BE STILL

Be still in the presence of The Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Psalm 37:7

Two years ago next month I began an intentional walk with The Lord, one I still continuously work on to build relationship with Him. It marks the biggest, most beautiful change of season I have experienced in my life. But, amidst the beauty, it has also come with trials, tribulations, heartbreak, and lots of tears. By no means has it been a faultless walk with choices I made and the circumstances I experienced. But, I will say with each hurt there has been twice as much grace—an amount of grace I can thankfully be still in.

So, what does it even mean to be still? What does it look like, what does it feel like to wait patiently for Him to act? In my Christian walk there have been many times I have heard the phrase be still in The Lord. Honestly, that statement brought me so much frustration more times than I care to experience. In hearing it, I was filled with confusion, ultimately leaving me feeling disconnected from God. In turn, this just brought me to more frustration and hurt, leaving me feeling like I was the only one who didn’t understand this secret to be still. 

Along with beginning my walk with The Lord almost two years ago, I also began a walk of inner healing within myself. Along that journey also came a beautiful woman gifted straight from God. This woman came after I took a brave step in walking in to a counseling office in my church. Since then this women has been a voice of hope, an empathetic listener, and a loving heart with hands full of grace for nearly two years. I have been blessed with the great gift of watching her grow in completing her work experience, to obtaining her license, and now on her way to becoming a mother. Along with becoming a mother comes maternity leave. Though I am so happy for this season of her life, I will also be missing her weekly presence greatly. But, knowing that each season doesn’t last forever, I know we will be back to our weekly sessions when this season ends.

In one of my last weeks with my counselor, she encouraged me to intentionally watch the sunset every day of the week to just be still with The Lord. My first thought was…wait, that is my goal of the week? To do my absolute favorite thing and watch the sunset? If you know me and you have seen me at the golden hour of the evening, then you know how infatuated I am with watching God light up the sky in all of His glory at sunset each day.  With this goal, my counselor advised, “…Be still with The Lord.” I interrupted with an irritated tone, “What does that even mean?!” It was like all of the times I had heard the phrase be still built up into one annoyed response that left me feeling defeated, alone, unable to accomplish the mission of being still in the presence of The Lord watching His fingerprints paint the sky above me. Lovingly, my counselor smiled back at me, as she always does, agreeing how confusing the common statement be still can be. So, she explained how this can be done…

 

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  1. Showing up and saying, “Here I am, God.”
  2. Being mindful—what do I see, hear, smell, taste, and feel?
  3. Letting each thought come and go, not holding on to it longer than the moment.
  4. Loving myself where I am at and with what I have.
  5. Remembering to BREATHE.

 

 

Though my go-to spot over the years has been where the salt water meets a million tiny grains of sand in fierce, but gentle waves, I don’t currently have the luxury of walking across the street to put my toes in the sand quite the same way I did for the past 5 years. So, I have ventured off and found an untouched-by-Tiffany, quiet spot near my new home. This spot takes a short hike in some dirt, a surge of motivation to make it uphill, and a little more improvising to find the right place where I can stay comfortable, yet out of the way of any trail-walkers/bikers/runners/dog-walkers. So, I sit. I put my phone on airplane mode and out of sight. I whisper nervously in my heart God, here I am. I allow myself to keep my eyes wide open—naming and noticing each color, cloud, and thing in the sky. I feel— I feel all of the things happening inwardly as well as outwardly. I feel the grumble of my stomach saying I am hungry. I feel the fear in my heart wondering how seen I really am. I taste the cool winter breeze as I take deep breaths. I hear the birds, the wind, the dog walkers, the mountain bikers, the joggers, and the chit chatters as they walk on the trail. I let my thoughts come and I release them back to the Hands that are greater and safer than my own—freeing myself from fixating on one single thought/feeling/experience. I am still.

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LOVABLE

As I walked passed the mirror at LA Fitness sporting my favorite multi colored neon work out leggings and grey FILA shirt, a gigantic pit of self consciousness formed in my stomach faster than I could blink. Between my pants and sports bra line, I could see my stomach purging through my clothes. Fear and degrading words endlessly drove around my mind and heart while looking at my reflection. It wouldn’t take too long for anyone to feel unloved after hearing voices like these.

The truth is I am lovable. I wish it wasn’t so hard to say. I wish it wasn’t like using the jaws of life to break the chain of shame and guilt on my heart. But, today, it is. It feels like I’m sinking in quick sand as I try to convince myself how lovable I am. This morning the sun came up and tonight it will go down—in each of those moments I am lovable. As I move through emotions of low self-worth, I am still as loved as when confidence is flowing out of me. When life is hard, I am loved; when life is good, I am loved. Even in the moments I can’t possibly comprehend how someone could love me, I am.

As I peddled my way through cycle class on Monday night, I gave myself one single task to complete. It had nothing to do with reaching a certain RPM or burning the right amount of calories—it didn’t even require actually finishing the class. My task was only to to allow myself to breath in and out that I am loved. So as I peddled slower than the previous week, the frustration built up in my heart looking at my reflection on the stationary bike. Hate, self pity, and self consciousness grew, but my heart screamed, “I am loved.” Over and over again for the 40 minutes I stayed in class, my heart continued, “I am lovable.” I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, but I instead my heart whispered, “I am lovable.”  Echoing from my heart, I barely believed the words I was repeating. But, again, “I am lovable.”  In all of my pain, in all of my disgust with myself, I said, “I am lovable.”

I didn’t leave the class liking my body or myself anymore than when I entered it. But, it was a practice—a practice I continue as often as I can remember. Even as I write about this after the fact, a pit of self doubt wants to question myself on if I am still lovable. But, I say ” I am loved.” I repeat how lovable I am even when my feelings say otherwise. In the middle of hate and anger, I am not loved any more or any less. I am loved and so are you.

WORTHY

Do you feel it? Do you feel the worthiness, the amount of enough, the completely lovableness that you are?

My answer: no. I don’t feel it. I don’t feel absolutely accepted and unfailingly loved. Yet, I am. The head knowledge and the heart experiences don’t match up. So, how am I coping with that today? First of all, I am being intentional about breathing. Not the kind of breathing that keeps me alive, but the type of breathing that keeps me aware—aware of where I physically am in the moment, conscious of the feelings I am experiencing (especially when my breath becomes short, feeling panicked). Secondly, I have to remind myself to ask simple questions that can sometimes feel really hard. Like, what am I feeling right now? What may have triggered such feelings? But, don’t forget the most important… What do I need? What do I need from myself, from someone who is safe to me, or even from God? I often forget He is closer than anyone else and isthe simplest, most capable to ask.

In this moment I am feeling anxious. Drowned with worry of the future, overwhelmed with how I get to achieve my dreams, fearful of never being capable or “good enough” to have it. But, in this moment I am being intentional, so I can remind myself of a few things that I NEED to know.

 

 

I need to know I don’t have to worry about the future. He is in control—those Hands are much safer than my own.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 

…How peaceful the thought to not only survive this life, but live it abundantly.

I need to know I don’t have to be strong all of the time.

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to  your word. Psalms 119:28

…He knows I am not strong enough for all things and that is okay.

I need to know God doesn’t love me because of how much I am. Because of His love I become enough for all things, not because of what I am capable of doing or not doing.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

…He did not wait for me to be “good enough” to decide He would die for me.

The practice of today is claiming in my heart how incredibly worthy and loved I am. Let me tell you, it’s rough. It feels awkward and I want to squirm and shout out all my faults. Sometimes I want to reject it so badly I become angry at the idea of someone telling me how loved and accepted I am even in my failures. So, baby steps and deep breaths, meditating on a deep deep love that is beyond my understanding. Not feeling it today doesn’t make it not true—this goes for you, too.

MY LIFE AND THE ADVENTURE IN IT

If you were to take a look into the young mind of Tiffany, you would see the dreams of world traveling, spontaneous choices, and courageous activities. Some of these could include jumping out of planes and bungee jumping off bridges in monumental places, riding on the back of European scooters, or having life changing conversations with people who come from all different cultures and families. Overall, I would say you would see a life of constant adventure. You would see the things you dream up in your own heart and mind of what adventure means to you.

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I’ve spent a good portion of my life waiting for this big grand life changing adventure that would completely fill my life up with love, laughter, and joy to last a lifetime. I’ve waited for the time to take off and go do all of these things I’ve dreamed of. I’ve waited for the money to provide the trip of a lifetime. I’ve waited for the maturity to handle the situations to come with an adventure like that, along with the desire to be smart enough to handle anything that might come along the way.

This is what I have come to realize in waiting for the time, the money, and the maturity, however. I’ve let some of the greatest adventures pass me by. The escapades of staying up all night to watch the sunrise on the side of the world where the sunsets, the joy that comes in the late night conversations outside of In-N-Out with some of the best people you will ever meet, even the things that don’t sound like any fun at all. Like, walking the beach trail at sunset in tears of the heartbreaks and hurts of the broken world in the midst of wondering if there really is a peace that surpasses all understanding.

So, what is my adventure today? Today, my adventure is nothing that I would have dreamed up. It isn’t riding on the back of a motorcycle with the wind in my hair, listening to country music and shouting, “I love you, Jesus!” It isn’t all smiles and laughter, wanting to hold onto this moment forever. Today, my adventure is acceptance. It is accepting the things I cannot change, and accepting who I am right now in this moment and loving her even if I don’t like her. This is a journey that never even crossed the young mind of Tiffany. I didn’t think adventure came with tears and hurt. I wouldn’t have expected that the most growth would come from my most weak, heartbreaking moments.

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Today, I am practicing accepting my body for exactly what it looks like right now, and loving it when I don’t like it. Loving the stretch marks, the bloating, the face break outs, and the eyebrows that aren’t on fleek. Today, I am practicing forgiving the ones who hurt me, even if they don’t say they are sorry. Today, I am practicing liking the people I love who have caused me pain even when they didn’t mean to. Today, I am practicing accepting it is okay that I am not yet who I want to be, and that it will be a lifelong journey to get there. Today, I am practicing trusting the painful, emotionally draining moments of the day and that I will be made new and brought to completion. Today, I am practicing accepting that even if I don’t see God’s hand moving in my life right now, He is working in and through me. Today, I am practicing receiving the grace from a God purely based on love and not on any of my achievements with work, school, fitness, ministry, or anything else the world says we need to do to be successful. Today, I am practicing knowing there is nothing more I can do to be unconditionally loved.

So, this is my adventure…acceptance. An adventure I didn’t dream up, but made by the King of the world. An adventure I wouldn’t have expected, but was gifted with. An adventure filled with cries, brokenness, but a whole lot more joy that has come in an unforeseen way. An adventure that is bigger than just my own life, but the glory of God’s Kingdom.

I dare you to ask, seek, and wonder what not only the adventure of your life is, but what the adventure of your day is. What experiences are you missing out on now by dreaming of what could one day be?

I AM

@TIFFANYSANDRAAIf someone asked me about who I was, I would probably start explaining different parts of myself. My name is Tiffany. I have blue eyes. My hair is brown, it’s wildly curly, and it took me 23 years to appreciate and grow comfortable with it. My favorite number is four and I usually have a sweater tied around my waist like an elementary school kid. I’m not really sure if I laugh or cry more, but the majority of the people in my life would probably testify to it being laughter and I would have to say I agree. Trust me when I say tears form in my eyes at LEAST once a day, even if they don’t end up coming to completion and actually falling out of my eyes and down my face. I cry when I read a card in an aisle at the market, I cry when I pray, I cry when I’ve been hurt, I cry when I look at my life and everything that has happened in it, I cry from laughter…you get the point, I cry a lot. I take lots of pictures, a good portion being ridiculous selfies I send to my friends, which are always greatly appreciated. Thanks, pals! I find any reason I can to get everyone together for a celebration. I have often spoken before I thought, but I would say that is an area of my life changing continuously. I talk a lot, but am learning about what it takes to be a good listener, too. I love anything and everything outdoors. I’m a walker, hiker, yogi, runner, swimmer, and all things nature-centered. I am usually partly filled with fear as I try anything new and adventure-worthy, but at this stage of my life, fear has been my greatest motivation to follow through with something, and it has proven to be successful. I am very clumsy and have started mindfully practicing balance in my physical, emotional, and spiritual life. I’ve made lots of choices, some of which have ended in disaster, others in glory. I have existed on this earth for 23 years and have only just begun to understand who I truly am. So, while all of these things do describe parts of who I am, they aren’t the essence of what I have really been made up of.

So, who is Tiffany really? Under the clumsiness of running into tables and corners, behind the choices that ended up disasters, and the battle of insecurity of curly hair and all things body image related, what is beneath the laughter and tears and jokes? At the center of these parts that make up Tiffany is a little girl who is infinitely loved by the creator of the sun, the stars, and the universe. Through every choice that came with a painful consequence, knowingly or unknowingly, is a little girl justified through every single choice ever made and to be made. Inside she is, and always will be, a little girl who can’t do or say anything to earn the right to be loved, cherished, and appreciated. This girl was, is, and always will be seen only for the purity of her heart and not from her outward appearance. A little girl whose story has been written and has been treasured in her most vulnerable state of her unformed substance. Each of her days have been written and formed specifically for her. She was fearfully and wonderfully made and is a light in a world where darkness is extreme. She has been designed for a greater will that is bigger than her own ways of thinking and dreaming. She is gifted with an astronomical amount of grace and blessed with purposeful gifts designed specifically for her. She was bought with the price of the blood of the son whose father is the creator of the universe.

I haven’t always thought of or seen myself in this way. It has only been recently that I have started reminding myself daily that I am not a stupid, worthless, idiot who is destined for failure because of her academic outcomes and choices. It has only just started that when I start to think of myself, I can remember the purposeful, loving, appreciated, life I was made to live. I keep comparing myself to the layers of an onion. Totally not cliché, right? But, it makes sense. Each day a new layer seems to fall and I get to know better and better about my purposeful gifts and how I am meant to use them. While I am all these things, I am also just another human trying to figure out this thing called life like all of the millions of other people who are living or surviving in this world.

I’m not sure about you, but in my life, there is a hope instilled in me that comes from the most genuine part of my heart, telling me for certain that there is more to this life than surviving and just bearing circumstances. There is a hope and a light that says I can live abundantly and fearlessly, a light that shines brightly reminding me to constantly live boldly, not living on the basis of fear and failure with work or school. Maybe you have this, too, and maybe you don’t. If you don’t, then I dare you to question, ask, seek, and wonder who you really are and what you were made to be. Even if you don’t believe it, you are made for purpose and it would be a lost abundant life to be lived without finding out what you were fearfully and wonderfully made to be.

DARLING

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Oh, my sweet grandmother. She is such a loving soul, yet can’t see it herself. She is blind to her own beauty. In every conversation, I remind her how precious she is. This darling grandma eagerly awaits my reminder of how much I love her.  Our relationship is a reminder to me as to how big of an influence sharing love with one another can be. Just one short phone call filled with affirmation and encouragement is the much needed TLC for the broken parts of us.

We live in a fallen world. A world where we will experience horrible moments, sometimes more than we experience unfailing love. But, in the midst of good or bad, when I saw this women smile, making silly faces together is a moment of unconditional love we both delight in. Both of us were reminded through love (and FaceTime) that we aren’t alone even when shit hits the fan. Love reveals a joyful spirit in the midst of unimaginable losses. Love says I can do hard things no matter what. This is the love I delight in while laughing with my grandma.

SUNDAY

Transitioning from full-time work to full-time student things can get a little hectic. As that happens during any life transitions for all people, I have had trouble finding a new routine. New isn’t bad, it’s just different. Doing things differently than they were done before just means you need time to adjust. As I said, these things aren’t bad, but they are hard. New, different, change, adjustments—these are seasons in our lives where we grow and learn, but also struggle and fight. Lately I have been hearing a lot of talk about seasons—different seasons of our lives. During these different seasons, I have experienced long walks in dried up valleys sensing a constant misery, then high moments filled with glorious vegetation and sustenance to keep the body moving forward. In this season of my life, it is equally the high moments and the low moments. The amount of bitterness evens out the sweetness, making it just right. Not that this means my life is easy, but my life IS joyful.

 

I had read and been told that The Lord doesn’t allow anything to happen that He can’t use for good. I had also been told that He can make beauty out of ashes. But I didn’t feel it or notice it because I haven’t always  trusted Him (this is still a daily struggle). I didn’t find the light in the darkness until I started trusting God’s promise that He will use everything He allows to happen in my life for the good of His kingdom. Now I can see, feel, and (when I listen very closely) maybe even hear the work of my Heavenly Father in my life. As my Rooted bible study says, “…we have no reason not to see the fingerprints of God in His work.”

For since the creating of the world, God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20

So, during this chaotic time of transition and, more importantly, this time of personal/spiritual growth, I am thankful for the good that has come from the chaos. I am thankful for the fingerprints. Not always have I appreciated certain days of the week. But, I have come to love Fridays and Sundays. The reason I have come to love Sundays is it has become a day full of love—love of God, love of my friends, love for myself, but also love of time. I have time for the things that bring me love and joy, which is a precious gift in life given from God. I am learning this more with every passing season in my life. Previously, I had found that I had become so busy, always needing to do something, that I forgot how important time is. I now know I have to make space for the things I want in my life to grow—for God, for myself, for my relationships with my friends and family. For these gifts to grow, I believe they should be patiently tended to. Before, I had no time for myself and the time I spent with my friends had become rushed and hurried because of always having to be somewhere and do something. I didn’t even have time for my own thoughts, let alone starting a relationship with God. Those things take time, work, and effort, all things that are now very new to me, gifts I now feel blessed to have.

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In all the chaos of life, I have found a love for Sundays. Not for the day or time of the week it is, but for the love that comes in a Sunday during this season of my life. Getting to spend the morning praising and hearing about the Word of God with friends and family that I enjoy spending time with, getting to delight in the majestic beauty of the ocean and warmth of the sun strolling the beach trail, while ending the night in a circle of my best friends enjoying dinner and treats discussing the current highlights of our lives. It’s in this we support each other along the way of this busy, troublesome, chaotic, blissful life we all live.

A THOUGHT FROM THE DAY

With today being my first Wednesday after school with homework and my new routine, I decided to try out a new technique I thought of before I began homework early this afternoon. This was after my morning hot vinyasa class, which was extremely refreshing.

It was my first time attending a hot vinyasa rather than a warm vinyasa. I really enjoyed the hotter class. When it comes to hot yoga, I always say the hotter the better! I love the feeling of being immersed in my own sweat as my body twists and turns into different postures, watching my body reach new goals and getting stronger. When class is over, my whole being feels refreshed as the first breaths of cool air strike my sweaty skin. I feel my muscles loosen and my body cracks into its natural placement as I desire to develop this as a routine. I have also noticed that as I have increased and stayed consistent with regular yoga, I have been able to keep a more fluid breath daily. It was odd to realize how often I actually hold my breath. I like the the rhythm of breath my body has been experiencing recently.

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So here was my new bright idea before starting my homework earlier: every hour take a 15 minute break for myself. During that break I can be doing anything from savasana, also known as corpse pose (one I want to practice a lot) to praying, writing, breathing, walking, a snack, whatever it might be. Just making sure I fit in time for myself to relax, renew, and become refreshed, letting my mind, body, and soul become one together at a balance in this crazy thing called life. I would like to thank myself for the time to be still out of each of the daily demands. Of course I can exceed 15 mins or go longer than an hour. The point is, to make sure each day I allow myself time to just be still.

When I was away at my women’s retreat, I participated in this art exercise with a marriage and family art therapist. One of her rules was there really were no rules and that if we go out of her guided directions, that is still encouraged. The way she explained no rules hit me as I was letting paint flow naturally from the paint brush in my hand onto my canvas, with colors of red, gold and yellow, eyes in the corner, and a cross in the middle. The art in making was becoming a story to be told.

So, I like to stick to this rule the teacher gave to us—not to stick to the rules. I tend to get too hard on myself and out of whack when I decide something and don’t follow it. But, taking her piece of advice with me, I do my best to remember that rules are only guidelines for the moment and are always subject to change. This allows my heart to flow a little more freely, letting me be in the present moment and remembering I am always enough. 

BLISSFULL

Although I should be doing homework right now, my mind is full and needs to empty. So here we are. Me venting about what is on my mind. This is why I love writing so much.

But, I am just sitting here and thinking about my life. About the people in it, the people no longer in it, the people who I would say are half in and half out. I’m thinking about money. I am thinking about all the money I no longer have after this week and the bullshit it entailed. I am wondering if this storm I have felt stuck in is over or not. I am missing running, so deeply and so passionately that I am literally craving it, as if it is a piece of my favorite cake I am longing to have. I am thinking about my relationship with my boyfriend and where we are at. I am thinking about all the things I have to do and tasks that must be completed. I am thinking about rest, how I don’t even know what that is anymore. What is it to really rest? How do you do it? What are the actions to take in order to complete this desire? I am thinking about the fact that I am going to have to live in this house for another X number of months/years. I am thinking about change, and all that will take place in the future. I am thinking about my life.

Philosopher Heidegger and Beauvoir discuss, write, and talk about the actual being of something. For instance, a piece of paper. Or even you or me. What does it mean for us to be? Am I all of the facts and experiences that have taken place in my life? Am I the music I like? Am I my successes and my failures? Who am I? Philosophy book, The Great Conversation says, “…you are essentially what you can be. You are a certain ‘potentiality-of- Being,’ to use Heidegger’s language. Unless I understand your possibilities, I will not understand you.”  Oh boy, do I love that—to know at least I am what I am capable of. Even though I am capable of failures, I am even more greatly capable of success. Even though it is hard to feel on the surface right now, I know that feeling is hidden in my heart to be true.

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So, I am running on empty, with only the fuel of hope keeping me going. Hope isn’t enough to get by, but you need it to get by successfully. As many times before in my life, I feel in the middle of a storm, as if a tornado came by out of nowhere and uprooted me, once again, into a spiral of chaos. But, here is what I have learned in a life filled with constant unexpected storms: storms always come to an end, the storm always settles. And even though I might not have seen why the storm came before, when it is over, it is clear what went wrong to cause it to occur. Charles Sanders Pierce, another early philosopher, once defined the term “opinion.” He explained the word to mean: those we arrive at after reflection, conversation with others, and taking thought. So, as I was saying, after the storm ends I always can see why it came and why it needed to pass through. After giving it the time of reflection, talking it over, and developing my own thoughts on the storm, I can see.

You would think it would be harder to have to wonder if the storm will ever end. But, it seems harder to know that it will end. Because this makes me feel guilty for having so much pain and agony over my current state of chaos. Why should I get so upset about something I know won’t last forever? Well, because it still hurts. Even though the broken bone will heal, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt while it’s breaking. Here is something else I have been taking note on lately: it isn’t necessarily which one is harder than the other one (i.e. will the storm end vs. it will end)—it is just hard. Both of them are painful. It isn’t the measurement of the amount of hurt, it is the quality of hurt. Either way, the hurt hurts on either side of the spectrum.

It seems so blissful to live a life so full of blessing, yet so much chaos at the same time. What a life I live.