Life Updates: Teaching a Lay Leadership Course, my Writing Career & What I Gave Up for Lent

Hi, friends. Stay tuned to see what’s going on with Retrospective Lily… 🙂

The last few weeks have passed by in a whirlwind. I tend to put blogging on the back burner when life gets crazy, but I guess that’s okay, since it’s been more quiet around here lately. [Or maybe I’m not taking time to connect with recent/active bloggers, or maybe my posts aren’t as good anymore…who knows!] Anyways, I’m glad for the opportunity to share my thoughts. I’m also thankful for the readers and writers who have stuck around on WordPress.

Lay Servant School 2020

The last two weekends, I (along with Sandrea) taught the introductory course to Lay Servant School, a program through the United Methodist Church that educates and equips lay leaders. I was honored to shepherd a new group of disciples in servant leadership, communication skills, caring ministries, and more.

I’m in the wheelchair; Sandy’s the black lady in the front row, one over from the left.

Changes at Work

While preparing my curriculum and attending the four sessions of LSS required most of my time and mental energy the last few weeks, my writing career is on a slow-but-steady upward trajectory. Praise God! FYI, I got a job as a contributing writer for a local newspaper last summer.

Sidenote: I’ve been reading Psalms for the last month or two, and it’s really boosted my prayer life. [My calm, rote prayers of the past seem so flimsy and unauthentic in comparison.] I prayed several times that God would enable my career to expand. I feel the prayer is being answered. Now, let’s hope my other buns in the oven (repeated petitions) are baking.

We are taking on a new venture at work (my boss keeps referring to it as “birthing a baby,” lol). We’re going to make our online presence a serious priority and push to generate more revenue. I will be taking on more responsibilities due to that.

A photo from “Helping Hands Peru”

I’m also starting to get more article assignments. Yay! I write two of the weekly installments–Calendar Events and Crime Report. Last November, I wrote an article about myself and another lady in our readership area with Friedreich’s Ataxia (crazy coincidence, BTW). I finally got to write another one in February for a lady from my church who turned 100. Then, I was assigned an article pertaining to a Peruvian immigrant, also a local business owner, who runs a charity in his hometown. Right up my alley!

What I Gave Up for Lent

In the midst of the chaos, I’ve somehow managed to pray and read scripture (pretty) regularly. For a long time, I didn’t understand why people gave things up for Lent; when I tried, I inevitably failed because it was a game to me. After my spiritual awakening and in the midst of ongoing sanctification, I now understand the reason behind fasting in general and especially during Lent. Some might consider what I gave up “cheating,” but if so, cheating’s never been so hard…


I like to think I’m sooo different from the FA’ers who sit around pitying themselves, but the struggle is still real. My own feelings of bitterness relate more to my inaccessible living situation and the lack of freedom and control that entails, but still. I have felt bitter towards my family for not helping me get into an accessible home. I have felt bitter towards the world that the housing market lacks affordable options. I have even felt bitter towards God for not making a way into a better situation yet.

As I wrote in a recent post, I do try to choose gratitude. There’s much pain and suffering in the world I don’t understand and will never have to. I know that my family loves me and God will lead me to an affordable home in His timing. So, it’s time for me to uproot this nasty bitterness from my heart once and for all. It is an unproductive, unhealthy emotion.

We are reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis in my Sunday School class. Since my “Screwtape” has tormented me with bitterness for a long time, he’s not letting it go without a fight. Literally–there was a screaming match this week over a cup of coffee! (After which my “Screwtape” seemed to be laughing at me) Clearly, I’m going to have to recommit to this fast every day…if not every hour and every minute.

So, how are you, really? Let me know in the comments. And thanks for reading. ♥

The Problem with Bite-Sized Political-Propaganda Videos

Hi, friends. How many of you have seen five-minute-or-less informational videos making the rounds on social media? Prager U, AJ+, and several other media outlets create them.

Why is this a thing (and why is it bad)?

The “bite-sized” video is a popular format for social media because it boils down a large, nuanced concept to a brief, easy-to-digest chunk. Whether the topic is “conservative” or “liberal” (ugh, gotta love arbitrary partisanship assigned to every social issue), the goal is to wrap up a big idea in a little package…often with fun graphics flying around on a green screen and/or ukelele music in the background. I’ve seen it with toxic masculinity, gun laws, racism, abortion rights, minimum wage, and everything in between.

These videos inevitably exclude some contextual info due to time constraints, so what gets left out depends on the “agenda” the media outlet favors. Worse yet, the way the video’s host talks about “the other” is often contemptuous and infantilizing, simplifying them into broad descriptions of their interests, their motivations, their fears, etc. People who watch these videos are essentially spoon-fed cherry-picked facts, yet they can walk away feeling educated on the subject. The unfounded confidence (or unfounded sense of superiority) these videos can inspire makes me uneasy.

What inspired this post…

…was, funny enough, NOT directly related to the American election cycle. But this post has increased in relevance because of the current political climate. Anyways...

Article: “How Fast Fashion Is Destroying the Planet,” The NY Times. Photo: Wong Maye-E, AP.

A couple months ago, I read a book about global poverty wages. Chapter after chapter, in country after country, real individuals shared stories of their horrible living conditions, physical abuse and sexual assault, long hours and persistent injuries, trying to feed their families on inadequate wages, and more. The book also contains story after story of their attempts to unionize (even at the risk of violence and death), their protests, their strikes, and their hard-won victories of a few less hours here, a few more dollars per paycheck there, etc.

I thought it’d be interesting to look up videos about fair trade to learn more, and I came across this–

This video upset me because the host reduces all the struggles and all the achievements of third-world workers to a simple narrative–“They need these factory jobs, so we shouldn’t worry about it (stop complaining about fair labor practices; that’s just a silly first-world indulgence).”

I think people of all political flavors can logically agree that if we, the hyper-consumers of this beautiful planet, create demand for fair labor practices and sustainably-made products, the corporations will have no choice but to follow our lead. Our wallets have the combined power to influence the market. Money talks, y’all.

When you encounter videos like these, just take them with a grain of salt, and remember, when simplifying a complicated issue, information is bound to be left out. In other words, do your research!

Thanks for reading! What’s your two cents? Let me know in the comments.

[Warning: More posts vilifying propaganda and promoting sustainability incoming]

Choosing Gratitude While Also Being Empathetic (Discussing Physical & Mental Illness + Suffering in the World)

Hi, friends. Today, we’ll discuss the power of perspective, i.e. how comparison, empathy, and gratitude affect the way we see ourselves and others.

I have two diverging thoughts on this subject:

  • “It could always be worse; choose gratitude.”
  • “Your having a broken arm doesn’t mean my paper cut doesn’t hurt.”
*feeling pensive*

As a wheelchair user with a host of specific and inconvenient obstacles (for instance, almost peeing myself when waking up at night to use the bathroom, or almost face-planting into my steering wheel or laptop when I sneeze), feelings of self-pity are easily justified. Most able-bodied people look at someone like me, see what I have to overcome, and feel inspired to be more joyful, ambitious, etc. since they could “have it worse,” i.e. be in my shoes. Though some disabled people don’t like serving as “inspiration porn,” which I’ve discussed on this blog before, I’m glad if the way I live and act pushes others to “do better” in some way.

In reference to the epidemics of anxiety and depression, I’ve been told that a lot of people “don’t know what real problems are,” implying that my physical disability is a “real problem”…while issues like mental illness are apparently trivial. On some level, I agree that being anxious can’t be as hard as not being able to walk around unassisted in a literal sense. But my reasoning is that my disability affects almost everything I do. I wonder if some people with anxiety would say that statement applies to them, too. Maybe it’s easy for me and many others to minimize problems we can’t see or understand. In a few brief moments throughout my life, usually during an FA-related-meltdown, an unfamiliar darkness clouded my mind; I didn’t know whether to scream and throw things at the wall, crawl in a hole and die, or what. I assume the chemicals in my brain were dipping into dangerous territory. In those instances, I wondered if that is how it feels to grapple with mental illness.

Yet, in the midst of comparing myself to people with able bodies and/or mental health issues, I am leaving out the majority of the world and infinitely worse problems…

At least I’m not here.

Would I rather be able-bodied than disabled? Of course. Would I rather be mentally ill than physically ill? Maybe, maybe not. But would I rather live in a war-torn country…be homeless in the winter…have a rumbling tummy and no source of food…have to work in a sweatshop to support my family…have no intellectual freedom (North Korea)…be sitting in a prison right now for worshiping Jesus…even just have any form of cancer vs. having FA? Heck no! That list could stretch on forever.

Perspective is powerful and can lead us to do different things–count our own blessings, motivate us to “do better,” and in some cases, belittle others’ problems. I’ll phrase the conclusion of my musings as an analogy: let’s say I have a broken arm. I shouldn’t condemn people with paper cuts. Maybe their paper cut hurts as bad or worse than my broken arm, but I don’t know how their paper cut feels; either way, I should believe people who say their paper cut hurts. On the other hand, if I remember how many people have more and/or worse injuries than me, I can acknowledge that I’m blessed in spite of my broken arm.

Thanks for reading! Do you choose gratitude despite whatever your “broken arm” is? What do you think about the power of perspective? Let me know in the comments.

[Interesting SN: The paper-cut-vs-broken-arm analogy is flawed because almost all of us know how a paper cut feels, and those who have also broken their arm could pretty much objectively say the broken arm hurts more. In actuality, most of us have no idea how the suffering of others feels.]

Self-Deprecating Memes: Relatable But Kind of Pitiful

Hi, friends. Today, I want to talk about a trend I’ve noticed lately with memes on social media.

I’ve noticed a particular type of meme cropping up more and more. With this sort of meme, the jokes are more self-deprecating and/or unashamed of not-so-great personality traits/habits. Here are some examples–

When I see these memes like these, I chuckle because of their relatability. Hey, how many of us are terrible procrastinators? Lol! How many of us feel accomplished for simply “adulting”? Ha! How many of us ladies are crazy jealous about our man? You said it, honey!

Once I’ve had my brief amusement, I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth. These memes are comical because they describe a lot of us, but the fact that many of us relate to these things is really kind of pitiful. Not being able to stick to goals, not being motivated or passionate about life, not being rational, whatever the case may be…though many of us experience these issues, I think we need to conquer them rather than celebrate them.

Some would say I’m reading too much into these memes–they are just meant to incite a laugh–nothing more, nothing less. I don’t want to come across as holier-than-thou; as I mentioned, I get a kick out of them, too. But I see the trend of the self-deprecating meme taking over. If I log on Facebook right now, at least half of the memes shared by my friends will fall under this umbrella. [All the examples above came from my FB friends.] I wonder if the mass saturation of the self-deprecating meme could satiate us into believing our short-comings aren’t short-comings after all, since everyone appears to share them.

I can, however, think of one positive aspect to these memes; at least if people know they don’t face their struggles alone, they can feel reassured that they aren’t failing at life. But we all have room for growth and self-improvement. I hope we don’t lose sight of that as we chuckle over our lack of drive, lack of ambition, lack of self-discipline, etc.

Are you insecure and jealous? Relatable…but let’s find healthy ways to address that. Are you a procrastinator? Relatable…but let’s work on time/task management. Are you tired of “adulting”? Relatable…but let’s figure out some life hacks to make it easier.

Thanks for reading! What’s your two cents? Let me know in the comments.

My Thoughts on the Instagram Change (& Tying Self-Worth to Numbers)

Hi, friends. Today, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on both the new policy on Instagram (hiding the “like” count on pictures) and why measuring self-worth in numbers is a bad thing.

The Basic Gist & People’s Reactions

This article can catch you up if you’ve no idea what I’m referring to. In summary, we can no longer see how many likes other users have on their photos; we can only see the total on our own photos. In the past, a photo from Billie Eilish (popstar) might have “such-n-such and 3,455,870 others” written underneath it to signify the like count, while Joe Shmoe might have “such-n-such and 8 others” beneath his post. Now, Billie Eilish and Joe Shmoe have the same phrase under their photos–“such-n-such and others.”

Reactions to the change have been mixed. Mental health advocates praise the change because the reduction of competition will help people stop constantly playing a comparison game. Social media influencers and celebrities, many of whom put in work to build their followings, worry their brands will suffer. It seems to me that these viewpoints represent regular users whose self-perception is harmed by an incessant need for validation vs. business people who throw themselves into the internet’s competition for attention and thrive from high like counts (others are attracted to whatever is “going viral” or seems popular; we are mob-mentality creatures).

My Two Cents: Seeing Both Perspectives

I embrace the change because I predict it will facilitate a healthier environment. The owner of IG, Adam Mosseri, said he wants to “depressurize” the platform, and I believe this is a step in the right direction. People will spend less time trying to build up a digital throne–liking lots of pictures so they’ll get lots of likes, only posting flawless photos with perfectly apt, witty captions so they’ll grab the most attention–and spend more time liking things they genuinely like, posting photos without worrying about appearing uncool and unworthy due to low like counts. [A lot of people will still build digital thrones for personal validation, but at least there won’t be as strong a social pressure to do so.]

On the flip side, though, I can understand how influencers feel, especially if sponsorship opportunities are tied to follower and like counts. Mosseri has addressed these concerns, adding they want to find a way for influencers to “communicate values” to businesses. I’m not proud to admit this, but I think I would react negatively if WordPress eliminated the like count for blog posts. Many including myself have tied their self-worth to likes, and yes, I feel validated as a writer/blogger/creator when I get more attention. I suppose it wouldn’t inhibit me from seeing my own like count, though–just the like count of others. Hmm, that could actually be ideal.

Tying self-worth to numbers is so toxic.

For one, we are never satisfied; two years ago, ten likes would’ve made my week, but if I got ten likes on a post now, I’d be bummed. Numbers are infinite, so whether we get 10, 100, 1 k, or 1 mill. likes, we can always desire more. Secondly, we spend extra time feeling bad about ourselves. I know (because I’ve read y’all share your own experiences) that many of us beat ourselves up when we get less views or likes than usual, when we have a stat spike one day then return to our average amount, etc. I’ve been feeling bad lately because my like counts have stagnated in the last year, despite an increasing follower count (perhaps they’re mostly spam).

In a hypothetical world, it’d change the way we use social media and the way we think about ourselves and others if we completely eliminated like counts on everything. Since that won’t happen, perhaps we can try to remember that a digital throne is just that–digital, i.e., not real.

Thanks for reading! What’s your opinion on the IG change or social media validation in general? Let me know in the comments.

Three Tips to Become a Better Conversationalist (& Not Look Like a Narcissist With No Self-Awareness)

Hi, friends. In today’s post, I’ll share a few ways that you can be a better conversationalist at work, with friends, at social functions, or anywhere people exchange words.

Do you want to know how to make a good first impression? Do you want to facilitate conversations that go deeper than the surface level? Do you want to NOT be someone people dread talking to? This post lists and explains three methods for doing so. 😉

Active listening

We can and do often use body language to convey our level of interest. Do you feel put off when someone looks at their phone while you talk to them? They’re illustrating through their body language that they aren’t tuned into the conversation.

Good active listening involves eye contact first and foremost. The other person knows you care about what they’re saying if you meet their gaze rather than looking at the floor, your phone, etc. [Bonus: meeting eye contact also makes you seem more confident.] Great active listening means meeting the other person’s gaze and also nodding and saying words here and there like “mhmm,” “yes,” “wow,” “really?” etc. These small gestures show you are invested in the conversation. Excellent active listening involves all the above + repeating back things they’ve said in a condensed form in your own words. Doing so displays that you not only listened but genuinely understood.

Here’s a definition of true listening that I like: “True listening is suspending one’s own agenda.” How often do we appear to be listening to someone, but in our heads, we are contemplating our own thoughts and what we will say next? Guilty! But I’ve found it almost impossible to practice active listening without truly listening, so if you deliberately implement these tips, you can more easily suspend your own agenda.

Ask people about themselves

My dad once imparted some words of wisdom to me–asking other people about themselves makes you seem more intelligent. Here’s my personal observation: doing so demonstrates a higher level of self-awareness than the average person, and self-awareness often coincides with intelligence level. It’s possible to be smart and have no self-awareness (like the good ol’ saying, “They’re book-smart, but they have no common sense.”), but I don’t know that it’s possible to have a high level of self-awareness and NOT be decently sharp.

Expressing interest in other people’s lives shows that, unlike many people, you know that the world does not revolve around you. You have the self-awareness to recognize that you and your life are not the most exciting, interesting things in the world. Spelling this out seems silly, but many people do believe that–on a subconscious level–which is why they always talk about themselves and ponder what they will say next instead of truly listening. Even worse is when a person includes many insignificant and tedious details in a story; to me, this habit reveals that a person has little to no self-awareness.

To be fair, some people are shy, while some people really do have wild lives with many crazy stories to share. Still, my tip stands true: asking others about themselves will make you a better conversationalist. The other person will see that you care about them, their job, their opinion on something, whatever the case may be. And don’t just ask one surface-level question about the other person and immediately revert to talking about yourself again. Ask them a question, then ask the next question based off their answer; they’ll know you were really listening.

Don’t try to “empathize”

This trap is easy to fall into. Many people attempt to “empathize” with someone by turning the conversation back to themselves.

This idea represents a gray area. Empathizing may me fitting in certain scenarios, such as people sitting around exchanging funny stories at a social gathering or someone seeking your advice with a situation…but all too often, people’s attempts to “empathize” are just a way to get back to their favorite subject (themselves!).

Though this is better judged on a case-by-case basis, I think a helpful distinction to make is “serious” vs. “light-hearted.” If someone is venting about a situation or talking about something serious, let them have the floor. If someone is telling a light-hearted story, it’s probably fine to chime in with your own light-hearted story. Whatever the circumstance, at least let them finish their story and soak up the spotlight for a little while before you jump in and dominate the conversation. [No one likes to feel cut short!]

I’m sure I’ve excluded some other great tips, but three is a satisfying number, and this post is getting long. In summary: to facilitate better conversations, try actively listening and encouraging the other person to talk about themselves. Also, be mindful of when it might or might not be appropriate to “empathize.” You’ll seem more intelligent, confident, and thoughtful.

Thanks for reading! What’s your two cents? Have you ever talked to or known a person who broke all these rules (and did it drive you mad)? Let me know in the comments.

We Interrupt the Regularly-Scheduled Program for a Special Announcement…

Hi, friends. How’s your week been? Mine’s been really fun and a little exhausting. I travelled from NC to PA to attend rideATAXIA Philly 2019 and the 12th annual scientific symposium hosted by FARA (Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance).

The ride is a fundraiser for FARA that takes place in different locations across the US every year. Right now, I’m reading a memoir, Shifting into High Gear, by Kyle Bryant, the founder of rideATAXIA. He discusses the shame and self-loathing and despair with which he grappled after being diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia; he had always loved sports, and now, his future had been ripped away from him, and his abilities were deteriorating. Then…he discovered three-wheel trikes, and the rest is history. I’m eager to read of his trek ACROSS THE US on a trike. Amazing stuff is possible with some courage and ambition, y’all. Anyway, I’ll definitely post a review of that here (and buy it for several loved ones for Christmas, hehe). At rideATAXIA Philly 2019, we raised over $500,000 for FARA!

The conference was great also, but I will be honest and admit that I didn’t go into the conference feeling as hopeful this year. I’ve been told that a treatment or cure is “just on the horizon” for years now, so I was starting to feel jaded, wondering, “so…is ‘the horizon’ ever going to get here?”

We learned about ongoing clinical drug trials and new research throughout the day, and after several hours, I wondered if perhaps we could leave early; the last session is a patient panel, so it’s not crucial. But thank the Lord we stayed the whole time. As everything was wrapping up for the day, Ron Bartek, the founder of FARA, stepped to the mic to share a press release.

He tearfully read the following headline–“Reata Announces Positive Topline Results from the MOXIe Registrational Trial of Omaveloxolone in Patients with Friedreich’s Ataxia”

As he read the press release, choking on his words every few sentences, tears stung my own eyes and cheers erupted throughout the room. It was a wonderful, intimate, unforgettable moment for the FA’ers and their families in the room.

The FARA treatment pipeline as of June 2019

Though several clinical drug trials have been conducted in search of a treatment/cure, no trial has ever successfully met its endpoint. That statement is no longer true. Since this treatment was successfully shown to help FA patients, Reata Pharmaceuticals is now pursuing FDA-approval, and the medicine will be available for patients at some point in the (hopefully) near future. [Pricing and insurance will be a bear, but I’m not letting that rain on my parade.]

Of course, a treatment is far from a cure, so our efforts cannot slow down (and I can’t buy a pair of high heels just yet). But what we need while we wait for a cure, which is the enemy of all progressive diseases, is TIME; I hope this new medicine will halt or at least slow down disease progression until gene therapy is developed to cure my condition and, incidentally, many others that are rooted in a person’s DNA. Sidenote, it’s crazy to think that DNA’s structure was discovered in the 1950’s, and look how far we’ve come already. Science is awesome!

My usual readers know I’m a Christian, so maybe my last statement seems misaligned, but I don’t subscribe to the notion that science and faith are enemies. When I look at the stars in the sky on a clear night or consider how many grains of sand comprise a shoreline, I feel awed by our creator’s imagination; maybe the fact that we have DNA, unique instructions for our bodies/lives, just goes to show how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Here is a statement I included with another social media post: For Lord knows how long, I have prayed, “Guide the hands and minds of the doctors and scientists in FARA to find a treatment or cure.” I don’t want to take anything away from the hard work of so many, but I do believe that God is working things to the good…in higher ways I can’t fully understand or even articulate. My heart was already full of joy and hope, but it feels like my heart grew a little bigger. Thankful to God for the people and events that led to this point and eager to see what the future holds. ♥

I’ll be spending the next few days catching up with my fellow bloggers and replying to comments. BTW, thank you to those who left thorough and thoughtful comments on last week’s post; you guys teach me so much.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Letter to Myself in High School (on Disability, Popularity, Dating, etc.)

Hi, friends. I am sure we have all felt the saying, “hindsight is 2020.” As a 26-year-old, I know so much more about God, the world, and myself; of course, I still have much to learn.

Here is a letter I might write to myself in high school if I could. Perhaps it’s good that I can’t because there’s no telling if I would have turned out as the same person had I not experienced heartaches and mistakes. I think this activity will be sort of therapeutic for me because it will remind me how far I’ve come. I hope it will be interesting and even relatable to my readers, too.

Dear Lily,

You have always loved the spotlight. That quality will help you glorify God in the future through ministry platforms that involve teaching and preaching. Unfortunately, you won’t reach that confidence (or maturity) level for a while. As your chronic disability that you don’t know about began to manifest, and you entered a chubby, pimply stage, you edged out of the “winners circle” in middle school. You’ll remain in the margins–nerdy and unsure of the right thing to say or do to be accepted. You feel bad about that right now, but you will learn that being different is cool…not always “popular,” but actually, authentically awesome…though we have a ways to go before reaching that part.

You walk funny, and you feel the eyes of your peers on you–watching, questioning, judging. You feel anxious over the most minute tasks like walking to the front of a classroom to turn in an assignment, praying you won’t trip over one of the bookbags lying haphazardly in the aisle. You will fully bloom into a beautiful woman who owns her disability someday, but you will go through a lot of mental anguish along the way. There is nothing I can say to ease that pain except to tell you that you will become stronger and wiser. By the way, working out will become a crucial component of your lifestyle, so it’d be nice if you could get a headstart.

You are dating a boy who, in your opinion, hung the moon. You probably won’t believe me when I say this, but here goes: he’s a good person, but he won’t end up to be your person. Since he’s your first love, you will be devastated and won’t get over it for a long time. But after a few years and a few guys, you will meet a man who thinks that you hung the moon. He will take care of you better than you thought possible.

You were born and raised in church, and you are blessed to have a loving church family. God has planted a few seeds in your heart that will eventually bear fruit, but you will push all of that away for a few years. The fact is, you have no idea how ignorant you are. You will make many mistakes before you truly see your face in the mirror (James 1:23-25). Do not worry, child; God is working all things to the good.

Getting back to your love of the spotlight, that need for approval will urge you to try to fit in with the party crowd in college. Eventually, you’ll learn that social conformity does not result in real coolness. That kind of validation is fleeting and vapid. On the brightside, you will learn to accept your disability and advocate for your needs in college. You’ll learn other things, too, but maybe we should save that for another letter.

One more thing: you love to read and write. Hold on to those passions because they will shape your life. Spoiler alert: they will affect your college experience, your future hobbies, and your future jobs.

Have hope because the future is bright. 🙂 Also, be kind to your parents; they love you more than you know.

Love, Lily

Wow, that reflective activity was…cathartic. You guys should try it. Some of you who are older might have other ideas like “Letter to Myself After Having my First Child” or another significant time. If you do so, I’d love if you let me know so I can read yours.

Thanks for reading! What is one thing you wish you could go back and tell yourself at a certain point in your life? Let me know in the comments.

Getting Personal on my Frustrations, the Serenity Prayer & Romanticizing “What-Ifs”

Hi, friends. Today’s post explores a few things on my mind, and it incorporates some whining, some philosophizing, some taking responsibility…you name it. 😉

Dealing With Frustration

I have been vulnerable with the emotional struggles I face. I have written posts on petty pity parties and getting out of the pit. As a wheelchair user, my limited abilities cause me to have less control of my life–running errands is an ordeal, I can’t clean or exercise or anything to the extent I would like, etc. My living situation exacerbates my frustration. In a house where I live upstairs and everything is downstairs, so many things lie outside of my control from what I eat to when I can leave the house, etc.

I know that I come off as a strong and joyful person, and most days, I do feel that way. But, despite my faith and determination and ambition, I’m still just a person. Some days are hard, y’all. As I write the rough draft to this post, I’m having “one of those days.” Typing out my feelings is already taking its therapeutic effect, though.

There’s something I’ve been pondering for the last hour that is helping me get back to a can-do attitude–the serenity prayer.

The Wisdom of the Serenity Prayer

The serenity prayer is famous for its straight-forward yet profound wisdom:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

It’s easy to get so caught up in a storm of emotions that I flush rationality down the drain. If I can try to think clearly in the midst of the blues, I can stop wading in my misery and start finding solutions to my problems–if not all then at least some.

Some of my complaints, like needing help up and down the stairs to reach my car, are inflexible. I do not have access to a full kitchen. I cannot control when my laundry gets done. I get bogged down by the things I can’t control. However…

I do have a fridge and a microwave, so I can pay my boyfriend who works at a grocery store to buy healthy fresh and frozen meal options. I can clean and straighten up some things from a seated position (and relentlessly pester my family to help with things like vaccuuming). I can pay a friend to help me clean my car. [Update: I convinced my dad to wash my car by saying it could be his birthday present to me. And we’re going to start using a cleaning service. Yay!]

Being Realistic

Realistically, I will always have problems. I want to move to a one-level house, but while it’s hard to see right now, I’m sure that living on my own will have a different set of frustrations. Right now, I wish I could cook more vs. eating drive-thru, but who knows–maybe I won’t have the time or the motivation once I have the freedom to do so. I ponder how I would never have a dirty car if I were able-bodied, but maybe I would–not every able-bodied person in the world has a clean car.

I guess this is what I’m getting around to: musing on “what-ifs” usually involves romanticization, while feeling sorry for one’s self tends to involve the opposite–thinking things are worse than they really are.

We take for granted the good things we currently have while imagining that life would be perfect with a few tweaks to our circumstances. We all have reasons to be thankful, and life will never be perfect.

Lord, help me see things clearly to appreciate my blessings and find ways to address my complaints rather than letting them suck me bone-dry of gratitude. Help me trust that You will work all things to the good.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. I’m off to do a home workout then straighten up my bathroom in the hopes of inducing some “feel-good” hormones along with some cathartic feelings of accomplishment. [Update: I worked out, which did help, but I didn’t clean. Alas, I want a clean home in theory but tend to procrastinate when the rubber meets the road.]

What are you frustrated about in your life? Let’s commiserate in the comments. Also, I’d really appreciate some healthy meal suggestions that are doable with a fridge and microwave.

Western NC United Methodist Women Spiritual Growth Retreat 2019

Hi, friends. Today’s post is a recap of the spiritual growth retreat I attended last week.

The retreat is held every year for our conference (Western NC) of United Methodist Women, an organization of women who support and participate in mission work, created through the United Methodist Church. Click here to read my post commemorating their 150th anniversary, detailing how they got started and what they do now.

My mom, my grandma, and I in front of a life-sized portrait of John Wesley

I enjoyed the retreat, though “revival” might be a more accurate term. We had four worship services over the course of about two days. I would’ve liked more intimate activities and time for soul-searching, but I didn’t even have time to read my Bible because the trip was packed with things to do. Perhaps I will make some suggestions for next year. Nonetheless, it was a fun experience. And, though I didn’t get the quiet time I craved, the breath-taking tranquility of my surroundings in Lake Junaluska made me feel contemplative about the wonder of creation.

Our theme for the retreat was “Thorns & Roses,” alluding to how God can produce beauty from pain and use our “thorns” to His glory. Our speaker for the worship services was Clara Ester, a retired deaconess and the VP of UMW. She dropped out of college in her junior year to become part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s entourage. As you might imagine, she shared some wild and stirring stories.

One sermon that I remember vividly revolved around King’s murder; she actually witnessed his death. A huge crowd of workers on strike anticipated a speech from King. Beforehand, King had received a death threat, but he chose to give his speech anyway. Clara referred to Jesus begging that God let the cup pass from Him, comparing Jesus’s agony to King’s; he likely prayed something similar that night. Clara painted a picture of the event–every pew filled and people sitting on the floor in the aisles, a wild thunderstorm rocking the building. And these are among the words King spoke that night

I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter to me now, because I’ve been to the mountain top. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Of course, being the sack of raw emotions I am, I cried through the story. [Given our theme, the point was that, sometimes, God doesn’t let the cup pass from us because there may be a purpose we don’t see/understand.]

She spoke of other personal experiences that gave her a zeal for those who suffer, hence her becoming a deaconess later in life. She often referred to the thorn in Paul’s side and his saying that he boasts of his weaknesses because Christ’s strength is made perfect in weakness. I relate here because I use my circumstances as a young lady with a disability to inspire others and show the world that joy can be found in the midst of struggles.

Though the retreat wasn’t quite what I expected, I’m glad I went!

Right now, I’m on Topsail Island, and I’m giving the message at another church on Sunday. I hope to get back to my regular reading and writing schedule starting Monday. 🙂

Thanks for reading!