There are times in your life where you pray hard. Really hard. Because you know He listens. And it's beautiful and safe and reassuring.
Tonight I sit in our baby's finished nursery and its one of those nights where I'm praying with everything that's in me.
Our plan is to successfully achieve a natural birth, if it is in His will, and as our due date rapidly approaches I recognize that it is only with God's strength, peace and presence will I accomplish this task that seems so mountainous. I will admit it, I'm scared. My humanness, with all its flaws, taunts me with thoughts of weakness, inability and defeat. But God is bigger. And as a child of God, I know I can do this through Him and His abilities, not my own.
As I called out to Him tonight, I prayed for guidance on how to prepare for this task. As I keep reading everywhere that I "must be prepared". As it is a task unknown to any new mother, how do I properly prepare for the pain? How do I properly prepare my mind, which has been held prisoner to anxiety so many times in my life, for the task to continue on when it's hard? How do I properly prepare for the unknowns?
And then a sweet answer just washes over me, Jesus.
That's the only answer I have. I've read every book I could get my hands on. Talked to friends and family on successful births. Mr. Charming and I attended birth classes. We've hired a doula. We've packed our hospital bags. We've watched birth videos. I've drank my tea. I've gobbled down my dates. I've done pelvic tilts and chiropractic adjustments. I've gotten prenatal massages and practiced breathing and meditation.
But, Jesus. He's the One who can give peace. Strength. Clarity. Renewal. And I must rely on that and that above all else when I'm feeling my weakest. Because no matter what worldly tasks I busy my hands and mind with, nothing other than Jesus can surpass all understanding with His grace and mercy upon the birth of our miracle.
The beauty of it all is this, if there's a situation, any situation in your life that haunts you, taunts you, scares you or asks you to struggle, call on Him. He will always show up. He may be a silent bystander in the corner if He is waiting out the right time to show Himself in the situation, or He may be a sweeping warm blanket of peace and contentment (as He was during our miscarriage) - but no matter, call on Him and He will be there. In His way, on His time. There's nothing in this world more precious than that.
Not even a brand new babe, no matter how he or she gets here.
If you have a prayer request leave it below! I'd appreciate your prayers surrounding our birth and the welcoming of Baby P. God bless!
I've never written to you before. All the things I've wanted to say.
Maybe it's because, if I did, I'd be saying you were real. And I guess, in a way you are a part of my reality. But in so many more ways you're a lie. A lie I sometimes can't help but tell myself.
So many times have I prayed, cried, begged, pleaded for you to simply taken away from me. But I've grown and I now see where I went wrong. You weren't supposed to be neatly removed from how I'm wired.
As a woman, as a Christian woman, I've become wiser through His word and I know now, you were meant to be part of this journey. As ugly as you are. Because it's in those dark places, those messy, inconvenient places where our lessons, stories and purpose is birthed. And although I'm learning the role you play in my life, tonight, I just have a few things to say.
Even though I've learned that you are not me, you are simply part of my journey, I get angry. I'm angry when you steal precious moments. I'm angry when there is laughter in spaces where immovable walls feel like they're closing in on me. I'm angry when there's meant to be laughter in moments where I feel I can't catch my breath.
And it's you, this lie, this tool of the enemy that is stealing those moments. Moments I can't get back. What my journey as a Christian has taught me, the most beautiful thing of all, is that I have a powerful God. A God who heals. Who grants peace beyond our understanding. Who will stand firm when we speak the name of Jesus. And I've seen healing. I can say that now. It took me many years to turn to Him, instead of turning inward. Instead of retreating under the covers. To the backseat. To a glass of wine. To a dark quiet corner. Now I look upward. As hard as it is sometimes to unclench. To open my arms. To dry my eyes. I look upward, I give my heart, my mind, my breath to the One who can grant me strength. Perseverance. Healing. Love. The most beautiful things. For these most beautiful things can erase the darkest things.
This may take you by surprise, because He truly does move mountains we can't fathom budging. It happened to me anyways. Some moments where I expect to feel scared, I now feel strong. Moments where I expect to feel pressure, I feel happiness. A lightness, a joy in moments that are meant to be celebrated, not tolerated.
So I say to you today, anxiety, I know you want to make me weary. Tired. You want me to second guess every single event. Every single step forward. I know you've won many times before. You had a power over me that made me miss out on so much. And I will not stand here today and say that I am strong enough to move past it. To be cured by my own will or any earthly remedy. Because I'm not. None of us are. But He is. He is our rescuer. Our savior. Our great, protective Father. Who loves us, who truly, deeply, unconditionally cares for us. And that, that love, that strength, that salvation...
Anxiety has no chance against that beautiful truth.
May we all remember this truth, in every situation. When our knees wobble or when our palms sweat. When our heart races or when our breath catches. May we remember that we aren't strong enough to conquer all, but we can rest in the loving arms of our Father who is.
For all you brothers and sisters who struggle with anxiety. I understand and I'm praying love and blessings over your situation.
As God was the one who led me to all of this, my journey, my health, this blog, I shouldn't be surprised when he whispers topics and post ideas to my heart. The gritty ones. The ones that swim in my soul, that are hard to write, and make me type through blurry eyes as tears threaten to stream down my cheek.
I've seen amazing doors open for this brand & blog - blessings that I know come from my Father in Heaven. My true provider and guide and I want to honor Him and stay true to the gifts He's given me by giving all the glory to Him through any success that may come our way.
There is a song I've fallen in love with, O.K. there are many songs I'm in love with, it's in my DNA, but there is one in particular as of late called "My Story" by Big Daddy Weave. Every time this song plays I hear that whisper deep inside, nudging me to keep telling mine. As my audience grew, I got scared. Scared to be too vulnerable. Share too much. But Jesus urges us to lay it out there. So, as uncomfortable as it may be, we must own our stories.
If I told you my story, you would hear hope, that wouldn't let go
2011. Feels so far away yet feels like just yesterday. I had dabbled with LiveJournal journals for many years, pouring all of me out onto the screen. And maybe 10 people read it. But that's not what mattered. It was my therapy, an outpouring of emotional baggage that bound me up and the release felt liberating. When I started feeling sick and depressed and in pain in 2011, I started writing again, to deal with it. I lost many friends in that space of time in my life. I couldn't tell them what was going on. I was ashamed. I was terrified of being terrified in my own body. Writing is where I felt safe. What began as a blog titled "Me and Mr. Charming" was a journal of me trying to deal with the fear, the frustration and the uncertainty of my many new diagnoses. A mix of incorrect, "incurable" and new.
After taking myself off gluten and dairy after reading many books on things I was dealing with I started to see healing and as I began to write and spend more time in the kitchen this little space began to morph into a food blog. At the time still unaware of what a "blog" even was. I was a writer, and this was my space. Sharing recipes and support for those who were as scared as I was in a vast internet world. That's what felt natural.
This song hits home because where I really began to find healing, soul-deep, true healing was in hope. God's great hope. As anxiety took hold of me so many nights I fell to my knees and I just prayed. I knew I couldn't do anything for me anymore, alone, without my Lord and Savior. I had been baptized shortly after feeling this way and I knew He was my only chance. He was what could save me, heal me and give me a future and purpose from all I was going through.
If I told you my story, you would hear love that never gave up
So many times I prayed to be "normal". I prayed for God to take away my anxiety. My fears. My immune issues that made me catch EVERYTHING I was around. The pain in my pelvis & bladder. The hopelessness that I wouldn't be able to be the wife I wanted to be. The future mom I longed to be. That I still long to be.
I felt He was quiet for so long, until He wasn't. He held me in His arms. He walked with me when I'd go on slow, relaxing walks to clear my mind. He was with me in the fitness room as I obediently worked through my pelvic exercises. He was with me when I was scared to eat my meals and lost 15 pounds I didn't really have to lose. He was with me when I sobbed long, hard sobs in church as I felt Him begin to cleanse me. Body, mind, soul. He was there. Loving me. Loving on me when I felt like I was losing my worthiness to those in my life. His love NEVER gives up. And had I not clung to Him, I would be so lost. His love allowed me not to give up. To pray, to find strength in what was going on. To never stop looking for answers. To never stop listening to His still small voice. And to be obedient to the ways in which He could heal me.
If I told you my story, you would hear life, but it wasn't mine
As the blog started to grow, old passions fell away. And my passion and love for health through what God has given us began to grow with a rapid fire I hadn't felt in years. Maybe ever. Going back to school and pouring my heart into this was so clear and doors have opened that can only be explained by a loving God blessing a child. I want to live authentically in this space. I want this blog/brand to stand for what this journey has truly meant for me. For me, for my life, for my marriage. I want to love on those who are scared. Scared of food, scared of disease, scared of pain and just hug them, speak life and Jesus into them and let them know they have a friend, a sister in Christ.
I want His message to speak volumes from here. If it doesn't then I haven't done my job as a servant to the One who has given me an abundant life and a beautiful purpose. Is it always easy? No. Is it a painless journey? Nothing worth it ever is. But through the storms is it joyful, and fulfilling, beautiful and wonderful? Absolutely. Because I know from whom it comes. And even more beautiful? This gift is available to ANYONE who asks to receive it. It's that simple. No matter what you're carrying. No matter what you've done, there is cleansing in His name. You only need to speak it.
This is my story. Praising Him for every moment. Every breath. Every opportunity. Every ounce of love, grace and mercy.
If you are struggling with food restrictions, with anxiety or with illnesses that are still being researched, know that God is holding you. Take a deep breath and fall into His arms. And though I don't hold a candle to our Father, I'm always here to be a friend, a listener, a sister in Christ to make the road a little less lonely.
It's important to do things that we love.
However, we must hold fast to the truth that in doing these things we may be pushing out the Great, the Best, the things that are meant for God. Everything we do, including our "good things" - such as enjoying our blessings - should still represent an out pour of love and appreciation for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I've been waking up to an app called First 5 recently. An app that allows you to set your alarm five minutes earlier each day to reflect on a bible verse or lesson from scripture and the quote below really grabbed me this morning. Recently Mr. Charming and I have made a more mental and spiritual effort to make more time in our evenings for things that connect us more to Jesus and less to things of this world.
We so often are guilty of entertaining ourselves with worldly distractions. Weekdays have looked like ys being tired from a long day of school and work, so we play on our phones or curl up with a movie and zone out after dinner.
While this doesn't seem "harmful" or "wrong", after a while you will start to feel the disconnect. From each other, from God. A hunger will creep in and an emptiness that only His word and presence can fill and everything but Him will lose it's luster. I don't know about you, but when I entertain myself with these "empty" things I feel anxious and hungry for something different, something more. It's important to stay focused on keeping your not only your relationship with God strong, but keeping true connections with your marriage and friends strong outside of technology and trivial entertainment.
I've listed a few ways we've managed to infuse more worship and more God into our evenings together. And I'd love to hear yours.
Transitional seasons of our lives can be tricky waters to navigate. Sometimes you know their coming and you can feel them approaching, able to prepare as you wade in the waters. Other times its like a tidal wave that sweeps you up, steals your breath and throws you harshly onto the rocky shore to start again.
I'd say this week is a mix of both. And my emotions seem to ebb and flow like the tide that draws near and slips away. This week Runway will close it's doors for a while and while I know this means God's opening new doors for me, my career and my family,, some that I may have already stepped through, it's bittersweet. It's been a week of clinging to God through the emotional roller coaster of forging new paths, reaching for new dreams and trusting.
So much trusting.
There seems to be a sad trend in publishing right now, with Conde Nast losing Lucky and so many others being laid off, I pray we all find our way in the world of the written word. Some may argue that it's dying, but I don't believe that. I refuse to. Words can mean and do so much, that we just have to continue to work with the times. Print may be dying, but words, words can never. And I will continue to write in the mediums that are thriving, because writing makes me feel alive.
There's a lot of uncertainty and "don't knows" when things like this happen. And part of the roller coaster is when the enemy of doubt, of not trusting, tells me to be scared in these moments. But I'm loved by a bigger God, One who has bigger plans and I cling to His better and His future for me.
So I look to the blessings. I look the the fact I've had more hours this week to pour into joining with more female blog communities that love Jesus and love community like The Peony Project. I've been able to submit for multiple guest posting spots and sponsorships. I've been able to organize my office & spend time with family.
I am finishing up my Personal Nutrition program and have been accepted with a scholarship into the advanced program with an emphasis on Food Allergies, Digestive Disorders and Child and Pregnancy Care. I can feel the transition. I just have to hold on with faith.
There are other matters on my heart that are blooming and are being prayed on. I just need to remember, every day, every hour, every moment, to surrender and take His hand. Because when we're walking on rocky shores, it's the only way not to fall.
I always thought this was my story to write. That I could somehow create, maybe even manifest, all of my dreams. Ones that would inspire a glowing memoir, or at the very least a grand tale I could tell my grandchildren one day. Destined to orchestrate a song of songs that would write my legend. Dancing through scene by scene, directing my plot twists, character castings, even my leading man.
But then the Grand Author showed me years ago that it wasn't my story to write at all. That is was His. That I was the one cast. That each scene was unfolding just as He had written it ages ago. And that His son would be my true leading man. That He would be all of ours.
And it's been a story more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed of writing for myself. Because there have been surprises, twists and turns. Triumphs and meaningful hurts that I couldn't have, and probably wouldn't have, written into my own pages, and I would have been lead somewhere completely different than where I am at today.
And that thought is terrifying.
Living according to Mandi, I got some things right. But I got a lot wrong. Sometimes, people in my life ask for that girl back. And I feel like this probably happens to a lot of people who are changed. Who have been saved. In the beginning I got defensive. I resisted their resistance. But the more I looked upward, and trusted His pen over mine. I could breathe easier about those people in my life who I realized, if they truly wanted the best for me, they could let go of what I let go of in me, and accept me for the girl I was written to be.
I will still strive and wake to live my dreams, because I feel like, since I was just three years old, that he planted things within me I feel like I should be using. Talents, passions and dreams that just don't seem to let go of the deepest parts of me. And free will and all that, jazz. We have responsibility to keep moving forward. We are just blessed to have His strength on days we don't want to.
And I'm learning what that means on His terms now. For so many years I did what felt good to Mandi. When I wanted something I wanted to run at it at full force. I've grown up seeking the future. Always wanting to know what's next, always hungry to one-up my last accomplishment. My dad used to say (almost daily) "Mandi, you need to just slow down." or "Mandi, you just need to show patience". Now I hear that resonating Fatherly voice repeating those sentiments. Asking me to enjoy the NOW. Enjoy the wonderful, beautiful gift of now. And truth be told, it's a daily discipline for me.
But I believe it's that daily discipline, that daily connection that we work on that makes us the strong men and women we are. The strong, inspiring men and women we were written to be. And that's worth all the work it takes.
Since the inception of social media, the internet has become a flurry of everyone’s thoughts. Everyone’s feelings. The sometimes reckless emotions. Their shared moments. And most of the time, the moments we share with the world are our sparkly, happiest moments.
Last week in church our pastor spoke about detoxing our need to be like our neighbor. Always wanting for more, and how social media drives this to epic proportions. I encourage people to post positive, happy moments. I adore seeing my friends, family, acquaintances and though it’s not always easy, my enemies thrive. Succeed and have joy in this life.
I am really thinking about this this week as I travel. Mr. Charming and I have been planning this trip for almost 4 years now. We have been talking about fully experiencing the California Coast before we have littles. So, we saved and saved, and although I saw some work hiccups just as we were about to leave on this trip we invested so much into, I was reminded by my Father...
Joy comes in the morning. So I decided to trust, take the leap and take this adventure.
Along this trip I've experienced amazingly beautiful, wonderful things that we've always wanted to experience. We've seen beautiful, wonderful things we always wanted to see. And as we post our photos along the way, that’s been the shiny highlight reel that everyone has got to see in a 3 second flash as they scroll through social media.
If you are a follower of the blog, you will know some of my story. And time away from home isn't time away from struggles. Inflammation and hormonal issues can still cause me pain, making me not be able to enjoy the vegan lattes I like to enjoy when we travel, or most of the foods I planned on trying, like a Sensitive Sweets cupcake in Fountain Valley, or a gluten-free/dairy-free pizza slice at Fresh Brothers in Newport Beach. The same pain and hormonal imbalances can cause complications in moving forward with our Baby P plan, and having a body that wants to nap when you just want to keep exploring isn't all rainbows and unicorns. But these are my moments too. And I own them, and accept them, and thank God for even these. Because I believe He has a plan with it all.
I choose not to dwell on these moments anymore like I've done in my past. I have given them to a greater God, who has a plan and a purpose, and I will try to shine for Him. Through the shiny moments (where it’s easy to sparkle), and through the dark (where I need His hand to pull me from it all and dust me off a bit) and pray He keeps providing me a light to get back to the joy.
So keep sharing your smiles. Embrace your beautiful moments. Recognize where they came from and be thankful. With your whole heart, be thankful. And in those beautiful moments, when you stumble, or when something happens and it’s hard to let go of the perfect image you had for the moment, look up, take a deep breath, pray a thankful prayer and always remember…
Hope through Him is ever present, and joy comes in the morning.
Today is the International Day Of Happiness and it has me reflecting on my own personal journey with what "happiness" is to me. As someone who always strived for "perfection", I use to shortchange myself on the happiness meter. I was of the mind-set, "when I have all my ducks in a row, I can be happy." When I get that vacation... I'll be happy. When I produce my next album... I'll be happy. When I finally meet the right guy... I'll be happy. When I can remodel my place... I'll be happy.
This is toxic. And it starves you of true, real, pure, joy.
I didn't learn about true joy, the kind of joy that comes from being content in the NOW until I was 30 years old. It was a process I began to work on at about 25, but it took the inspiration of Mr. Charming and my deep connection by being saved by Christ that I truly began to understand about CONTENTMENT over HAPPINESS. And JOY over PERFECTION.
This is such a big one. Especially for someone like me who strives daily to recover from anxiety. I noticed too, when I'm around negative people, they can zap our happiness, feeding into our self-doubt. Below I've made a list of ten ways to infuse joy into today, and into your everyday. Feel free to share, like & comment on how to you infuse happiness into your everyday.
Tonight, as I was putting together a post on my natural beauty routine, I came across a fellow blogger and sister in Christ's entry on the unfortunate Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon that is sweeping the world this week.
I definitely have my own thoughts on the book and the film, (though I have not read it, and I will not see it) I've heard and I've seen enough to know that this isn't what girls should be emulating. It's not healthy, it shouldn't be promoted as such and it's not love.
Well, Trinity sums it up so very, very well and takes to the Word. A beautifully written piece and I wanted to share. Click the link below to read.
There is so. much. inside. of. me.
I spent many magical nights singing my heart out. Literally using all of my breath to exude pure musical talent. Singing to crowds as little as one, as large as thousands. I miss it sometimes.
I've written songs that are complete crap.
Yet, I have written songs that could be number one hits. And have charted in the U.S and overseas.
I've written stories that have gone straight to the garbage. And stories have been published in international glossy magazines. Electric chemistry has flowed between my producers and I that we couldn't explain. Almost otherwordly in its ease, the process,perfectly, beautiful, flawless. Lyrics strung together with catchy melodies over beats that came as natural as the beat of ones own heart. I feel like that isn't something that I can look back on as "something I did in my youth". It flowed out me as if it's what I was born to do. Who I was born to be.
Its all fleeting though, isn't it? Those moments of electric intensity. Does that mean it wasn't worth it? Absolutely not. It's sculpted who I am. Who I'll forever be.
But as we grow, can it all be that simple? The deep, gut-wrenching, heart breaking love of the art. What about responsibility and earthly life. How does one do it all. How do you fight for it when you've exhausted all of your resources to do so. I'm a phone call away if you have the answer to this. How have you kept your dream alive? And when you stop and look around, is what you're doing what you always wanted? Deep in your soul? Why? Why not?
That's the question isn't it. The hard, unimagineable question that you don't dare to think about when you're young and free. When the road stretched out before you runs as far as your imaginations eye can see. Then as you grow and tumble over rocks, climb steep mountains, swim treachourous streams, fighting for the dream you've hungered for since you were just a child, you reach a clearing a long, long way down the road. And it gets foggy. The air grows thick, and the jungle you need to push through to stay on the path, thicker still.
You find yourself at one of lifes inevitable crossroads. And maybe you sit here, for a long while. Days, weeks, tragically even wasting years. You shift your eyes to the right. The dream and the heat of the fire still rages on. Or, to your left, you see the safer choice and the warmth of security in this nice little place you've created for yourself, right here in the clearing. So what do you do? Both have lovely possibilities. One seems so much easier, while the other is a chase. A race that your legs are tired of running. But the blood, sweat and tears of training for that race made you feel so...
Isn't that what we're here to do? Love fiercely, help each other, and ultimately live?
God given talent. God guided passions. Listen for His voice, run towards it and never let go, never look back.
If only it was so simple.
Maybe it is. Maybe I'm missing it.
Or maybe I've missed it. Or maybe it wasn't meant to be gotten. Or maybe I've had it all along.
Either way, it's a beautiful journey this life.
The powerlessness in not having the answers is what grows us. Its what fuels the creativity. Its what keeps Him in control. The songs, the stories, the passion. Let us always be grateful for that.
So, whatever your dream, hold on tight to it when it makes you feel alive, let it go if it no longer does. It may not look as though you imagined it, dreamed it. Doesn't mean it still isn't worth living, dreaming, molding...
Pray continually for direction in where to use the talents. The Creator of all created this in me, and I'm eager to see where He allows me to go with each aspect of what truly connects me to me and me to Him. I just have to remember to practice patience.
For patience is a virtue, and quite possibly one of the hardest to master.