Thursday, May 28, 2015

Me, Myselfies, and I

“Have you seen Julie’s pictures on Facebook lately?”
“She takes way too many selfies!”
“Is she having a mid-life crisis?”
“I bet you there’s trouble at home!”
 “She must think she’s all that and a bag of chips!”

No, I’m NOT having a mid-life crisis.  And things are FINE at home.  And I DON’T think I’m “all that”, (well, maybe the bag of chips…). I’m fine. I haven’t gone off the deep end.  Not that I should have to explain myself, but maybe it will quiet some of the chatter. Even so, to quote my nemesis Taylor Swift, “haters gonna hate,” and I know not everyone will appreciate what I have to say. Here goes anyway…

For most of my 44 years on earth I was a wallflower, happy to go unnoticed. When I got old enough to be self-conscious, I didn’t like getting my picture taken anymore (if I remember correctly, that was around 6th grade when I puffed up like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man – before that, I was quite the little ham). I didn’t mind flying under the radar.  I did dabble in dramatic theater in junior high where I played “Jack” in an adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”.  I then moved on to musical theater of sorts at church and then singing solos… but that was the extent of my time in the spotlight.  Fast forward to my 42nd year…

Most of you have already heard the story, so I’ll keep it brief. I got breast cancer. I underwent about 7 months of chemo/surgery/radiation.  During that time a few things happened: 1.) I felt a little isolated, so I reached out via social media to share my journey, 2.) unsure of how chemo was going to affect my body, I started taking daily selfies to chronical my “change”, and 3.) I kicked cancer’s ass.  Social media made my world a whole lot smaller and I felt extremely loved and supported.  My “change” didn’t end up being much of a change on the outside (aside from going bald and having no eyebrows or eyelashes), but on the inside I was learning to be comfortable in the skin I was in by posting pics of my face EVERY SINGLE DAY for something like 150 days – talk about stepping out of your comfort zone… but that’s a whole other blog post! I quickly realized that people were watching! Oh, and the ass kicking part! Chemo shrunk the invader down to almost nothing, surgery cleaned things up so the twins got to stay together, and radiation made sure the area was all clear.  Then I was ready to make up for the time I had lost to cancer - “The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts...” (Joel 2:25).  Baby steps at first as I tried to figure out my new “normal” and then at full speed, making up “normal” as I went and pausing for a nap from time to time.

I had chosen the word “shine” as my post-cancer mantra. “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world… shine!” (Matthew 5:14). Whatever I did, even the smallest thing, I wanted to shine with everything God had done in me and through me. With that came more pictures and in 2015 I chose a new mantra, “joy”. With everything I had been through, how could I not find and choose joy? Not just that, I also wanted to share joy. To me, that meant living life to the fullest. Taking advantage of opportunities that came my way. Trying new things. Doing things that made me happy (naps included). Eating things that made me happy. Spending time with family AND friends… all the while posting more pictures.

My posts were never meant to brag or be showy. I’m sure there are some who got tired of seeing me and some who probably “unfriended” me.  Here’s the thing, I can’t go back to being a wallflower! It was my hope that I could make someone smile, share some joy, give some hope, make someone feel better about what they were going through, share faith, share fun, share friendship, share strength and courage, share love. That’s still what I hope for. God has been so good to me! Look deeper than the silly faces, the donuts, the mud covered body (if you don’t know, don’t ask), and see a girl who is thankful.  See a girl who loves life, her family and her friends.  See a girl who loves the Lord. See a girl that has chosen JOY. Don’t judge or jump to conclusions. If that’s just too hard to see or I’m too much for you, I understand… you can “unfriend” me. I won’t think any less of you. For those that stick around, thanks! I hope you enjoy the ride! And to all you wallflowers… it’s time to blossom!!

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Just got my hair done! Meet my Hair Guy, Trenton.

I never understood celebrating the day of your diagnosis (April 5, 2013).  I mean, why would you want to celebrate the day you found out you had an uninvited guest who had moved into your body and wanted to kill you? I figured you just celebrate being "cancer-free" and in my mind, that was the day of my surgery (October 17, 2013)... when they cut what was left of that dumb tumor out of me, thus creating Frankenboob.  If you wanna get crazy, you could celebrate the day you started treatment (May 1, 2013), or the day you finished treatment (January 3, 2014).  I'm all for having a party and maybe even getting presents, but people might start to get a bit annoyed!

I raised the question of cancer-survivorship etiquette to some of my girlfriends and my wonderful and brilliant friend (you know who you are) put it to me kind of like this...

Yes, you celebrate the day you were diagnosed; 
the day that your journey began.

It's the day my fight started.  The day I had to start completely trusting that God was in control of my life. It was the day that a strength I didn't know I had started to grow inside me. It was the first page in my story; a story that I didn't expect or choose or want, but a story that I'm so thankful for.

I learned so much from breast cancer.  I learned things about myself and what I was capable of.  I learned things about my faith and just how BIG my God is.  I learned things about my family and how amazing and strong they are.  I learned things about my friends and about letting people love me and about loving.  All lessons that I will treasure and all lessons that made that journey "worth it".

So.... I'm gonna celebrate my 2nd Cancerversary (apparently that's a thing)!!  It happens to fall on Easter Sunday this year so I probably won't be poppin' bottles just yet.  Instead, I'm going to spend some quiet time reflecting on everything that has happened in the last two years.  I've already started to shed a few tears of joy and thanksgiving so tomorrow should be a two-fisted kleenex kind of day.  Oh, but fear not!  There WILL be a party... soon.

Oh, and I wanted to tell you about a book I'm reading! I should have finished and reviewed it by now, but ya know... life.  Anyway, I started it while on Spring Break in Arizona and am so excited to go deeper into it!  It's called Life Unstuck: Finding Peace with Your Past, Purpose in Your Present, Passion for Your Future, by Pat Layton.

In Life Unstuck, Pat uses Psalm 139 as a guide to look into the areas of our lives where we are stuck and shows us a path to peace and freedom, the life God has planned for us.

"God wants us, His precious daughters, to be reminded and refreshed by the complete and unshakable knowledge of our redeemed life. He wants us completely restored from the things that keep us stuck in the past and He wants us set free to gleefully anticipate all He has planned for our future."

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to live life to the fullest... ready to live unstuck!  I'll keep ya posted!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

You're Loved No Matter What

I am a recovering perfectionist. I used to sit and obsess for hours about the things I needed to change or fix to make everything perfect. If I couldn't make it perfect, I didn't want to do it. I felt like anything I made or did was a reflection of me as a person and if it wasn't perfect, then people would view me as being imperfect. I would be liked or loved less. Eventually, I realized that not only was I making myself crazy, but I was making the people closest to me nuts too!

I had to start telling myself that my best was good enough. I was good enough. I didn't need to stress myself out trying to do more or be more. I also needed to give myself grace to make mistakes. It's in the mistakes and imperfections that I learn and grow. 

as believers we so often hesitate to embrace the freedom and grace God has given us. We're so afraid of making a mistake that we never take hold of all he has for us. We focus on being safe and staying on the straight and narrow so much that we miss out on doing what God truly wants-which is seeing us grow to all he created us to be.

I also needed to tell myself that I am loved just the way I am... no matter how messy or imperfect. Holley says,

There's only one thing in this world that even
better than "perfect," and that's knowing you're
perfectly loved. 
And you are. No matter what.

I wish that I could say I don't struggle with perfection anymore, but I can't. That fear crept up again just this last weekend. I'm just going to have to keep reminding myself that I'm human and I'm not supposed to be perfect. I'm going to make mistakes and messes, have successes and victories, and through it all I am still deeply loved.

"God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us so that we are free from worry on Judgement Day. Our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room for love in fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life-fear of death, fear of judgement, -is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love-love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first." 1 John 4:17-19 MSG

PS. If you've ever struggled with feeling like you need to be perfect, Holley's book will encourage you! You're Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart from the Need to Be Perfect .

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Beauty of Grace

God loves me even though I’m not Wonder Woman.

Sometimes the hardest person for me to show grace to is me.  I see my faults and shortcomings and I am so hard on myself. I don’t measure up. I’m un-loveable.

When I was going through treatment for breast cancer I was given the nickname “Wonder Woman”. I happily embraced that alter-ego because I knew that I needed super hero strength to beat my disease.  When that battle was won, the name stuck.  It wasn't long before being “Wonder Woman” began to weigh on me.  Without an evil villain to fight (cancer), I was left to wrestle with my everyday struggles.  I’m not so wonder-full sometimes.  I’m afraid that people might see the messy person under the star-spangled costume.

In the book, The Beauty of Grace by Dawn Camp, Angela Nazworth writes about our “mask and cape”.  We want to be strong and heroic, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and sometimes in putting on that persona we lose sight of who we really are, who’s we are.  Angela says it so well,

“I pretend that I am capable of handling anything that comes my way…all by my little self. And sometimes I get so wrapped up into the role I inhabit that I do not even respond to my own name when it’s whispered by Him.”

It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who feels that way, hiding behind my mask.  But here’s the good news, God loves me even though I’m not Wonder Woman. He gives me grace, forgives me and delights in me.  He doesn't expect me to be super-human.  He just expects me to be his.

If you need some encouragement today, check out The Beauty of Grace.  It’s filled with soul-stirring stories about purpose, surrender, trust, lessons, hope, encouragement, and more from some of today’s popular bloggers/writers.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Looks like I'm startin' something...

I’ve decided that I’m going to try (and post) a new recipe each week in 2015.  I’ll be sharing over on my other blog CUPCAKEDD .

Up first… Egg Strata Cups!

Hope you’ll stop by!