Fighting the good

I don’t mean to boast, but I have been making progress in most areas of my life over the past few months. My physical, mental, social/relationship, career, spiritual lives have grown through the obstacles and trials the past few years brought – think eating disorder recovery, calling off my wedding two weeks before the big day, moving back in with my parents, and being laid off…  I am excited to begin sharing more about the obstacles I have encountered and the steps I’ve taken to overcome them in upcoming posts – so stay tuned!

Though I’m not “perky” and jumping for joy everyday there has been a large shift in my overall mood. I feel like things are finally starting to fall into place and when I look back to how I used to be – very lethargic, anti-social, hopeless – I find it hard to recognize the “old me.” I take this as a good sign, that I am growing into a more mature and knowledgeable person.

However, as I am making progress and sharing my story with others (particularly how God has renewed my spirit), I’ve begun experiencing what some would call “spiritual warfare.” Spiritual warfar” isn’t a phrase I grew up hearing. Red-faced devils, flames, and tortured souls immediately come to mind and I think to myself, “well, I’m not experiencing THAT!”

Battledfocused.org describes spiritual warfare as “is the cosmic war of good versus evil: its battles are fought daily between God and Satan; between the Christian Church and the world system ruled by our spiritual enemy.”

“The enemy could be the temptation to sin or could manifest itself in the person who tells you to reject Christ.” – Fr. Robert J. Carr

Before I began going through a “spiritual renewal” process I assumed that since I was surrounded in a solid Christian community that everything would be “light and fluffy.” I expected less “bad” things would happen and life would get easier because I my end goal was to be doing the “good”. However, I have found that this is when things become harder. When I wake up tired I am tempted to skip church, when I try to find time to pray I am presented with more invitations and activities to fill my time.

That’s what the devil does… He tricks us, coming into our lives in the sneakiest way possible, especially when we pull away from sin. Feelings of jealously/greed/envy over others become stronger. As I gain healthy weight I experience negative self-criticism wanting me to restrict and/or purge. Issues that I thought were resolved with my ex-boyfriend have escalated to the point where others have needed to step in.

I don’t think that these incidences are ironic by any means. Some days I feel like I am being lured back into my “old self/life.” A positive is that I feel like I have been able to recognize almost instantly this shift, where in the past I probably wouldn’t have noticed it for months at a time. Giving a name (“spiritual warfare”/the Devil) , though it may seem harsh at times, to my feelings of inadequacy and temptations to sin has really helped me stop and pray them away before the situation I am in escalates.

Sometimes repeating the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel is all I can do to comfort myself. The Devil is strong, but prayer is stronger.

Prayer

Advertisements

Day eighteen: giving

What do you love to do for, or give to others (not an object – something from you personally)?

I LOVE surprising people! In a good way, of course. One of my “love languages” is acts of service. I feel like I am best able to show others how much I care about them by doing thing for them/helping out with out being asked. It is giving of my time – something that is becoming more precious these days… Some common examples how I like to share my love are:

  • Unloading and reloading the dishwasher
  • Taking out the trash
  • Picking up something at the store from someone else’s grocery list
  • Picking up the tab – treating someone
  • Making personalized cards or crafts

small things

How do you show your love?

Onwards & Upwards…

Day seventeen: change the world

You may have noticed that I have been absent the past couple of days. It’s all been for a good reason. After almost exactly 5 months of being unemployed I started a new job! It’s a great opportunity and I feel very blessed. However, that means adjusting to a new routine and not having as much time to do what I used to do. Now that things are starting to slow down, I plan of focusing on the personal growth exercise I started a few weeks ago.

If you could make one change in the world, what would it be?

I would make people less selfish. I believe people’s selfishness create a lot of problems. Our society is so “me, me, me.” We get into traffic accidents because of our impatience. We have a desire to be first, even if it means putting others down or at risk for future harm. We always want to be right and find it so challenging to admit when we are wrong.

When we are selfish we often dismiss the dignity of other human beings – choosing to spend $5 on our morning latte vs. putting that amount of money in a charity.  We binge-watch TV instead of spending one hour of our week or month volunteering. We leave a mess for others to clean up because we are too lazy or just do not care.

No, this is not me saying that I am a saint, or completely selfless person. There are many areas in my life where I need to stop focusing on myself and put others first. I am guilty of all of the examples I listed above. Sometimes I don’t think that we are even aware of our selfishness at times, they become so routine.

This question definitely makes me reflect more on the areas of my life that I need to improve. Small improvements can make a big impact. I truly believe that leading by example can change a lot more than we realize.

world 3

world 2

world

Onwards & Upwards…

Day thirteen: admirable qualities

What qualities do you admire in others?

This question reminds me a lot of question #5: “Think of a person you truly admire. What qualities do you like about that person?” so I am going to piggy-back off my previous answer as they are very similar.

kindness

 patience

humor 

perseverance

faith

Admire

admire 3

admire 2

What qualities do you admire in others?

Onwards & Upwards…

Day eleven: regrets

If life stopped today, what would you regret not doing?

Wow, these questions just keep getting deeper and deeper! In short, I regret not being more assertive. I regret not saying “no.” For not standing up for myself in potentially harmful situations because I was worried what others would think of me. My self-esteem has always been pretty low and at times has inhibited me from reaching my full potential (professionally, socially, spiritually, etc.).

I do believe that self-esteem and assertiveness go hand-in-hand. As I become more aware of instances where I did NOT have the confidence, leading me to make poor choices, I feel like I have to “fight” harder not to slip into my old ways. As much work as it is, look forward to becoming more assertive and hopefully having less regrets.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I regret not going to grad school right after I received my undergraduate degree.

regret2

regret1

What do you regret NOT doing? 

Onwards & Upwards…

Day nine: proud

What are you most proud of?

Most proud of? Another tough question… I think an all encompassing answer would be my strength – both mental and physical. After battling eating disorders for over 10 years, I have kept my maintained my weight the highest it has been in seven years. Keeping the wight on has led to many other gains. The ability to run a 5K and develop muscle mass by weight training are a few physical feats that concurrently increase my mental strength.

proud

What are you most proud of?

Onwards & Upwards…

Day eight: beating fear

When was the last time you did something you were afraid of?

Anxiety is fear. I have anxiety. So much so that I take medication for it. Weaning myself off of it/trying to become less dependent on the pills makes me anxious. There are times when breathing, praying, yoga, etc. still can’t calm my brain. I think it’s safe to say that my anxiety can take over my life. It’s pretty constant, but there are certain situations that cause my heart to race more than others. One of them being group settings. Hello, social anxiety!

fear

The past 5 months I have been making major strides in putting myself out there. I began going to a young adult program at a new church where I knew NO ONE. I started volunteering for a new ministry event that they were putting on and ended up meeting my boyfriend because of it (I like to think of him as my “reward” for making myself vulnerable).

Dating my very social boyfriend means that I have met a LOT of new people. I hate small talk (but I feel like I’m slowly getting better at making actual connections with people) and going to back-to-back group events with family and friends doesn’t seem as exhausting it was in the beginning. However, as an introvert, I still need time where it is just the two if us to recharge.

My boyfriend had mentioned a retreat that he went on several years ago and the positive impact it made on his life. He kept encouraging me go on it as well and to sign up when the next one was announced. I kept brushing it off, telling him that I am sure it’s a great experience, but I didn’t feel ready. Long story short, I ended up going on the retreat last month. I honestly didn’t even want to go. Again, I didn’t know anyone or anything about the format. It ended up being a life-altering experience that I am beyond  grateful that I pushed through my “fear of the unknown” to go.

Though the retreat was wonderful, I still struggle going to our weekly “retreat team” meetings. I am still mentally processing all of the emotions that I experienced throughout that weekend. Hearing other people’s stories each week can be tough and emotionally draining. Listening to them also tends to drudge up issues from my past that I wish would just go away already. But that’s how you grow, right? Facing fear head on. No hiding.

fear 2

Yes, I would be afraid to go skydiving, get a tattoo, and drive in a 200 mph race car. Those are fears – I’ll call them “outer fears.” I admire people who do those things whether they are fearless or it takes them courage to follow through. Just because my fears might be “inner fears,” doesn’t make them any less scary than “outer fears.”

Overcoming both are huge milestones to be celebrated. Every time we do something that we are afraid of (within reason) we prove to ourselves how strong we are and gain the confidence to continue challenging ourselves and moving forward.

When was the last time you conquered something that you were afraid of?

P.S. Thanks for keeping up with my personal growth exercise!

Onwards & Upwards…

Day “seven”: habits

What habit would you most like to break? What habit would you most like to start?

Today’s questions are much easier to answer! They are things that I’ll start to get better, but then fall off the wagon…

  • Break: late night eating (mainly curbing my sweet tooth)
  • Start: daily yoga and reading a daily devotional

habit

What habits do you want to break and start?

Onwards & Upwards…

Day “six”: relax

I somehow managed to mess up the question order of this personal growth exercise – oops! I’ll get back on track ASAP…

How do you like to relax?

I have always found it challenging to relax. I constantly feel like I should be productive. I don’t do well with downtime. For me, doing something “relaxing” and practicing “self-care” often start with the best of intentions. However, I usually end up multitasking and become more stressed out than I was before I began. When I finally give in (with a lot of effort on my part) to “single-tasking”, a few of my favorite ways that I take it easy are:

  • Crocheting while watching one of my favorite TV shows or movies. It can become stressful to try to concentrate on a something that I haven’t seen before while also focusing on a project. I am much more relaxed while having background noise and visuals of something familiar on.
  • Reading a good book
  • Writing – anything: lists, random thoughts, doodles
  • Smelling a fragrant candle and watching the flame flicker
  • Going on a walk or yoga/stretching

relax

I’m sure I can list 10 more things, but I’d say those are my main stress outlets!

I would love to hear your go-to relaxation methods!

Onwards & Upwards…

Day “five”: qualities

Think of a person you truly admire. What qualities do you like about that person?

To answer this question, I am going to revert to one of one my previous posts. The timing is for this post is perfect as I saw Maria and her parents today. Her father, Bill, has Alzheimer’s disease and I have witnessed the toll it takes on her family, particularly her mother. Even when times are challenging, both of these women’s hearts are full of kindness, patience, and humor – qualities that I think are necessary to be a decent human being and to live a happy life. Perseverance and a strong faith are also characteristics that I strive to have. The list goes on and one, but these are a the main qualities that I desire for others to see in me.

quality

What qualities do you admire in a person?

Onwards & Upwards…