Monday, March 27, 2017

The Wild Side of Jesus

Untamed: How the Wild Side of Jesus Frees Us to Live and Love with Abandon by Lisa Harper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Through reading the book Untamed, I have become a fan of the author, Lisa Harper. Her humor is very refreshing and makes such an enjoyable read! I found myself relating to her in so many ways as I see parallels to my relationship with Jesus as it has grown stronger and continues to do so.

In the first two pages of the book, Harper writes, "Choosing the safe but boring path is an apt metaphor for the years I spent rather numbly and halfheartedly pursuing God." I've definitely been there over the years, trying to avoid pain and chaos. And then I got fibromyalgia, haha! Seriously, though, if chronic illness has turned your relationship with Jesus into lukewarm bath water, Harper invites you to "reawaken the sense of adventure God hard-wired into your soul." You see, if you are reading this post then you still have breath and that means God is not done with you yet!

Now, Harper has a very sharp sense of humor that some might find offensive or sacrilegious. She talks about paralytics who turn cartwheels, how Tamar's first husband and Onan were stinkers so God killed them, and she calls John the Baptist "Johnny B." I had reached a point that I thought, okay, this might be too much, but then changed my mind when two pages later I was laughing out loud at the vision of John the Baptist "with locust legs stuck between his teeth." I know it's been said before, but it the first time I actually pictured it! Harper was talking about the type of people Jesus hung out with, and right after the locust legs comment, she writes a profound piece that makes your heart swell over the Jesus who loves us:

"But Jesus is the friend who lovingly sticks by every repentant sinner's side through thick and thin. Even when we blow it or get distracted by other interests, He doesn't stop loving us. In fact, Jesus' unwavering commitment to us is what ultimately compelled Him to lay down His life in exchange for ours. His devotion to broken people like us is remarkable."

It reminds me of Isaiah 61:
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;"

Throughout the book, Harper shares her personal experiences (that I'm sure many can relate to) and connects them to biblical stories, illuminating the true Jesus that loves and accepts us all. The end of each chapter also has questions to help the reader dig deeper, not just within themselves but through God's Word.

It's funny, sensitive, and I highly recommend Untamed.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Rough Morning = A Free Printable for You!

Dear Readers, I have had a rough start today, one that led to an absolute yelling/screaming/crying break down. I know you've been there. It's that one little trigger and suddenly all the strength and resolve you've managed to possess for weeks or months comes crumbling down.

That was my morning. I have been stressed out and sad for months now regarding my financial circumstances, but I've kept clinging to the Lord. Like the bleeding woman, I reached out because I knew if I could just touch His garment, all would be well. I reached out, grabbed hold of one of the tassels of his robes and I haven't let go. On some of the worst pain days and frustrating fatigue days, I let Him know, "I'm still holding on." But today was a culmination of all these things (not enough sleep included) and I. broke. down.

In a nutshell:

  • The neighbor's massive Great Dane barked me awake somewhere between 3 and 3:30 a.m. and I couldn't fall back asleep. I was so tired, but you know how it is when you are so very tired, but w i i i i d e awake. 
  • I discovered why the dog was barking at 3 a.m. when the sun started rising and I noticed something in my backyard and went to investigate. Leftover bunny. 😦 
  • No milk for African tea (my morning addiction) because I ran out yesterday and didn't have the energy to run to the store.
  • My heater is suddenly not working and baby, it's cold inside!
  • Money I was supposed to have a week ago did not come and when I called to find out what was going on, I was told I had to wait at least three more business days.
  • The money that did come in today's mail (also late) was less than half what it was supposed to be. 
And that was it. I was done. I was done and I was yelling, like, "I'm done with this job! I'm done with these people! I'll go sell my plasma, God, or you better figure this out because I'm DONE!" 

Aren't you glad He can take it? 

I mean, hey, He already knows what's in our hearts and our minds so why not just let it out? I actually got that out of a grief book I perused at a book store before I even knew Jesus. And oh, I was grieving, because of course, "the plasma people probably wouldn't even take my blood because it's diseased, and oh, that's right, it isn't a disease...!" You get the drill, and I was crying by this time because I can't support myself. I can't work and when I do, I can't get paid like a normal person without expending more of my precious little energy tracking it down. And this whole time, between the yelling and the crying, I'm trying to read through my furnace manual. Cuz that's gunna happen! 

I knew I needed a break and to calm down so I sat at my desk and made a Scripture printable. This verse helps me hold on to Jesus' tassel and I've been meaning to make it into a printable for a couple weeks now. I couldn't figure out how to make it downloadable since this is officially my first attempt at sharing a printable (and I don't think free blogger is set up to do that) so I ended up making it into a JPEG. I hope you can download it - or at least print it!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Working Behind the Scenes

Hello, Dear Readers!

I know I've been dormant (again), but I'm really here, working behind the scenes (in spite of the incredible fatigue I've had this year). I am currently going through a blogging course to learn all the ins and outs of not just having a blog that I randomly post on, but an actual blogging website. And there's so much to learn!

I am determined, though. My life sort of depends on it, you see, because I have had no income for the past year. My long-term disability policy closed my case after 24 months because fibromyalgia cannot be tested for - it cannot be medically proven with blood tests - so they consider it a self-diagnosed symptom and therefore not subject to the coverage of "real" health conditions, and after two years of sitting in appeals, I finally have a court date for my SSD claim - May 11th (please keep this in prayer!).

Yes, I am determined to find a way because when you have an invisible disability and are unable to work and you've gone through all your savings and all your retirement and you have no husband or rich parents or grandparents... when you are very much alone in this world, it is frightening. I know I sound a little like Debbie-Downer, but this blog is about being authentic and I promise to get to the happy, encouraging stuff in a moment. For now, though, if you haven't been in a situation like this before (and I know many of you have), try putting yourself in my shoes for just a moment before you judge me about feeling afraid and alone. Seriously, I had a record month last month. Yes, I did. I broke the record on how many shut-off notices you can get in one month! I managed to keep the water, gas, and electric on, but the internet was shut off for about a week before someone at church told my roommate and she paid to have it turned back on. It's supposed to be included in her rent, and she frequently works from home. It was a difficult week for us both.

Only by the grace of God have I managed to keep my home and all my utilities on in the last year. I have three bedrooms and have been trying to rent two of them out (at the same time) for the last seven months, but now that I require first and last month's rent (because of damages incurred by a previous renter), I can't seem to find any interested parties. At least none with permanent jobs, anyway. I've also been working in my home for a friend's insurance business, but can only manage 4-7 hours a week. I usually have to chase him down in order to get paid and that adds to my stress  (aka: fibro flare-up) and to my feelings of humiliation, "My water is going to be shut off, can you please pay me?"

I know God is teaching me through this humbling, frightening, and difficult time. Over and over He tells me, "I am providing for you." When I first lost the disability income, I received a check in the mail for two or three dollars from AT&T. It was a settlement check from an account I had with them 10 years earlier. The next day, I received free Reese's cups at the grocery store and I got so emotional. It was one of those times I wished I was home alone, so I could cry openly and thank Him because I knew it was Him. He typically needs to pound me in the head in order for me to trust that I really heard from Him (instead of things just being my own wishful thinking). And friends, there's no better way to get my attention than with Reese's peanut-butter cups!

Anyway, He is teaching me to trust Him for my needs and to stop relying on myself. I've been on my own since my senior year in high school so this has been a hard one to get, but I'm learning. And this is why I am so determined this year! I know that because of Him, I am not alone and my life is not over and there is still a purpose for my life! Cranky condition or not. No longer do I want to live a life determined by whatever temper tantrum or hissy fit fibro is having. God created me for a purpose and invisible disabilities, they don't surprise Him:

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.
             - Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)

He knew all the days of my life before He even formed me.

He knew all the days of your life before He even formed you!

So I prayed and I started researching and getting organized and setting goals. My research took me to some pretty amazing websites and blogs and I discovered people are actually making money by blogging and by doing what they love and helping others do the same.

All from the comfort of their homes. 

Now granted, I'm never comfortable. I can't even lay down comfortably anymore because of the tailbone pain that isn't really my tailbone, but is a nerve next to my tailbone...

Anyway, it can be done! I can earn a living for myself using the gifts God gave me. I can blog, I can create printables (I've already created some I can't wait to share with you), I can encourage people and can help others (I hope). So I am working behind the scenes to learn all about it: branding my blog, monetizing my blog, setting up email, and ew - all kinds of techy stuff y'all know I'm so not gifted with.

Did you know plugins are not just those toxic smell-goods you plug in the wall? 

And apparently, I'm going to have to start getting on Facebook more than twice a quarter, which will seriously cut into my Pinterest time, but you gotta do what you gotta do. And I hope you stay tuned because chances are, Authentic in My Skin will be moving and getting a redesign.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Getting Organized: Printable Planning Systems

I'm really excited about this post, the third in my Getting Organized series, because I'll be covering one of my favorite things: Printable Planning Systems! If you don't have the artistic gene to make pretty bullet journaling pages (like me), the next best thing is to find printable planners.

In my research, I found so many lovely and efficient planning systems that I had a hard time choosing just one. Some are simply daily/weekly planners while others are full blown, get-my-life-and-home-together planners with cleaning charts, yearly goals, budgeting and more. They range in price starting at FREE and up - the most expensive one I've seen is $55. Always check the price before you order because you will often see "free" or an introductory price for a limited time only. Anyway, here are some of the ones I fell in love with:

The Confident Mom - Susan's website is so adorable, I just knew I'd love her Weekly Household Planner! 

Living Well Spending Less - The Living Well Planner is not only colorful and fun, but packed full of getting your life together goodies!

Proverbial Homemaker - Perfect for the domestically challenged because you get a homemaking course when you buy the planner!

The Handmade Home - Definitely a favorite of mine, especially since you can print in full letter size or A5 size, and Ashley has added lovely quotes and things to keep you motivated. 

Nina Hendrick - I came across Nina's website and planner after I had my planner for 2017 ready to go, but the blogger edition planner is on my wish list for 2018!

A House Full of Sunshine - The Dreams by Design is another fabulous planner! And Karen is so cute with her Aussie accent so instead of a picture, here's a video:

So there you have it, some of my favorite printable planning systems. Don't you just feel happy now? I do! Happy and motivated because I'm a geek like that and I get excited over planners. It's like that first day of school when I finally got to use my new school supplies... Sigh. I'm a geek, but I'm a happy geek.

In my next post, I'll be sharing individual planning pages with you. Daily ones, weekly ones, and did I mention that most of them are FREE? So stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Getting Organized: Bullet Journaling

Welcome to my Getting Organized series! In the first post of this series, I shared with you that I was tired of myself and my bad habits and that I was determined to live a better life in 2017. In today's post, I take you to the beginning of my research. What may or may not have worked for me might very well help you in your journey to get organized and live a better life in this new year.

I began preparing for the new year sometime around mid-November. I first started looking into planning systems and, wow, did I learn a lot! There are so many planning systems and printable planners and then there is the bullet journal. If you don't know anything about bullet journaling (aka BuJo), it is the new thing. You can bullet journal everything and anything and I spent a couple of weeks trying to figure out how to do it, what I wanted to include in mine, and what layout worked for me. I tried my hand at a few pages:

Clearly, bullet journaling is not my cup of tea. My planner needs to be functional and efficient, while being pretty and colorful, and I'm just not gifted in the way I need to be to become a member of the BuJo tribe. In additional to lacking the artistic gene apparently needed to BuJo, I knew that there was no way I would realistically sit down every day or week to create the next batch of pages. I have a hard enough time finding energy to balance my checkbook, let alone to create pages that don't meet my standards for pretty.

However, I really love all the things you could track in a bullet journal. People are not just tracking their schedules with appropriate task lists. They are tracking everything and that is the appeal for me. One place to record everything because I need every detail in my life in one place where I can view it daily. Otherwise, it's out of sight, out of mind.

So what are people tracking?

Dailies by @aka.sinting and Sublime Reflection


I think you get the idea, but in case you don't, the most extensive list I have found with bullet journal ideas is from Christina

You might be asking why I have spent so much time blogging about bullet journaling if it isn't my cup of tea. My answer to that (besides wanting to introduce them to you): INSPIRATION! These BuJo peeps have inspired me. Though not a part of their tribe, I can still admire them for their talent... and steal some of their ideas to incorporate into my own planning system, hehe!

So stay tuned for my next post because I'll be sharing a lot more on planning systems, my favorite ones, and where you can get FREE PRINTABLES for your own planner (doing my happy dance because I 💜 printables!). See you soon!

Getting Organized: A Fresh New Year!

I couldn't wait for 2016 to end. Not only was I done with the difficult and unhappy year, but I reached a place where I was done with myself, as well.

As someone who used to be on top of things, the constant disarray and disorganization of my life has truly driven me crazy. I can't get anywhere on time and when I do arrive, I'm usually missing something I need. Like swim trunks for aqua therapy. I mean, really. I've been going to aqua therapy twice a week for a couple of months now, you'd think I'd remember my swim bottoms, but because I am constantly flying out of the door late for my appointments, I inevitably leave something important at home. Every. Single. Week.

Have you ever been there, driving yourself crazy because of all the bad habits you've somehow acquired? Are you so frazzled and forgetful and just exhausted from trying? Are you there now, ready to live a different life, a better life? My dearest friend of 102-years says God isn't done with her yet. "There's life after 100!" she tells everyone, "I'm still growing."

Dear Reader, as long as you have breath in your lungs, there's still hope. And I'm choosing to be hopeful in 2017. I'm choosing to grow and to learn and to live a better life. Are you choosing to live your life differently this year? I'd love to hear from you. Have you already put steps in place to do so or has the idea sounded good, but overwhelming?

It doesn't happen over night. It takes work and planning and discipline, but even though the ball has already dropped, it is never too late to start something new. Over the next little while, I'll be sharing with you my journey to getting organized, changing my habits, and setting goals. By doing so, I hope to encourage you and to give you enough information so you can go out and conquer your part of the world! So stay tuned for the next post in this Getting Organized series.

Monday, December 26, 2016

My Easy Envelope System

The first time I heard of the 'envelope system' was when a friend was dating a guy who knew someone who taught Dave Ramsey money courses. Well, those of you who know me know that before I do anything, I have to research it first. Not only do I have to get all my questions answered, but then I have to make sure I understand the answers, which results in more questions, all in an attempt to do it correctly. Once this is resolved, then I have to create a system because everything needs a plan and a system to be effective. I've been labeled 'type A personality,' but really what I am is a High C (DISC) personality.

Now, there are a million different ways to do this envelope system and if they work for you, then great, but I needed something a little less complex:

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Chain Is Already Broken

The Lord gave me a word for a friend today as I prayed for her. He said, "I have already broken the chain, but you are still holding it." Though for my friend, it has made me wonder what chains has He broken for me am I still carrying around and clinging to? How about you?
O, how light our burdens be,
if we but drop chains broken by Thee.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Confession and Apology

I have recently been so upset over all the vicious things people spew on social media, more upset than usual. Whether I read a book review on Goodreads that curses out the Bible (and Christians) or whether I read an article posted on Facebook bashing the gay community (often by professed Christians), it just breaks my heart and I know it breaks the heart of Jesus. Today, I was reading the Bible and just wanted to share a verse, but the following is what came out:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

Regardless of race, gender, age, sexuality, socioeconomic status, religion....... you get the idea. It is only through love, not hatred, that people can see Jesus. Hatred in the name of Jesus defiles his love and isn't FOR his name at all, but is AGAINST his name.

And like my brave and loving friend, Erika Chambers, I am filled with a desire to confess and apologize to any that do not believe in Jesus (and to any that do).

I confess and apologize for being judgmental to you instead of being supportive. I apologize for not listening when you needed me to. I apologize for making you feel uncomfortable or unworthy because I recognize that I have done so. I apologize for doubting you, for acting superior to you, for not loving you as Jesus loves you. And he does love you, just as he loved me - even when I was cursing his name and the name of his father. And I did. Too much trauma I have been through all the way back to my birth and after I lost my great aunt and uncle - my surrogate parents - I hated God. I hated him and cursed him and threw all my religious artifacts (many from my beloved great aunt) in a box I shoved in a closet. I kept them because of her, not for any God-is-real reason.

I know many of my long-time friends are unaware that their "always has been spiritual" friend (me) had done such a thing, but that is because I was trying Buddhism and Wicca and other things out so I guess I still seemed spiritual. But I cursed God and told him to leave me the %$#@ alone, get the $%&@ out of my life because he was nothing to me and I lived many years hating all things religious.

But God loved me still. He loved me still and he wants me to love others as he has loved me.
I am not perfect and I am better than no one. I am deeply flawed, but because of Jesus, I am better than I used to be. A massive work in progress, I am vowing to love you more and I wholeheartedly apologize for all the times I haven't.

One thing specifically I feel I must confess is my absolute anger at parents of obese children. I have made hurtful comments and posted articles not in a helpful and loving manner, but in an angry and derogatory way that does nothing but cause pain. I have not loved like Jesus. Meanwhile, I lie in bed sipping my Java Monster or sit with Netflix while binging on alcohol (which, thankfully, I have recently given up) or ice-cream. I confess to being a health hypocrite and apologize to those parents, Christian or not, that I have hurt and scorned, again from my judgmental and superior disdain.

I am posting this with nothing but a desire to love you more and if these words are somehow offensive to you, I ask that you please refrain from mean and nasty remarks, but as I am trying to be better, to love better, explaining to me in a helpful way would be welcome. I will have to delete any hateful-type of comments that may be posted because nowadays, you never know what words may be triggers and again, that is not my intention.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Vacation Interrupted - A Writers at Work Assignment

Once a month, I attend Writers at Work (W@W). W@W is a place for writers, both published and unpublished, to write, learn, critique, and just have plain fun with one another. It is really a great group of people, led by an amazingly talented woman, and I feel blessed to be a part of it. For the first time since I moved to da 'burgh ten years ago, I have found my people or as we in W@W say, my tribe. Each month, we meet at a local library and we're given an assignment to work on until the following month. While I generally am not fond of the assignments, they really make one write outside of the box.

A couple of months ago, the library asked if we would have an evening of readings for patrons and their children. It was held on Thursday evening and we each read something we wrote as part of a W@W assignment. Since most of the work I've done for the group contains a lot of cuss words, I really had to comb through my files to find one that would be appropriate for children. For the July 2012 assignment, I wrote a story titled Vacation Interrupted. The story had the following requirements: 

"The assignment for next time is to write a story, poem or article including the following:

animal:  meerkat
clothing:  T-shirt
activity:  walking
weather:  balmy weather
location:  Kenya, Africa
situation:  an interrupted vacation

750 word limit"

So here is what I wrote:

Walking along the moonlit path between quaint cottages, I am overcome with a deep sense of gratitude. On all sides surrounding me are the most unique and colorful flowers, and various trees in more shades of green than I knew existed. Through deep reds, brilliant blues, bright yellows, and majestic purples, I meander speechlessly. Grand thoughts (too much to bear) flow through my soul and  I breathe in the balmy Kenyan air with a peaceful sigh. It is here at the Sopa Lodge I return to every year. It is only here that I can refresh from my chaotic life. Being here … completes me.

To be in this land that is still just as God created it is to bring me closer to Him. My heart stays behind each year when I leave, but while I am here, I am renewed as I spend my days in the safari wilds and spend my evenings as I am now, in quiet, joyful solitude.

"Well, hello there, pretty lady," a southern, United States voice frightens me out of my reverie. I turn to see a man wearing a stained T-shirt displaying a picture of a meerkat on it. It reads "Meerkat Manor" in giant letters.

Trying not to encourage him, I merely nod and continue along my way, but it is not to be.

"Where you from, Miss?" He has now turned and is following in my direction.

Quite irritated, I reply, "Noh Ahn-gles." My hope is that he would assume I was not an American and that he would leave me alone.

To my great relief, he tipped his head and replied, "Well, good evenin' then," and turned around to head back to wherever he came from.

Though I was alone again, the annoying southerner has somehow managed to ruin my peace of mind. No longer feeling the calm of a few moments before, I decide to head back to my cozy cottage for a glass of red wine before calling it a night.

The next morning, as is customary at the Sopa, I am taken to my assigned table for breakfast. I wait patiently for a server to take my drink order before getting up to partake of the delectable breakfast buffet. As I wait, I smile and reminisce of my first morning here when I had woken up early in desperate need of coffee. There was none to be found, not in my room, not in the lobby. I showered and got ready quickly, my body rebelling over doing these things without caffeine to jolt it awake. Having settled in the dining room, I was ready to jump out of my skin waiting for that first cup that took 20 minutes to get to me. In Africa, they are in no hurry. They live a leisurely life and have no concern for the caffeine addictions of Americans.

Still smiling, excited for a full day of safari, I stand as the waiter approaches, readying myself for the buffet line. "Jambo! May I please have a pot of chai?" I ask my waiter.

"Well, ain't this somethin’?" the Southern drawl asks. "No habla unglase, hu?" I turn to see the southerner, who has been sat at the table next to mine. Not only do I feel embarrassed to have been caught in a lie, but it is clear to me that this will be a vacation interrupted time and time again.