Thursday, March 5, 2015

Unfailing Love

Hello friends! I wrote this post a few weeks back and have been hesitant to post it for reasons I am  unsure of. But late last night I felt a tug at my heart to revisit it and so I took a second twentieth look at it and decided it was time to share ! Something I have been struggling with recently is my identity and knowing what I am supposed to do in life. A year ago I really took the leap and dove head first into a deeper relationship with God and although it has been the most amazing thing in the world to experience God's love firsthand, it has also been the hardest year of my life.

A priest came to speak at my church last February about knowing God's will and it really hit home with me. I wanted to follow God's will but I didn't know what that meant. As time went on and I tried to figure out what God's will was for myself I actually began to drift further away from God rather than grow closer to Him like one would expect.

Suddenly it became all about the rules and standards to me. It felt like everyone around me was so intense in their religion and how they decided to live their lives and truthfully that started to overwhelm me. I have heard so many people talking about hearing God and knowing what He wants but I wasn't getting that. I have felt like I wanted to pull back on going to church and participating in groups that were all about God because it was making me feel  like I was not enough.

Since I have deepened my walk with God this has been a constant struggle for me. Comparison. Doubt. Guilt. I started feeling all of these things in my everyday life and they have suffocated me. I no longer had a real desire to have a personal relationship with God because it just felt like no matter what I did I was failing Him. And I was disobeying Him. And I was not following His will (whatever that meant).

Over the past several weeks I have really been struggling with what that means. I have prayed constantly about it. I have talked with several family members and friends about it. I do feel that I have "the answer" but at the same time I don't. Because I don't even know what that means. I certainly don't hear God's voice saying do this or do that so how could I possibly follow His will for me.

The problem became that I thought God's will meant it had to be different then my will. I have this crippling fear that His will for my life involves nothing that I really wanted because how could it, that would just be selfish of me! Then I began to realize that God's love will always remain the same for us. Meaning, tomorrow I could literally go out and steal and still His love for me would be the same. I'm just starting to understand again that all God truly wants is for us to want to know Him and have a relationship with Him. And I do want that. Even better, I can and want to accomplish the dreams and goals I have in life and still have a relationship with The Lord. I think that is what God's will is. He wants us to want Him and when I do that I am living God's will.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February Favorites

Hello sweet friends! I have been crazy busy with school lately (it just never ends) and feel like I have been neglecting my blog ,but I've spent the last several days working on some things to try and change that. Today I'm sharing some of my monthly must-haves and I think they're pretty great!

February Favorites

 one// There is something about the cold weather that just makes me want to cook. I have an obsession of many things (that I like to pass off as collections) aprons being one of them. I don't know what it is about a cute apron but it makes me feel like my life is on track.

two//  Zellas have become a necessity in my life in the past couple of years. Ever since I discovered them at the Nordstrom half-yearly sale several years ago they have become a staple to my wardrobe. They are the most comfortable leggings/work out pants in the world, they are thick enough to wear out of the house, and they have really been upping their game in the last several months and have come out with some fun patterns!

three// This thing is my best friend. Seriously. I never knew how little activity I did on a day to day basis before this. It tracks your steps, distance, and calories (although I don't rely on this to be accurate). The great thing about the FitBit is that it is so small and you can literally wear it with everything, like I wore it to my dad's surprise party aka in a dress and heels. 

four// Lately casual cute has been my go-to look. I've started to leave my "college grunge" phase and have been slowly making my way back into real world attire. I have been fixated with the wool baseball cap trend since it made it's debut and my obsession has continued to grow. In the past several weeks some of my favorite outfits have involved this cap. It's the perfect accessory to that comfy weekend outfit. 

five// I have to admit, I'm not a big make up person. Of course I wear make up, but I wear what I wear and don't know about any of the new inventions or accessories for it. I started using a beauty blender three or four months ago and can honestly say they rock. It makes it so much easier to put my foundation/BB cream on and to blend everything in. In fact, I have convinced my mom, sister, and cousin to purchase a beauty blender because they're cheap and really work. 

six// Where to even start with these wellies. Joules so graciously gave me these wellies back in August and I have been patiently waiting for it to rain or do something crazy so that I would have the chance to wear these for once. It was finally yucky enough to wear them last week, and I am in love. I got so many compliments on them and so many people asking what brand they were. 

I am so excited to be guest blogging over at Hot Tea and the Empty Seat today! Hop on over there and read about my testimony and how God has worked through my life over the past years. And while you're there be sure to look around and read some other post by my sweet friend Katie!  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Heart to Heart

Hello sweet friends!

Today is national wear red day for heart disease (something that is very important to me) so I figured it was the perfect time to begin to tell my story. Heart disease is the number one leading cause of death for women in America and worldwide. 1 in 3 women die of heart disease. The numbers are astronomical yet the funding for heart disease doesn't even come close to that of breast cancer and other illnesses. Heart disease is a serious disease that primarily is seen as affecting men or the elderly. As you can probably guess, my story has a little something (okay a lot) to do with heart disease. Even though this has always been a part of my life and I have no problem talking about this to anyone in person, I have been a bit apprehensive to share this online. I hope that my story can serve as a testimony to people of how important heart health is and how a n y o n e can be affected, not just your grandparents. 

*The first portion of this (meaning today's post) is going to be pretty fact heavy. Everything talked about today happened within the first 7 months of my life but it is obviously prevalent to know the background before I can talk about how it has affected me my whole life as well as everybody in it.*

 This is the "part one" of many parts to come. 

I was born August 9, weighing 9 pounds even (or as the first nurse said "8 pounds 16 ounces!"). The delivery doctors and nurses thought everything looked great, but once I got to the nursery and they continued my assessment, the nurse listened to my heart and heard a distinct murmur. Other nurses and doctors listened and they decided to do an X-ray; they ended up seeing some cloudiness around my heart. They told my parents that night that it was either pneumonia, a heart defect, or a virus attacking my heart that would take my life within 24 hours. But there wouldn't be any answers until the next day, when the cardiologist would come in. At that point it was a waiting game.

 The next morning my condition worsened, so the cardiologist came  in early and did an echo. Through that he was able to determine that I had sub aortic stenosis, a VSD, and a double outlet right ventricle. This basically meant I had a hole in my heart which was pushing blood out in one direction and back in the other (making my heart inefficient) and a blockage in front of my ventricular valve.Without corrective surgery I would not survive. I was transferred to a different hospital to have surgery, on the 11th, two days after I was born I had open heart surgery to repair my heart. I was on a bypass machine for 4 hours and under hypothermic circulatory arrest for about 42 minutes (this is where they literally cool your body so much that your blood stops flowing). With that surgery they were able to repair the VSD, the double outlet right ventricle, and some of the stenosis. After that surgery I stayed in the hospital for two weeks until they thought I was stable enough to go home. 

I did well at home for 6 months, but in February an echo showed that the stenosis had come back. They immediately took me to have a cath done so they could determine what was happening. During the cath I coded and went into tachycardia twice where they had to shock me back into rhythm. I stayed that night in the hospital and the next day (Friday) the doctors told my parents they needed to bring me back Monday for a second open heart surgery. This time around the doctor explained to my parents that he would need to be more aggressive with the surgery and would have to cut through the bundle of hiss (which is the connector tissue that tells your heart to beat). In doing so this would cause me to have complete heart block and be pacemaker dependent.

I was hooked to an external pacer for a couple of weeks so the swelling could go down and the doctors could watch how my heart was responding. When they turned the external pacer off and my ventricular side wouldn't work it was confirmed that I would need a pacemaker. The surgery gave me complete heart block which means that my atrium side respond's to my body's messages but can't transmit them to the ventricular side, which is why I'm completely dependent on a pacemaker. It reads the atrium side and shocks the ventricle side to beat. 

All of this meant two things: I have congenital heart disease (meaning I have had it from birth) and I would have a pacemaker for the rest of my life. 

This is a Polaroid taken the day I was born by one of the nurses in the NICU.

This was taken the day after my first open-heart surgery. 

This was the first time my mom got to hold me since the day I was born.

This was the first day my sister met me. One of the nurses put bows on my visible wires because she wanted me to look pretty and didn't want to scare my sister who was 2 at the time. 

My mom and I with my surgeon, Dr. Calhoun. I was coming home for the first time.

I am about a month old in this picture. This is after the first round of the major surgeries. 

My sister and I playing at home. I am about a month old here as well. 

This was the weekend I was home before my second big surgery.

My first day home after my second open heart surgery.

Thank you so much for reading this and letting me tell my story. All of the surgeries and hardships that I don't even remember completely changed my life and shaped me into who I am today. Having heart disease and a pacemaker don't define me, but it is a huge part of who I am. I'm sure in the midst of everything that was happening my parents and many people were probably thinking "why her? why us?". I have asked myself this question many times, but for the first time in my life I know why, to share my story and to encourage people that life is really, really messy but it's also really, really worth it.