Beautifully You – Loren

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Today’s Beautifully You story comes from Loren:

Here in Ohio, the season is changing. The air is getting cooler, the leaves are rapidly transforming into a bold display of color, and the nights are getting longer. You can not miss the signs that winter is around the corner. I suppose that if I think back to this time last year, it was apparent that the seasons in my life were beginning to shift and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

A year ago, it was becoming apparent that I had overworked my shoulders causing a domino effect of pain and injury throughout my body. I will always remember a night much like this one, except that I was in the salon late at night finishing a hair color application. As my color brush stroked through the last few sections of her hair, the pain in my shoulders began to radiate down my arms and into my fingertips. I held that brush tighter and increased my speed as the room began to spin. Not wanting to cause alarm, I finished applying the color, excused myself, and made my way to the bathroom. It was on the cold floor that I woke up & immediately got sick. With my strong arm clinging to the toilet for stability, I raised my weak arm up to heaven, and with all that was within me, I declared to God that he was Sovereign, that he was in control.

Little did I know how much I would learn about what that fully meant.

In the days and weeks ahead, I pushed through pain, fatigue, and every sign my body was giving me to alert me to the damage occurring while pursuing a career that I loved and had sacrificed everything for. I ignored the signals, believed for a miracle, and pondered what it meant to believe God was in control when it felt like my prayers were bouncing off a brick wall. My husband and I were preparing for a mission trip to Romania & I never expected to feel so hopeless at a time that we were stretching our faith so far to show others hope. It was in this season that I began to feel like my soul was walking through the depths of Winter. Still God was faithful, his fingerprints were everywhere we looked, and there was no question he was with us through it all.

To add insult to injury, during that trip to Romania, my hair was damaged by the water. It had turned a grayish green tone, felt dry, and became impossible to manage. Nothing that myself & the professionals that I respected were able to repair it. It was incredibly frustrating and I almost got a pixie cut, but a friend & fellow hair stylist talked me down from that ledge. I returned to the salon for work and after a few appointments, I could no longer lift the comb that I had used for my entire career. Although I was able to push past pain, I was not able to lift my arms easily to cut hair. It rattled me just how quickly my dreams, plans, and all that I had worked for could come to a crashing halt. My business closed, my clients moved on, my tears drenched my cheeks, and the pages of my bible as I stubbornly anchored my faith in the fact that God was sovereign, even when I did not agree with his plans.

Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, Winter turned to Spring, and although I sobbed at my computer while searching for jobs, I did not give up that God was in control. By far it was one of the fiercest trials I had ever walked through. My heart and flesh failed, but still Jesus was my strength & portion. It is at our weakest that we may not realize it at the time, but we are actually becoming our strongest. When we surrender our control, his strength is fully able to rise up within us, complete, and perfect us. His hope anchors our soul no matter the season or the weather.

As Spring turned to Summer, God began to give me beauty for my ashes, joy instead of mourning, and a spirit of praise where there had been heaviness and despair. In a way that only God could orchestrate, he led me on a journey that helped restore my hair and he led me on a new career path that I would have never choose for myself, but have come to love. He has taken the moments of my brokenness and used those shards of glass to create a testimony that reminds me of the stain glass in the windows of a church.

I can now look at the image of the disciples in the storm and know what it feels like to ask Jesus why he is sleeping. I can find myself in Peter as he tries to meet Jesus on the water and sinks. I can find myself at the foot of the cross when it felt as if all was lost. I can see myself at the tomb when the stone was rolled away and it became clear that death had lost it’s sting, that in Jesus alone we can experience victory. Because of this, no matter the season, no matter the chapter in my story, I will cling to God and continue to share his love as well as the fact that he is always sovereign.

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Nov 4

Today’s Beautifully You story comes from Lori:

A year ago today, I was at a low point. I’d fallen quickly from the top of my tree. My tree, that had grown so effortlessly over the past 35 years, with deep roots, green leaves, and healthy buds. I’d fallen hard and quick and with every branch I hit, another piece of life was stolen from me.

My mom’s cancer had returned in her liver and bones. I teetered as I heard the news and before I could regain my balance, I fell from the top. The first branch punched me right in the gut. It made me cry. How long did she have? A maximum of two years. I fell again. The next branch left a lesion of fear that I would carry all the way down.

The next blow? She was unable to work due to pain and fatigue.The burden of paying her bills, her treatment, and her mortgage was more than I could handle. The stress paralyzed me and she was worsening, quickly. Panic ensued as I tried to find alternative cancer treatments. I was gasping for air when the fourth branch stabbed my heart with the realization that I was not going to be able to help my dying mother. The truth was setting in. My prayers had not worked, and my efforts, failed. Defeat and depression bruised me, as I tumbled toward the last branch.

And so, I painfully watched her life come to an end.

I was hurt. And so my talks with God waxed and waned from desperate cries to take my life, to wishful prayers of an at-best bleak future, minus one. And then, one day, I heard a voice. He spoke so clearly, “Provision.” Hope arose at the thought of a prosperous future, and so I allowed Him more room to speak. I decided to listen more and talk less.

He started filling my mom-shaped hole with a dialogue of love, that totally wrecked the pain I had been feeling. I experienced a revelation of sonship that I had never known from my Earthly parents. His words spoke life into my bruised and wounded body, and He quickly brought the provision that He spoke of. I assumed He meant financial provision but finances were just the beginning. He brought love, creativity, passion, business ideas, direction, and best of all, adoption.

And so He found me, hanging from the last branch. But instead of making me climb back up, He carried me in His promises, all the way to the top. But this time, the view was different.

The tree was older; the roots deeper in His love. It bore more fruit, for the branches had been pruned to precision. The leaves were more vibrant, as its life had been brought into color. The tree was taller, stronger, and able to withstand the wind.

We may not always see the big picture, but He does. The most devastating time in my life yielded a full revelation of my identity in Christ. He uses all things for good and His promises are true. So let Him in, my friends. Let Him talk to you.

Today’s Beautifully You story comes from Lori:

A year ago today, I was at a low point. I’d fallen quickly from the top of my tree. My tree, that had grown so effortlessly over the past 35 years, with deep roots, green leaves, and healthy buds. I’d fallen hard and quick and with every branch I hit, another piece of life was stolen from me.

My mom’s cancer had returned in her liver and bones. I teetered as I heard the news and before I could regain my balance, I fell from the top. The first branch punched me right in the gut. It made me cry. How long did she have? A maximum of two years. I fell again. The next branch left a lesion of fear that I would carry all the way down.

The next blow? She was unable to work due to pain and fatigue.The burden of paying her bills, her treatment, and her mortgage was more than I could handle. The stress paralyzed me and she was worsening, quickly. Panic ensued as I tried to find alternative cancer treatments. I was gasping for air when the fourth branch stabbed my heart with the realization that I was not going to be able to help my dying mother. The truth was setting in. My prayers had not worked, and my efforts, failed. Defeat and depression bruised me, as I tumbled toward the last branch.

And so, I painfully watched her life come to an end.

I was hurt. And so my talks with God waxed and waned from desperate cries to take my life, to wishful prayers of an at-best bleak future, minus one. And then, one day, I heard a voice. He spoke so clearly, “Provision.” Hope arose at the thought of a prosperous future, and so I allowed Him more room to speak. I decided to listen more and talk less.

He started filling my mom-shaped hole with a dialogue of love, that totally wrecked the pain I had been feeling. I experienced a revelation of sonship that I had never known from my Earthly parents. His words spoke life into my bruised and wounded body, and He quickly brought the provision that He spoke of. I assumed He meant financial provision but finances were just the beginning. He brought love, creativity, passion, business ideas, direction, and best of all, adoption.

And so He found me, hanging from the last branch. But instead of making me climb back up, He carried me in His promises, all the way to the top. But this time, the view was different.

The tree was older; the roots deeper in His love. It bore more fruit, for the branches had been pruned to precision. The leaves were more vibrant, as its life had been brought into color. The tree was taller, stronger, and able to withstand the wind.

We may not always see the big picture, but He does. The most devastating time in my life yielded a full revelation of my identity in Christ. He uses all things for good and His promises are true. So let Him in, my friends. Let Him talk to you.

*******************************************

Nov. 3

Today’s Beautifully You story comes from Jenn:

Many of life’s lessons don’t come packaged the way we way would like. I personally would prefer those difficult, life changing lessons to be learned by reading a manual or a book. But it’s those really deep lessons with God that I have found need to be lived and experienced to truly be life changing.  Having a baby is truly a life altering event for anyone. No matter how many “what to expect” books you read before having kids, nothing really prepares you for the real thing. How to handle the sleepless nights with a newborn is a mystery and raising toddlers is like trying to teach quantum mechanics with Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Like I said, no way to prepare.

It was no different for me and my husband with the birth of our first child, Nuriel. However, in addition to the regular stresses of a newborn baby, the night of her birth we were informed by our pediatrician that Nuriel had Down Syndrome.  The days that followed the diagnosis were filled with a revolving door of therapists coming in and out of our house; occupational therapy, physical therapy, general therapy, speech therapy.  Every meeting was a harsh reminder that life was different now that Nuriel was a part of our family.  And every meeting and every doctor appointment made me long and wonder what it was like to actually find joy day to day. What would it feel like to have a “normal” baby and do “normal” things?  What was it like to not have therapist appointments every day letting me know what things Nuriel wasn’t doing like other babies her age?  Obviously, I absolutely loved and cherished Nuriel.  She is gift from God and nothing will ever change that.  However, I was completely broken inside as I struggled to come to grips with my day to day responsibility of raising a child with a disability.

That was over 12 years ago and God has blessed me with countless opportunities to grow more into His likeness because of Nuriel.

Some of the things Nuriel has taught me:

1 Donuts are their own food group, necessary and acceptable at any time of day.  And

Doritos…they’re in the same food group.

2 Pajamas are the only outfit anyone really needs.

3 Hot pink socks go with every outfit.

4 The fuse on a microwave oven will melt if a biscuit is warmed up for 20 minutes or more (yes, that really happened).

But I really feel the need to share the following lesson God has been speaking to me lately through Nuriel.

In the busyness of life, I often get wrapped up in what I’m doing, the deadlines I need to meet, homework that needs to be done, dinner that needs to be made, etc.  Sometimes I forget to be in the moment and cherish what is happening and who is there in front of me.  In fact, since I have 20,000 things to do, there are times I will look right past people as I focus on the task at hand.

Nuriel is quite the opposite.

Nuriel loves people – she really loves people and they take priority in her world. It’s not fake like many of us can be from time to time. It’s real. No matter how big or small, tall or short, Nuriel loves each and every person she meets.  No matter his or her race or culture or opinions on politics, she sees the person in front of her and loves. I have been absolutely amazed as she looks past all external features and peers into the heart, being led by the Spirit to give hugs and care to the one whose heart is needing it most at that moment.

I have been told countless times about how she hugged a person who came to church on her last ditch effort, ready to throw in the towel. It’s been shared with me that her hug was like God speaking to them personally, or it was her greeting and smile that brought hope to a situation.  Nuriel seems to have a magnetic attraction to those who are hurting the most and God gives her the gift of ministering to that hurt through love.

Have we forgotten in this busy world to simply love people?

Have we forgotten to stop, really look at someone and ask how they are doing and then actually care enough to listen intently to the answer?  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 to earnestly desire the greater gifts, and I do.  But, he ends the 12th chapter with this statement, “And I show you a still more excellent way.”  The next chapter starts like this, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love….”  Paul goes on to say that I can even have faith “so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

Where is the love?

That has been my challenge from God lately.  It seems as if I often put the cart before the horse and I forget the “more excellent way.”  My kindness wanes and my patience becomes thin.  I can often act unbecomingly and feel jealousy knocking on the door of my heart.  This is my challenge from God.  Stop.  Just stop and hear what God is saying about a person.  See them the way He does and love.

So I’ve learned that hugs are free but priceless; that time spent caring for someone is never lost but invested with an inconceivable return: faith may move mountains but love can mend a broken heart.  And maybe, just maybe, we all could learn to love a little more.

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Nov. 1

Today’s Beautifully You story comes from Sarah

On a gray November night in 2014, I woke up to three strangers standing over me in my bedroom. I was confused, but quickly realized they were paramedics and something wasn’t right. As they moved me onto a stretcher and down the stairs to the ambulance I heard the word seizure. It wasn’t until we got to the hospital that I remembered I had a baby boy at home who was days away from his first birthday. Guilt overcame me. My mind had failed me. I had to remember that I had a son. My mother’s heart began to ache. I remember saying to the nurse again and again, “Where is my son? I need to see my son!”

My memories of that night are composed mostly of blurry images, but the words of the ER doctor wearing blue scrubs standing in the cold exam room are stamped in my mind: “You have a golf-ball sized brain tumor.” Then he turned the monitor around, revealing a CT scan of my brain. I wasn’t lucid enough to process all of this. I stared blankly at the image of my brain on the monitor. There it was. That’s my brain and that’s a tumor. I see this image every day.

Eventually my husband had to go home to be with our baby. As we said goodbye I could see the fear in his eyes and hear it in his voice. It took all the strength I had to smile, tell my husband I loved him, and kiss him goodbye. The moment the hospital room door closed all of my defenses fell and my tears began to flow. I cried out, “Where are you, Jesus! I need you, Jesus!” I rolled over and covered with a pillow the head that had deceived me. The brain that had failed me. Suddenly I felt two arms embrace me from behind. I immediately felt stillness. As the warmth enveloped me every fear and worry vanished. Comfort and peace overwhelmed me. His voice suddenly exploded out of my Spirit. “Daughter, you are well. Don’t you know who you are, the potential you have? Don’t worry about this tumor. I’m taking it from you. Be faithful to me, and I will be faithful to this promise.”

That was my new beginning. That was the day I met my father God, my Daddy, my Abba. The day I became alive in Him. The day I discovered the woman He called me to be. I am a daughter of the King. I have everything I need. It’s already mine. His Holy Spirit is alive in me. Healing was purchased for me on the cross and I had already received it! I didn’t have to fight through a crowd to touch Jesus. My Savior’s Spirit lives in me. From that moment God was at the center of every decision we made about this tumor.

Three days later an amazing neurosurgeon was able to remove the entire tumor and informed us that the tumor was likely benign tumor and wouldn’t require any additional treatment. He was astonished by how my brain had seemingly made room for the tumor without any symptoms. This was great to hear and sometimes I wish my story ended there, but it didn’t.

Six weeks later we met with the neurosurgeon again to discuss the pathology report. That day we found he was wrong. I did not have a benign tumor. I had stage 3 brain cancer and would need aggressive treatment to treat this aggressive cancer. We met with an oncologist days later and the diagnosis was confirmed. I have stage 3 brain cancer and should expect 2-3 years of life without any treatment, 4-5 years with treatment.  The moment the words came streaming out of the doctors mouth I felt Jesus stirring inside of me. Over the following months I made a decision that was difficult for my husband and family to understand. I chose not to receive any medical treatment. No chemotherapy. No radiation. I believed I already had the cure inside my DNA. The life of Jesus is inside of me and igniting my cells! I trust in the promise of long life, with abundant health!

I’m writing this almost exactly 3 years later. If the words of man spoken over my life were correct I should be dead. But here I am chasing around two beautiful boys, hauling our oldest to preschool, vacuuming cat hair, and cleaning up after my husband. It doesn’t make medical sense, but still my oncologist will never tell me I’m healed. They tell me that stage 3 brain cancer doesn’t disappear. But had I trusted the word of man I’d be planning my funeral, not writing this. Instead I trust in the words of me Abba. I am healed. My tumor is never coming back. Cancer cells bow down to the name of Jesus.

My life is abundant, but not easy. My heart still doubts and my soul still worries, but I’m learning that faith isn’t synonymous with certainty. Faith is having the courage to step into the darkness. I’m learning that I find God inside of my fear, anxiety, and worry. I’m learning that doubt doesn’t discredit my faith and that His strength is in my weakness! 2 Corinthians 12:9

When cancer entered my life I believed in Jesus. I had heard of the Holy Spirit and even raised my hands in church. I knew of God, but I didn’t actually know my Father. I only knew what others told me about Him. Now I know God for myself. I know my Heavenly Father and I am known by Him. I’ve encountered the real living God and I’m never letting go. What the enemy meant to destroy me, God has used to restore me.

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