Friday, October 12, 2018

Gal Pal Society-Welcome back


Nearly one year ago, I stepped away from Gal Pal Society, and my personal blog all together. Initially, my pause was in reaction to criticism I had received regarding the series that triggered a spiral of self-doubt. There wasn't just one specific thing that lead to these feelings, but instead of standing firm and working past the conflict, I internalized the doubts, and became heavily discouraged about my own abilities to make something successful. I had scheduled to meet up with and interview two individuals that I felt were a solid fit to be featured in the GPS series, and just like previous features I went into each separate interview with hopes to highlight the attributes that made them the unique, complex, beautiful souls they are. I knew both individuals had messy life stories, and I made sure to respect their boundaries, so I structured my questions carefully while also reassuring them that vulnerability is of great importance to make this community flourish. While chatting with these two individuals I realized very quickly that my intended "message" with the series wasn't being perceived in the positive light I had hoped, creating much discomfort among them, and thus the two interviews were completely scrapped. This need for perfection is something I hear women speak of so often, that it snuffs out the potential for any imperfection to be used to inspire and connect with others, and that’s not something I will allow to overshadow the true meaning of this series. Perfection is a toxic word that is not welcome in my life nor any project that I have my hand on. I left those meetings feeling sad and defeated. It squashed my confidence in the series, and forced me to take a proper break to re-evaluate how I wanted to move forward, if at all.

 The soul behind GPS was always meant to be used as a tool to uplift and encourage, to create a honest community of females, to eliminate
competition and comparison, NOT to promote any sense of beauty standards, or entitlement. I understand now that the hesitation towards the series from these individuals came from a deep rooted insecurity and lack of confidence in themselves, and ultimately was not directly targeted at me; but I want the “featured” process to be a safe space for women to allow themselves to be vulnerable, and understand that they don’t need to have a certain physical stature, or be a certain age, or have some “fascinating” life story, but to just simply be genuine and authentic. So despite the many kind words of support, and excitement I received throughout the series, my mind was clouded too much by the criticism for me to justify carrying on for fear of failing. The presence of discouragement is something I’ve fought against heavily throughout my life, from pursuing journalism in college, to starting businesses, or making solid future plans. The second something I ventured toward brought forth any sense of discomfort , I withdrew from it, and found solace in being by myself. I know now through the help of therapy and counsel, that my anxiety towards a goal are directly related to my ability/or lack of ability to take control of it. If I feel out of control, the likelihood of me bailing is high, and the greater issues I’ve struggled with are at the basis, a control issue. This  mental tug-o-war has been a pattern the majority of my life, and has required years of prayer, and focus to combat it.

Enneagram Type 9- The Peacemaker
"People of this personality type essentially feel a need for peace and harmony. They tend to avoid conflict at all costs, whether it be internal or interpersonal. As the potential for conflict in life is virtually ubiquitous, the Nine's desire to avoid it generally results in some degree of withdrawal and many Nines are, in fact, introverted.
The Nine's inability to tolerate conflict sometimes translates into an overall conservative approach to change. Change can provoke unpleasant feelings and disrupt the Nine's desire for comfort. They tend to be more resilient than they give themselves credit for. In fact, Nines tend not to give themselves enough credit in general, and their self-effacing attitude often seems to invite others to take them for granted or to overlook their often significant contributions." 


Self-awareness is a beautiful thing. Knowing who are, why you think, feel, and function the way you do is a vitally important tool you have at your fingertips. When I read my Enneagram results I chuckled from words like withdrawn, and introverted that quickly grabbed my attention, reassuring my preconceived notion that I heavily reside in the "loner" department. As far back as I can possibly remember, I've had a crippling discomfort towards confrontation. The mere idea of someone being upset with me, makes me anxious. I'm quick to apologize even when the other persons at fault, and silence is something I've used as a safety net since a young age; to which all of these attributes lead me to find comfort in myself, in my own head, totally in control. You might be thinking how that makes me a weak person. Our minds can imprison us, and hold us back from fulfilling the very things God has called you, or I or any of us to do. Our weaknesses are not something we obtain by fault, but are tools we’ve been given to encourage our fellow neighbor, to uplift one another in unity and find common ground. If anything, my weaknesses are my driving force to be more than.

In my absence from the blog my life went through a tremendous amount of changes personally, and I found my need for this space, to write, to create, to feed my passion was greatly missed; but still there was great hesitation to give in. My situation was distracting me from my joy.We manage to underestimate the beauty of simplicity, and we overthink, over analyze, and question when we should just DO. So many times, I sat at my computer with the desire to write, to construct the feelings on my heart, but halfway in allow doubt to destroy my motivation, thus reverting my attention to something more comfortable. Over the course of the year God continually pressed on my heart to refocus on my purpose, because he knows the voids and desires of our hearts, and doesn’t want us to mistake our comfort for our calling. So I made some mental changes, to steal back the joy I allowed my own mind to rob me of, fighting against old habits.

"God will often disrupt your comfort, to confront your dysfunction”
-Steven Furtick
  
 The community we build around us as women is vital and essential. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for men in our everyday lives, because there most certainly is and should be. Our experiences as women are very unique to our sex so we need to be a pillar of support to one another, while still making space for our male counterparts.GPS is my belief in how easy and beneficial it is to compliment one another, to be a friend, and to support not only one’s successes, but also their shortcomings. If you find it difficult to connect with women on a deep emotional level, for fear of being judge or ridiculed, if you live in shame, if your situation is messy, or if you just don’t think your likable, I understand. I don’t know a single human being that hasn’t felt one or all of those feelings, that’s precisely why I created this series and why I’m more determined now to make a resource for women to uplift and and be uplifted. There hasn’t been anything I’ve felt more pressed to do than to speak truth, share peoples stories, and bring the things we struggle with to light out of a place of Godly love. Free from selfishness, free from conditions, and free from pride.

For those of you whom voiced your desire to see this series continue, you truly inspired me and I thank you for the support and patience throughout this past year. To every female reading this, you’re worthy, you’re loved, and I want to know
you.
Welcome to the Gal Pal Society.

Your pal,
Courtney 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Gal Pal Society: Sara

I'm extremely thrilled to be back with featuring amazing ladies every Friday, women that have personally touched my life in a number of ways, that inspire me greatly, and whom are kind hearted souls who strive to spread love to those around them and beyond.
This week I share my interview with Sara, from Miami, whom I met through Instagram, and who has become my friend from afar! She is a wife, mother of two, and such a sweetheart. She is a talented young women, with killer interior decorating skills, and a heart of gold which shows through with her adorable children.
Among our communication with one another thousands of miles apart, she has proven herself to be a genuine and compassionate human, who finds importance in diversity, and embracing the beauty in other cultures and lifestyles.
I'm always so grateful when I meet breathes of fresh air like Sara, who could care less about talking about their appearance or what materialistic things they have, and just be an amazing gal to have real conversation with. 



Sara: 26


Where are you from? Tell me a little bit about your upbringing.
I am from a small town called Deland, in Central Florida. I was raised by my Mom and Dad who split when I was young. My Mom raised 5 kids as a single Mom and my Dad was from Iran. Both of those factors helped shape who I am how I view the world. 

Current occupation/aspiration?
Right now, I am a stay at home Mom. When my daughter was born, I started making and selling baby shoes online and it became extremely successful. Fast forward a few years later, and I had to close it because we were going to be moving out of the country. When we finally decided that we were not moving, I had kind of lost interest with the business and opened up another one with my sister in law. I may eventually reopen it when my son gets a little older but ultimately, I would love to work in interior design. I love anything to do with design, which is what brought me to designing baby shoes, but designing homes would be my ultimate dream! At the moment though, I am taking things slow and spending as much time with my babies while they’re still little.

Favorite thing about your current city?
I live in a small suburb in Miami where most of the people are Latino and most don’t even speak English. It was a definite culture shock when we first moved here but I have come to love the Latin culture so much! They are extremely warm and open and I love how happy and LOUD they all seem to be as well. It’s more of a culture shock when I go back to my small hometown now.

 Your top female influences/muses? What's the best advice you've been given by a female?
I would say that my ultimate female muse is Princess Kate. I obviously don’t know her personally but I read her as being humble, kind, and down to earth. Those are three traits that I think are so admirable about her, especially considering her status.

I've always enjoyed following your travels through social media. What is your favorite place you've visited and why?
Hands down, my favorite place that I’ve ever been to is Istanbul, Turkey. I have never been so happy in a city before than when I was visiting Istanbul. The people are warm and friendly, the food is amazing (and cheap), the streets are overrun by stray cats (which are fed by the locals), and the weather and views are unbeatable. I learned so much about myself and about culture when I was there. We would go into restaurants and the shop owners would pick up the kids and kiss them on the cheek! Everywhere we went, my daughter received some type of gift from random people on the street. We felt so at home and welcome from the moment we arrived. It almost makes me sad thinking about the experience that those people must get when they visit the United States. I wish we could all learn from the Turkish people!

Favorite personal attribute/ personal character trait?
I would say that a favorite attribute of mine is that I am very emotional. I think that most people consider this to be a negative trait but for me, it’s helped me to be more open and understanding to people and situations.  It’s why I am who I am and I’m proud of that.

Your little family is beautiful. What are your kiddos names and ages? What is your favorite aspect about being a parent?
Thank you! My daughter is named Mila and she is four. She is my firecracker! My son is Simeon and he just turned 15months. They are complete opposites of each other, but it keeps things fun! 

My favorite part about being a parent is the different stages that I get to experience as they grow. I remember when my daughter was little, I would always say, “I can’t wait until she…” and every time she would get to that point, I would say another thing that I couldn’t wait for. Each stage comes with something new and it makes me so excited to be a parent because I am the only person (besides my husband), who gets to fully experience every single little quirk that my child has, and I love it so much.

How do you find balance for personal time, aside from caring for your children?
This is a tough one! I used to feel guilty for wanting time alone from my kids but I have grown to understand that the more time I put into nurturing myself, the more nurturing I can be as a parent. 

I put my kids to bed at a strict 8pm every single night. They not only sleep better when they go to bed earlier, but it gives me time to do things that I want/need to do for myself. My husband usually works pretty late, so I have about an hour before he gets home that I take a hot shower, read a book, or browse the Internet. It’s a tiny pause from life that I will NEVER take for granted.

What are specific ways you've helped instill confidence in your daughter? How do you find confidence in yourself?
I am fortunate that my daughter basically came out of the womb a strong and confident girl! I was always very shy and didn’t have much confidence as a kid so it makes me proud that she is the way she is. One of the many ways that I help instill confidence in her is reassuring her that everything is going to be okay. For instance, when she complains that she can’t do something, I always am sure to tell her that it’s fine if she can’t, and to either try again, or try something that she is better at. If she complains that a kid from school didn’t want to play with her, I remind her that it’s okay and that there are plenty other friends who would love to play with her and maybe that person was just having a bad day. I don’t want her to ever feel inadequate. She will always be more than adequate and if someone doesn’t feel that way about her, that is okay.

Favorite movie with a female lead, and why?
Okay, so obviously I watch way too many kid films these days, but the first one to pop in my head is Moana! I loved that she was a strong young girl who followed her dreams, persisted, and overcame challenges and did it with confidence and spunk. It was a refreshing Disney Princess movie to watch.

 What are your top 3 guilty pleasures as of late?
1.Peanut butter chocolate chip LaraBars. They taste like Reese's cups, and even though they are healthier, I consider them a guilty pleasure because I may or may not eat one every single day. 

2. My husband and I are addicted to watching "90 day fiancĂ©" on TLC. It's so bad, but SO good. 

3. Watching Liza Koshy on YouTube. She's so inappropriately funny. I just love her!

Why do you think female friendships are important, and what is absolutely vital for a healthy/thriving friendship? 
I think female friendships are so important because it's just so much easier to relate to a member of the same sex. Let's be honest, men are different! Sometimes when I'm feeling like I'm not doing enough, or not good enough, my female friends remind me that it's nothing to stress too much about because they are usually in the same boat.

The most vital thing for a healthy/thriving friendship is to be in one where you feel that you can be yourself with that friend. There have been a few friendships that I have simply lost interest in because I didn't feel like I could be myself around that person. I've grown to accept that that's okay.
 


What common mistake do females make in terms of communication and/or connection among other females? 
I've noticed that with women, and ESPECIALLY with other moms, we can be so quick to think that we know everything and just as quick to judge someone if they aren't doing things the way that we see are the right way to do them. Just be yourself, let others be themselves, and if it isn't personally effecting you, then just let it be. 
My mom taught me to be very adaptive when it comes to relationships with others. She is so accepting of people's flaws and will even go out of her way to defend that person, even if it's not something that she personally agrees with or would ever do herself. When you can cross the bridge and REALLY try to understand why a person does what they do, it is so much easier to feel compassion for and understand that person. In turn, you build healthy connections and communications and communication flows from there.

At what phase in life did you feel you discovered the importance of female connection, and was there ever a defining moment that helped you come to that realization?
This is an interesting question because for most of my life, I have felt more connected with males. I grew up with four brothers, so that obviously had a huge impact on the things that I was used to and the things that I was interested in. I was not much into doing make-up or hair, and I can never remember a time that I was obsessed with princess or fairies. I always felt a little out of place when I would go to a girly birthday party or a gathering with a lot of girls. When I got to high school and met my best friends, who are still my best friends today, that's when I realized the importance of female connection. My friends are extremely girly but they also have this goofy, stupid side to them that I always loved from having male connections. This made me realize that maybe sometimes it's not about being male or female, but about being open and getting to know people better because they can have qualities about themselves that make you feel uncomfortable, but other qualities that make them your best friend who you'd trust with anything.

You're personal mantra and/or favorite quote?
I have an alarm set on my phone every single day that reminds me to "only love today". Sounds cheesy but it's a nice reminder when I wake up, to try and focus on being a more loving, patient person. I am SO not a creature of habit and so setting a daily reminder really helps me to focus on how I want to start my day.

Sara,
thank you for sharing a bit of your story and outlook on your personal truth. I'm thrilled to continue a friendship, which will hopefully lead us to meet in person someday! Until then, I'm thankful for you, and our conversations from a thousand miles away!
You're awesome!



Thursday, September 14, 2017

Gal Pal Society: The foundation of friendship


For those of you who have followed my blog, or have been so kind to read it, may have noticed that it's been awhile(seven months) since my last post, specifically when it comes to Gal Pal Society. I decided to take a break from the series, and I had begun to question the message I was attempting to convey after several potential "features" gave negative feedback to the blog and proceeded to doubt my intentions as well. To say the least, it was quite discouraging and forced me to re-evaluate what exactly I wanted GPS to be and how I wanted to present it to my readers. I intended on jumping right back into things today with a new female feature, just like before, and hope that it would be welcomed back with unbiased opinion. I had my feature lined up and ready to interview, but instead I changed course and felt as though I should re-launch the series by first tackling some issues I think are top priority.


When I sat down to begin this post over a week ago I tossed around the notion of "setting the foundation of friendship", and what is vital for any thriving relationship? Two things quickly came to mind: self-awareness, and vulnerability. It would be easy to assume that our strengths are what make us likable, and we strive to impress; in our friendships, through social media, and in everyday interactions. The problem isn't that we want to highlight our accomplishments, but that we want to disregard every other part of ourselves as weaknesses for fear of being misunderstood. In our minds a friendship should exist without conflict, be beneficial rather than a burden;so when we begin to feel vulnerable we choose distance, preventing those around us access to our true selves.
Why are we so desperate to ignore the very things responsible for making us who we are, and creating a pristine narrative to explain who we're not?

self-a·ware·ness

conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires.


How do we expect others to understand us, if we have never made a genuine effort to examine the most delicate parts of ourselves?  To be self-aware, we must first understand our personal strengths and weaknesses, our behavior, and ultimately the impact we have on others; self-awareness is the key to self-love, and furthermore being capable of accepting love and support from others. To lack self-awareness can be devastating to any budding relationship, and more importantly for personal growth, because ignoring your own thoughts and feelings, is the self-conscious decision to live your life for other people. 
As women we allow ourselves to live for others on a regular basis. We sell it as "selflessness" when in reality it's because we lack "self-awareness". This not only rings true in friendships, but in relationships, and careers as well. If  you lack self-awareness, you are incapable of understanding,  and managing your own emotions, leading to great anxiety and stress. In order for us to open our hearts to others, we have to commit time to discovering what it is that makes us tick, and why. If we do so, we are far more capable of establishing deep-rooted, and thriving connections, with healthy expectations of others.

vul·ner·a·bil·i·ty
the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

Vulnerability is greatly avoided by most of us because it means we have to open ourselves to the possibility of  criticism, and/or judgement. We rather present ourselves with emotional stability, free from pain, or discomfort, and adversely denouncing the very things that make us relatable. The deliberate withholding of  your own vulnerability is denying those seeking you to connect with any amount of depth, and ultimately degrading the purpose of friendship as it was intended.
Women have the talent for great deflection and admittedly I have fallen guilty of this far too many times. We may be going through a difficult season in life, or just simply having a bad day and instead of confiding in those that care deeply for us, we deny our moment of weakness and say things like "it's no big deal", "there are greater problems in the world", "I'm just being a baby". We're diminishing our struggle when we should be embracing it. Our weakest moments are the very ones that strengthen our ability to relate to others.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

The greatest gift we can give others is our vulnerability, the purest form of ourselves. In a community of  Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, and Wives we are guilty of overcompensation and degradation of our characters and fearful of our imperfections. There needs to be a genuine effort beginning with ourselves to abolish the lie, that our worth is only measured by our success, and that we have no value in our weakness. We must be present in one another's lives, show interest and support for those around us, encourage self-awareness and vulnerability, and embrace every facet of those individuals we call friends. Hypocrisy holds no position in a friendship, and we should not tolerate our nature to diminish someone's bravery in being human.

I challenge you to explore these two topics this week. If you're struggling to deepen a friendship or searching for a new one, be the first to practice vulnerability, and share something profound with them. Be honest, be open, and be humble. Above all practice love and kindness! As always I hope this blog encourages and uplifts you in some way, and I thank you so much for taking the time to read.

Love you all.
Courtney




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Gal Pal Society: Be your own Valentine

It's been awhile since I did a "Gal Pal" post and I figured with today being Valentine's Day I wanted to do something special. I had an idea a few weeks back to create a post centered on female self-love and use it to encourage other gals out there to re-direct possible loneliness or disappointment on Valentine's Day and proclaim all of the things there are to love about ourselves! I had no idea who or how many ladies would be willing to be involved in my little idea, but I was entirely thankful for the beautiful women and young ladies below that entertained my vision and volunteered their time! I asked everyone to tell me three things they love about themselves and their idea of the perfect Valentine gift.
Whether you're married, single, or away from your spouse on this day, I want you to take time to evaluate all the beautiful things that make you, YOU! We MUST love ourselves before we can allow others to love us, and I hope this post inspires you to do just that!
Thank you again to every Gal Pal that was involved. I hope to continue this series for years ahead because it has inspired and encouraged me greatly. I hope to continue dedicating my life to creating uplifting female friendships, and helping women of all ages to embrace God's design and purpose over their lives.
I hope you enjoy reading, and have a love filled Valentine's Day!
Beth: 29
Stay at home Mama
"I'm loyal to my friends, I'm pretty okay in the baking department, I love my hair and I love trying new things! A movie date with my husband would be the perfect gift!"

Casilyn: 26
Independent MaryKay Beauty Consultant
" I love my hair. I like it long, and voluminous! My confidence. The older I get, the more confident I seem to be. The fact I have the gift of discernment, God gave that to me and it's been one of the most precious gifts.I want to receive a gift from the heart. Those intangible moments of healing of the heart, relationships, or spirit are the most precious gift."

Bailey: 18
Barista
"I love my sense of humor, the way I look in a dress, and my make-up skills. A movie night with pizza and milkshakes would be perfect."

Tyler: 30
Branch Manager/ Yoga Instructor
"I love being a mother to my baby boy Cohen and feel so lucky that God gave me him. The fact that I'm organized, goal oriented and very driven. Lastly, my name and the uniqueness behind it! If I could just receive love from my two boys: Cohen & Donny"

Jasmine: 23
Barista
"My personality, my smile and my laziness! I would love to receive an engagement ring or a necklace with my son's birthdate in roman numerals."

Vicki: 22
Front counter/ Back-up piercer at Hybrid Image
" I love my hair, my baking skills, and my goofy sense of humor. On Valentine's Day a dinner date to BD Mongolian Grill with my amazing hubby would be perfect!"

Brittany: 31
Preschool Teacher
"My ability to connect with children, my passion for nature/God's creation and my compassion towards others. I'd want to receive exactly what I'm already receiving: time with my husband and nature (he planned a trip to Yellow Springs)."

Rachel: 31
Stay at home Mom/photographer/former librarian
"My sarcasm, being proud to say I'm a good mom(been worried about that my whole life),and as my boyfriend says the fact that I'm "brutally honest". Perfect gift: hugs and kisses from my daughter Olivia!"
Gemma: 4
"I love being silly. I'm cute, and a good dancer! I would want something new, like a lego blind bag and a vanilla bean frappachino." (I had to google what a "lego blind bag" was, apparently I'm not caught up on childhood fads...)

Natalie: 32
Photographer"I like that God has given me the gift of creativity. I enjoy that I see things and immediately think I could make that! Challenge accepted. I'm a decent cook and baker. I'm blessed to be able to make good meals for my family. My kids are pretty great. It might not seem like something I like about me but I think your kids are often a pretty accurate reflection of yourself. Gifts really aren't my love language but chocolate is always good!"
Taylin: 12
Student
" I can be myself around anyone, I'm beautiful on the inside and out, and I stand up for what is right. My perfect gift would be chocolate!"

Lucy: 6
"My favorite thing is that I'm ME, and that I can jump off of things!"
Kayla: 26
Newborn Intensive Care, Registered Nurse
" I love my height (I used to be very self conscious about it). I've always had a deep desire to help people. I also like my handwriting. My perfect gift would be a tie between dark chocolate or pasta...or macaroons...or food in general."

Steph: 25
Graphic Designer Extraordinaire
"My ability to draw letters, I can connect with pretty much any child and my empathy towards others. The perfect gift would be hiking in the woods with a few people. Spending quality time with each other exploring God's creation and having conversations about Jesus."

Makayla: 12
Student
" I like that I don't care what anybody thinks or says about me. I like how I play basketball even though people say it's more for the boys. I also like that I'm an outgoing and fun person. I would like to receive a note from a friend or family member for Valentine's Day!"

Courtney: 27
Stay at home Mama, avid coffee drinker
"First and foremost I love what I have that society would deem  physical flaws like my big nose, thick eyebrows and gap in my teeth especially. I like my trusting nature. Although I've been burned more times than I can count I'm thankful God has instilled a forgiving spirit in me. I probably give people too many chances, but I strongly believe in people's ability to change. Lastly, I like my passion for writing, which I believe is truly God-given. I'm very much a loner and writing has given me a platform to connect with people I never imagined. My perfect V-day gift would definitely be a bubble bath, followed by watching 500 Days of Summer, and eating a pint of ice cream in bed, which I vow to fulfill tonight!"

Friday, January 6, 2017

Gal Pal Society:Carissa

Throughout life, we meet individuals who capture our hearts without hesitation, and present a sense of  intrigue and wonder among meeting them. I met Carissa through a mutual friend just a few short months ago, where we attended a local hockey game. It was quite frankly the easiest interaction I've ever had with a female, and thus a refreshing night spent laughing among the rowdy crowd. Her transparency regarding the good and bad of her life inspired me greatly, and her sincere heart towards others is what make Carissa the beautiful being that she is.
There aren't many people in the world that would be as genuine and forthcoming about trials in their lives that others might mock or persecute you for in an instant, but Carissa is as translucent and bold as they come. Not to mention, the girl is HILARIOUS, and I envy her comedic timing, and capabilities of her abundant wit and charm.
We spent the afternoon in her old and ongoing favorite Cincinnati neighborhood of Northside chatting about life, tattoos, photography,music, guilty pleasures, and everything in between. Although our friendship is as fresh as they come, anyone lucky enough to have met Carissa in their lifetime will understand why I was so eager to feature her. 
"I'm not a big coffee drinker, but if I see something that sounds interesting enough on the menu, I'll just go with it"
" I ordered these shoes and a bunch of chokers on Amazon. I was specifically searching for jelly shoes and stumbled upon these beauties".
"People ask me if I'm a big fan of Disney because of my tattooes. I say I'm more of a fan of the villans".
                                                                             
 What is your current occupation, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I am a "system prop stylist", which means I prep products to be photographed for commercial houseware catalogs. I am technically freelance, but am currently doing a lot with the company, Frontgate. It’s a very fast paced environment that keeps me on my toes, and although I tend to get injured and asked to do odd jobs like steam fresh oysters, or stand in a fancy pool fully clothed I do greatly enjoy it and the team I work alongside.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or seen on the job?
 One time we shot in the Black Dahlia house which was lived in by the actual black dahlia serial killer.  It was interesting yet eerie knowing that we were walking the same halls and standing on the same lawn where his victims had suffered, died and were eventually buried. No one currently lives in the home but it is believed there are still the bodies of victims within the walls and buried in the yard, which was somewhat unsettling.

 If you could photograph anyone who would it be?
Probably anyone that’s heavily tattooed or practices some sort of body modification. Really anyone that is unique and physically different. I have many celebrities in mind I’d more so rather meet and fan girl over than take their photo but overall those that interest me most are individuals that scream weird.

 Any new years resolutions/goals?
I hate that I believe in new years resolutions, but yes I really would like to get back into photographing people. I have a lot of portrait ideas, and  am craving more personally driven creativity in my life these days.

What made you decide to start a blog about your struggles with mental health? Do you feel it has helped in your recovery?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, and it has always been very therapeutic for me. I began blogging this past summer so it’s new, but I really enjoy putting my thoughts down on paper, and using my personal story as a tool to help others. I was diagnosed with "bipolar disorder" and "borderline personality disorder" at age 16 to which lead me to therapy shortly after. My therapist thought I had made enough progress in my treatment so he said I no longer needed his help months later. I definitely believed I was on the right track, but soon my violent outbursts came flooding back and I was not equipped to handle them on my own, so I checked myself into a facility last year and stayed there for eight days. When I was released I spent the next several months searching for a new therapist and getting my medications sorted out. I was lucky to have found a therapist I really trust, and finally have medications, and coping skills for my once violent outbursts towards others, that I'm now able to manage in a healthy way. I hope that those that take the time to read through my blog can be educated in some way about mental health, especially because we live in a world where "mental illness" is labeled so harshly and most see as a very scary thing, but it's not if you show empathy towards those whom might be struggling.
Carissa has a personal blog, where she shares more of her story and struggles in depth. It's definitely worth the read! (Link is directly below)
A Silence So Loud

Describe yourself in three words?
Creative, Weird, Adventurous.

 Your three favorite attributes?
I’m trying to be more giving of my time, or resources. I hate seeing people I care about struggling, so I've offered to pay vet bills or write school papers, even if I don't necessarily have the means to do so. I'd like to focus more of my energy on giving any way I can.
I’m very spontaneous and open to trying new things. I once got a pineapple tattoo on a total whim which was one of the milder things I've done. At 16, I jumped into my parent's car, barefoot, at midnight, and attempted to run away with the ocean in mind. A cop ended up stopping me and I was taken in the backseat. It was a mixture of boyfriend issues, and irrational tendencies that come with borderline personality. Fun!
I’m also quite entertaining. I believe a lot of my goofiness stems from wanting others to be happier than what I've been throughout my life. Robin Williams once stated (regarding his depression):
“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”
I think this idea is most definitely true, and I relate strongly to it.

 Something you did/accomplished this past year you’re most proud of?
For sure making all the progress I’ve had with my therapy. I'm NOW on the right path and am proud of where I'm headed.

 What are girls doing wrong in regards to sisterly friendships?
Too much comparison with jobs, family dynamics, weight, self-image. Not really recognizing that everyone has different pasts, and their own life timing is different. Societal pressure seems to have ladies turning against one another with comparison even in the healthiest friendships.I’m guilty of doing the same in my own life, which takes away from the capability of recognizing others successes and celebrating that.

If you chose a female who was on some level of "heroin" status in your eyes whom would you choose and why?
It's an offbeat choice, but Tina Fey.I appreciate her sass, wit and sense of humor. If I could unrealistically meld Amy Poehler and Tina Fey into one being that would be my ultimate, but regardless Tina Fey is my jam.

What is the most profound advice you were given by a female, and whom was it from?
Basically any advice from my sister is great advice: stay true to yourself, try to be empathetic and compassionate to others, but stand up for yourself if someone is trying to take advantage of that.

Carissa,
I'm not only thankful for you, your honesty, and your beautiful presence, but you have truly inspired me among this process of featuring you. You have taught me so much in the short time we've known each other, and I can see why you are beloved by so many. Seriously, never stop being you, and never get rid of the pink hair!



Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Eliminating bitterness in your marriage.


 Bitterness is toxic.
 It can poison our minds into believing that forgiveness is an impossible feat, and waver our hearts desire to love our spouse unconditionally. Whether it stems from weeks, months or years before, it's not easily shaken nor corrected.
 This world is full of  grudges, and chips on soldiers, reacting with a defensive head instead of a compassionate heart. Even as Christians we too often hold resentment towards others, deliberately ignoring the simple truth that God forgives us on a daily basis without question.
Throughout Chris and I's five years of marriage, we have fed into the enemies lies of selfishness, resentment, bitterness, and denial over and over and over again. I have been the emotionally broken, short tempered, overly defensive, hurt driven wife, and he's been the non-apologetic, argument seeking, verbally abrasive husband, all stemming from those very lies.
 You've heard it said before "Hurt people, hurt people" and boy is that profoundly true. So what is it about bitterness and pain that is SO blinding? Is it because we live in fear of the idea of someone hurting us, or that pride really does hold immense power? I've heard my pastor say many times that we know pride is blinding because even the devil thinks that evil will prevail when it's all said and done. He still somehow believes he has the chance to win against God. Imagine that. We succumb to the same fallacy in our personal lives and furthermore, our marriages. We are driven by the notion of "I'll get you before you get me", and we build up a wall of  unrealistic emotional needs and standards that gives our spouse no other option but to fail. Our spouse is supposed to be our partner, yet we spend far too much time keeping score. Perhaps this is why the current divorce rate in the United States is 50 percent, which we could factor into a very long list of possibilities, but if we cannot recognize the most abundant possibility being the lack of God centered marriages, we are simply mocking the very sanctity of marriage itself.

 
Forgiveness vs. Forgetfulness.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that forgiveness and forgetfulness go hand in hand.
 God commands us to forgive. Not forget.
  Matthew 6:15 says, "If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
 
If we fear God's judgement, then forgiving should be the easy part, but forgetting can be a much larger task and takes time,patience, and effort from both you and your spouse. This is where we tend to struggle the most in our bitterness.
Personally, I tend to be a very emotionally guarded individual, loving hard but always from a distance; this has rang especially true throughout Chris and I's relationship. Early on there were  situations that caused heartache, and allowed bitterness to override forgiveness, because what I was receiving from my husband is not what I believed I deserved as his wife. Even when I would proclaim forgiveness, I struggled to remain emotionally vulnerable towards Chris, which I thought was for my own best interest, but in reality was hindering any growth in our covenant.  The constant question of "Why would he do this to me if he loved me?" became overwhelming and my desperation to guard my heart from further pain left me emotionally numb and withdrawn. Instead of focusing on the apology, I would regress back to the memory, re-living the pain, like ripping off a scab, and in turn I became a hypocrite in my forgiveness.
Sadly, I was overlooking a very important factor in the process. I was living in the past instead of having faith in the future. I was confusing forgiveness for forgetfulness, because I was afraid that if I moved beyond the hurt Chris wouldn't feel the need to rebuild trust.

Forgiveness is instant. Trust takes time.
In Rick Warren;s book, "The Purpose Driven Life" he says:
Many people are reluctant to show mercy because they don't understand the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past. Trust has to do with future behavior. Forgiveness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it. Trust must be rebuilt over time. Trust requires a track record. If someone hurts you repeatedly, you are commanded by God to forgive them instantly, but you are not expected to trust them immediately, and you are not expected to continue allowing them to hurt you.

Trust has been my biggest downfall in marriage.
Trusting someone requires the wall you've worked so hard to build, to fall; leaving you exposed and vulnerable. From someone who likes to be in control, this is quite terrifying! Although my intentions to trust in Chris were genuine, the fear of disappointment was a burden too heavy to bare. 
But trust is built on faith. Faith in what is unforeseen, not in our own understanding.

2 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.


If bitterness is based in pride, and pride is based in sin, and sin can only be forgiven by God, why do we continue to rely on ourselves to overcome it? We're not doing ourselves any favors by  guarding our hearts, instead of opening them up for God's blessings. Having faith does not mean we will not have suffering, but we will have peace in knowing we don't have to find a solution on our own. God does that for us. Faith does not make you a victim, or minimize your hurt, It takes far more strength to have faith in what you cannot see, than dwell on what you can.

Agape.
Unconditional love that is always giving and impossible to take or be a taker.It devotes total commitment to seek your highest best no matter how anyone may respond. This form of love is totally selfless and does not change whether the love given is returned or not.
Do you love your spouse or Agape love your spouse?
If you're confused by the differential values of the two then you may be loving your spouse out of expectation instead of with purpose. In a society where "love" is plastered on anything and everything, completely disposable, it's no wonder many have lost sight of how to love properly in their marriages. Do you love your husband/wife like you love pizza, or do you love like God loves you?
To overcome bitterness, we must love like God. There's no other way.
I fail at this daily.
If we put sacrificial love at the forefront of our relationships, we will trump all possible resistance, including bitterness.

1 Corinthians 13:4-84. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Loves does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
Was this scripture part of your wedding day? It was ours. It is for many, and for good reason. Imagine if you sat down with your spouse and made a habit of reading it on a regular basis. We need to remind ourselves often of what God designed the covenant to be, and if we do so we will undoubtedly experience thriving and flourishing marriages.

 
Ways to combat bitterness:- Pray with and for your spouse
-Reset and manage expectations for one another
-Set guidelines to feel more secure in your relationship
-Eliminate "you never", and "you always" from your vocabulary
- Drop ultimatums.
-Seek Godly couple's counsel
-Reassurance, reassurance, reassurance.
-Voice your hurt.
-Refrain from "venting" to loved ones about your spouse
-Fast, and talk to God
-Hold hands, hug, kiss, make love.(It may be the last thing you want to do, but physical connection should not be abandoned)
-Replace tv time with conversation


I hope if you are one that is struggling with hurt or bitterness in your marriage, you find comfort in the truth that you can and will overcome whatever trial you and your spouse are facing. Marriage is tough, but God is bigger, and I'm thankful for that beautiful truth. As draining as this post was to write, I'm thankful for EVERY bit of my testimony no matter how painful. I'm blessed to have a husband who continues to fight alongside me for a healthy and abundant marriage, and I will NEVER allow the enemy to destroy the promises I made before my groom nor my God.