get out some of what’s been going on in my noggin’ for the past 12 months dealing with this injury. I want to grow so stinking badly. I want to give up control and so many struggles and sins that I deal with on a daily basis. I am sick of it. I just don’t know exactly what to do and or how to fight more and more. All that I know right now is that I have this incredible, trustworthy, loving, sovereign Father who I can come to with all of my thoughts, all of my questions, all of my worries, all of my victories, all of my hopelessness, all of my sadness, and all of my anger. I have prayer. I have a God and King and Friend who will always hear me and guide me along the exact paths that I need. He knows me better than I know me. And his is something to be remembered.

My prayer tonight after enjoying my Kilwins ice cream as I lay in bed in my family’s cozy cottage in the woods of Frankfort, Michigan: God, what you are doing with this thorn in my flesh, what you are doing with my mental health struggles, what you are doing with my idolatry of looks, and my jealously and constant comparison of others, please God PLEASE bring me closer and closer to you. Take these things away. Help me to see you shining through and you’re greatness above these things. I pray that the spirit of Jesus inside of my heart, which you placed there from the beginning of time, please I pray that you will help me knock this wall down in front of me and reveal yourself more and more to me. I am so scared to give so many thing up in my life and give control and complete trust to you going through this physical and mental battle, but it is what needs to be done to move forward and to grow in my faith. God teach and reveal to me more and more everyday of your deep, unfathomable love. You did not screw my life up, you did not screw my body or personality up when you created me, you did not screw anything about me up. I was created in your perfect image, and am a beautiful perfectly imperfect girl who is loved so incredibly much. Make these truths real and bold in my heart and help me to understand and be able to say and believe them genuinely and confidently. Teach me your love that I may pour that love out onto the people around me wherever I am at — whether that’s in my house, at church, in my college apartment, in my classes at SLU, the girls in my small group, or people anywhere in the world. I pray that you will make this love of Jesus clearer and clearer to me because I know it is a saving love that brings freedom and life. Jesus, make your love so big in my heart that I want to keep laying this love - your love - onto others. Open my eyes to see your world, this broken and beautiful world that you made, and to watch how you work in so many different ways and to see where I can be an active follower of you, pouring out this love of Jesus onto so many friends, families, and strangers. Help me to love like your son did and take my eyes off of myself.  Open my ears to hear when you want me to move and to stop when I am trying to go down my own paths. If it will bring glory to your name and make you more known, God make me uncomfortable and use my life in ways that I may not understand right now. Use this hip injury to bring me to yourself and to grow me into a woman who trusts fully in you.  Not partially, not every other day, but always for the rest of my life. I am broken and I need you more than ever. Your will is perfect. This life is so hard and frustrating and painful and confusing, but you never leave my side, and for that I thank and praise you! Hold my hand as I journey into the unknowns of another school year. Let’s do it together Jesus. Please hold my hand tightly as I learn to let go of control and let you take my life and do with it as you may. I have my wants, wishes, ideal plans and visions. But I know your plan is better. You know better than I. You know what I and others need. Jesus, please guide us all down your path and lift your powerful name up. Jesus? you and me. Let’s do this life-thing together and start chipping away this mental blockade in front of me that has been holding me back. I love you Jesus. Please keep doing your good good work in the all the lives of the people in this world. 

Worship Music Epiphany

Say Waaaaaaat?! 

What is this epiphany you talk about Janie?

Well, I'm very glad you asked stranger.

First off, I am putting aside all the hate out there for lots of contemporary worship music nowadays. Or as some people call it "Jesus music." I agree that there are some songs and a handful of artists out there who we hear on the radio or on iTunes or Spotify that are just kind of cheesy sounding Christian music. I get that. I'm not saying I like all the music out there on 99.1 JoyFM (a Christian radio station in St. Louis). 

What I AM saying though, is that aside from those handful of cheesy sounding songs, I absolutely adore worship music...Like I don't just adore it, but I ADOREEEE it man (or lady) -- everything from old hymns that I remember growing up in my traditional presbyterian church to Chris Tomlin's contemporary tunes. 

Not too long ago I was contemplating why I love worship music so much and why on the other hand it is hated by some people. Some songs out there are just kinda superficial-sounding in a way, and it seems like they just decide to throw some Christian lingo in a catchy tune to make it a hit to everyone listening to the radio or their iPod. But again, aside from those handfuls of songs that are not very deep, I think worship music in general is absolutely WONDERFUL. It is uplifting. It is soothing to the soul. Even more so than dark chocolate. And if you put two and two together, eating dark chocolate while listening to worship music is just like #WINNING :)

And I digress. 

Back to the epiphany which I haven't even told you yet. I'm just rambling I think. Oh well. It tends to happen every now and then. 

OKAY SO! Focus Janie. Focus. Ummm.... Oh yeah. Getting my mind back on track...work with me here y'all. Work with me. .....I'm getting really distracted as I'm writing this because I'm sitting outside on our screen porch on this beautiful Wednesday afternoon in June, and there's so many pretty birds on this bird feeder that's in front of my eyes! As well as lots of selfish squirrels who are smart alecks and are trying to hog all of the bird food. Crazies. Go take a hike squirrels. 

FOCUSSS.

Janie, I ask you again, what is this epiphany you speak of?

I woke up in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago and it hit me why I am always in the mood for worship music and basically always listening to it without getting sick of it. For me, words are hard. Talking a lot is hard. Not because I am an introvert (which I am), but because of how my brain works. I am a woman of few words (usually). My brain works a lot differently than most -- thinking and verbally processing and comprehending and coming up with opinions and words most of the time is a challenge for me. It may sound silly, but this is part of the way God made me. He gave me a little learning disability that I have been having to learn to deal with since I was in fourth grade. It makes school and just life in general interesting for sure :) 

With that being said, even praying and coming up with things and thoughts to talk to my heavenly Father about is not the easiest. Especially if I am praying out loud in a group. I know a lot of people feel uncomfortable with praying out loud too because of internal fear that you won't say the right things or that you're "bad" at praying. It actually really bothers me when people say they're bad at praying. Hello people! Christians, hear me out, THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY TO PRAY. You do not have to be the smartest theologist or philosopher or genius to know how to talk to God. He wants to hear from you whatever it is that's in your mind and in your heart because HE LOVES YOU and wants to TALK TO YOU as your Father and Friend and King and Savior. 

So, what I'm saying is that I totally get the uncomfortable feeling that praying out loud in a group can be like. 110%. Words are hard. Personally, my brain likes to make praying even more difficult with me even though I want to talk to God and tell him everything. I have that desire. SO BADLY. Often times, I don't know the words to say at all and it has been frustrating to me before. I'm just like "BRAIN, please work with me! I'm trying to talk to my close friend, Jesus, here thank you very much! Just give me somethin!" 

Then it hit me.

Worship music. Listening to the wonderful and beautiful truths about Christ and all that he is and all that he does and all that it means to live with faith in this broken painful world is something that I L.O.V.E. Worship music is a big way in which I pray. I pray along with the truths about Jesus in these songs. I get to lift up to God the words in music that are often times based on passages in the Bible. These songs become my prayers. Every one of them. Whether some people think songs that I like are cheesy or not, they are my prayers. They help me and guide me and my thoughts by giving me words to praise God with or ask for forgiveness or help. These worship songs remind me that I am a sinner in DESPERATE need for a savior. They lift me and my soul up on good days and on terribly hard and frustrating and painful days where I feel like I'm living in the darkness and each step I take feels like I'm trudging through mud. These songs give my heart peace as I hear the beautiful truths sung by very gifted artists with lots of musical talent! I am not one of these btw! I can't keep a tune on my own, much less play an instrument lol. Music is defs not in my skill sets, but that doesn't take away the fact that I adore listening to it and praying along with it. 

This was my epiphany. This is why I love worship music so much. Words are hard for me, but these songs about the gospel guide me with words to lift up and pray along with to God my King! 

Trust & Anxiety

 This is an old picture from summer 2014, but I love how sunsets just scream God's beauty and goodness.&nbsp;

This is an old picture from summer 2014, but I love how sunsets just scream God's beauty and goodness. 

God's plans are not my plans but they are better than my plans.

During my first semester at college I have learned so much about life, God, myself, idols, etc. But one of the biggest things I think God has taught and is teaching me is to look to Him first for everything and to just rest in Him with full trust as I go about my days. I'm still NOT perfect at this by any means, nor will I ever be perfect at trusting in God. I'm sinful, I still worry and get anxious about the littlest things (and biggest things), but I know God's working and doing good things in me and in the world. His ways are higher and better than our ways.

When I feel anxious about something, instead of trying to just push it away, now I'm learning to let myself feel those emotions of anxiety, but before whatever it is that I'm about to face happens, I'm learning to take a moment to lift my head to God and talk to him about those worries and anxious thoughts and remind myself that being anxious will not make this situation better and pray that I'll rest in Him no matter what -- whether something goes poorly or smoothly.

For example, a couple weeks ago, around finals week, I had my community group + a couple of other girls over to my house on a Saturday night to have a home-cooked dinner, do some Christmas cookie decorating, and watch a Christmas movie (we voted on Home Alone...SOLID CHOICE. I really think it's impossible not to laugh out loud during that movie, mainly when Kevin is totally dominating against the "Wet Bandits" by keeping them out of his house with all his creative traps and hurting them. Gets me every time :') lol) But back to what I was saying...  Before everyone came over, I immediately started feeling a bit anxious. I've dealt with a lot of social anxiety over the years, so having a bunch of people (even as sweet and loving as these girls are, I love them all) over to my house is just a little intimidating to me I guess. I'm a people-pleaser and desperately want people to have a good time/feel comfortable/etc. when they come to my house, but sometimes I feel like I'm not capable because I'm not the outgoing party-type who is good at entertaining people because I'm a reserved person.  

When I felt all these worrisome thoughts come into my head and before freaking out, I stopped what I was doing, sat there in my chair for a few minutes, rationalized my thoughts, brought them to God asking for calmness, and I had to remind myself that anxiety does nothing to speed anything up or make anything less stressful, better, or worse. Seriously it is not helpful WHATSOEVER!! Because it does nothing to a situation to change it! Even though the little bit of anxiety I was feeling didn't leave like magic, it just helped for me to have one of these moments to calm my mind down a little and rest in God's arms for the night while I had this little holiday gathering/finals study break for these girls.

Going off of this subject on trust and anxiety, I've also been learning that ignoring and hiding emotions is not the way to go. I'm not good at sharing my feelings out loud to people, but again, I'm learning that it is so much more painful to bottle up emotions as opposed to telling a family member or friend, or even as simple as spilling out your feelings on a page in a journal/notebook. In my own experience, keeping everything to myself builds up feelings of depression inside of me, and that is so painful. I'm a timid person. I normally cannot get myself to start talking about my feelings to people out of the blue. I'm prideful, and often I don't know how to verbalize my actual thoughts and emotions that I'm currently feeling. But it is SO healthy to have people that you can freely tell what's going on in your mind and heart. It's scary sometimes being vulnerable and can feel embarrassing as its coming out of your mouth. I get it because that's how I feel most of the time.

But from vulnerability comes an awesome feeling freedom inside of you. I'm learning that God really did mean for us to be in community in this life. We were made to be friends with people and to love, care, listen, struggle together, sympathize, challenge, and encourage each other. In high school, I can say I had two great friends who I genuinely enjoyed being with and felt comfortable with. (If you're reading this, I bet you two know who you are!) But besides these awesome awesome girls, I felt so alone. So sad. So anxious all the time. And sadly, a lot of the time I never even had the courage to speak up about all the feelings and struggles I was facing that I had been bottling up. It was not healthy, and I now wish I could go back and really make an effort to be vulnerable with the couple of friends I had.

Friendship is an amazing thing, and I wish I knew and understood how important it is as I was growing up, especially in high school. I was so distant from everyone then. I didn't fit in with most people for some reason...okay I'm a lil awkward :)  (frankly I still feel this way often. But I'm learning to embrace my uniqueness and the girl God made me to me, whether I really click with people or not.) I'm a quiet person generally, and am not someone who has a lot to say! Therefore I feel like my quietness sometimes is off-putting to some, but I know deep in my heart that being quiet is O.K.A.Y. True friends will like me for me.

I know I've said a lot of "I'm learning..." throughout this post today, but I truly am just growing and learning a lot apparently right now in this strange crazy thing called LIFE!

Summary/Re-cap of some of what God's been teaching me during my first semester at SLU:

  • Trusting in God. 
  • Resting in Him.
  • Letting myself feel emotions and raise them up to my Heavenly Father.
  • Reminding myself that anxiety does nothing to a situation.
  • Dealing with social anxiety, but also at the same time learning that friendship is SO important as well as living in community with others/not secluding myself just bc I'm self conscious about my personality and that I don't gel with everyone (& that's alight!! <<--- this is me reminding myself this truth as I write this haha).
  • Learning how to be a good friend to others.
  • God's plans are higher and better than my plans.
  • Vulnerability brings freedom and growth to relationships.


More on all of this to come probably :) Once I start on a topic..my mind just starts going and soon enough I am at a completely different topic at the end of a post. I hope all of my thoughts made somewhat of sense and isn't just a complete/huge vomitting of words on a page that makes sense in my head but to no one else. It happens. And if that's the case today with this post...so be it...God knows my thoughts and I hope my attempt to sharing them with others is pleasing to Him.

To God be the glory.

Current Status: Embracing my quiet, quirky, awkward, sometimes (okay, a lot of times) anxious, Jesus-loving self

 Here's some of the the Christmas sugar cookies my friends and I decorated when I had my community group over :)

Here's some of the the Christmas sugar cookies my friends and I decorated when I had my community group over :)