Child of God, Wife, Mother of Two, Cancer Victor – A Post by Jennifer Smith

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

It is easy for me to write, communicate when life is going well.  But, when life is heavy I find myself not wanting to write or even mutter the simplest of words.  It is like I am convinced that the less I talk of troubles, the sooner they will go away, get better.  When asked to be a blog speaker, I thought, who would want to read my thoughts?

Life has been hard.  I am on a journey of learning:  learning to be kind to myself; learning that my journey is not nor will it ever be the same as someone else’s; learning that it is hard to be vulnerable; learning that it is easy to allow myself to feel guilty, shameful that I cannot or do not do all that I used to do.

Cancer came knocking on my door in February 2016.  I can remember specifically a few months prior telling my husband how happy I was with life, all aspects of life.  Even after being diagnosed with breast cancer, also a genetic mutation of BRCA 1 and my tumor type (triple negative) being highly aggressive, I remained positive.  I endured four rounds of chemo, a bilateral mastectomy and a complete hysterectomy.  I was the person who smiled, who was there for other women enduring the same diagnosis, working, being an active wife and mother.  I truly thought that I would be, if not the same, an even better person because of cancer.

To say I was shocked when both anxiety and depression hit is an understatement.  To this day, I am still shocked that anxiety and depression have become my new norm.  I am in disbelief that I see both a psychiatrist and a counselor.  I am in awe that the woman who endured so much could not finish the school year as a teacher assistant.  I am baffled that after ten months of all things cancer that I am not out living life to the fullest.

It is so very easy when someone asks you how you feel, to simply say “I’m good”.  Especially, when others tell you how good you look on the outside.  I am good, in the sense that I am alive, and as of right now, I am cancer free.  But right now, I am a shell of the person I once was.  I am not who I want to be, nor do I believe that this is how God wants me to be.  So, I patiently wait.  I read devotions.  I speak to Godly women.  I attend a monthly cancer women’s group.  I communicate with other women who have had similar side effects from cancer treatment.  I cling to hope, even though I cannot feel it.

What I am thankful for is the love of an all-knowing God, the love of my husband, and the support of my church.  I am not sure of future goals.  I am taking life day-by-day.  I am hoping to find my way out of this place.  My main priority right now is to be the best mother that I can be to my two boys.  Reading with my youngest, helping my oldest with a math project, and celebrating his thirteenth birthday are the accomplishments in which I pride myself.

If you suffer from anxiety and/or depression and you have not sought help, I encourage you to do so.  It is hard, I know, but freeing at the same time.  I have been told that I will get better, that my body has been through a traumatic experience, and it will take time for both my mind and body to heal.

Each day I think of praiseworthy things, the smell of fresh cut grass, sunsets, hugs from my husband and children, taking my oldest to school, picking up both of my kids from school, Wednesday night church supper, worshipping on Sunday morning.

What are some praiseworthy things in your life?

Peace be with you.


Jennifer Smith is a mom, wife, friend, former mental health professional, teacher, and believer who loves to spend time with her family, nap, read, enjoy dinner out and helping others. She met her husband when she was a sophomore in high school when they both ran track.  Along with Jason, the other two loves of her life are Jacob (13) and Jonah (9).

Forgiveness – A Post by Claire Bailey

 

Forgiveness is a difficult thing.

That sentence seems so obvious, I almost think I shouldn’t type it. But there it is, and right now you are probably agreeing. If not, I would love to know your secret, because I think it is something that a lot of people struggle with.

I am one of them. I have been known to harbor a grudge, despite knowing that it ultimately harms me more than the person I am angry with. Perhaps more commonly, though, I accomplish the forgive part…but not the forget. Forever after there is a wall up to protect myself from further injury. It’s a thin, transparent wall but it is there, and it is sturdy. Maybe that’s not forgiveness at all.

This is not a story about a time I was betrayed by an ex-boyfriend, or a friend, or a co-worker. It is not a story about another person at all. It’s impossible to quantify betrayals but I think my worst – or at least the one I was least equipped to handle – was by my body. And since I cannot wall myself off from it, it hurt just as bad the second time it happened.

So many of the messages we receive from our bodies are processed without thought or effort. If we stopped to second-guess every impulse, we’d never get anything done! Imagine if you didn’t trust what your body was telling you, so every time it said “your nose itches” or “your throat hurts” you answered with “are you sure?”. Imagine if your body told you to breathe, and you didn’t, because you thought it was playing a trick on you and you needed a second opinion. We couldn’t function like that.

 

Now, imagine that your body tells you you’re pregnant. You did get a second opinion at one point, several in fact: at four weeks along the plus sign appeared on every test you took. But from then on, you have to rely solely on the cues you receive internally, because your doctor’s office doesn’t want you to come in until the 10 week point. You experience – and almost revel in, because it’s your first pregnancy and you’re so excited – nausea, sore breasts, exhaustion, slight food aversions. You note each symptom like you’re filling in a Bingo card and you marvel at how something so small, only about the size of a poppy seed, can be consuming all of your thoughts and most of your energy, and turning your world upside down.

But then you get another message: something is wrong. And when you finally convince your doctor’s office to let you come in (they keep telling you it’s probably nothing), 5 days before your scheduled ultrasound, they confirm what you didn’t want to admit to yourself: there’s been a miscarriage, the pregnancy isn’t viable. Not only that, but judging by what they see on the screen, the fetus stopped growing weeks ago. WEEKS. You have been walking around experiencing and enjoying an absolute lie, perpetrated against you by your own body.

This is what happened to me in September of 2014. And again, in February of 2015. It is called a “missed miscarriage”.

I could write or talk about these experiences for hours, having examined them from every possible angle over the past few years. But I won’t go into all the details and aspects here because what I want to discuss is forgiveness, how it is possible, and how it can be freeing. So I will grossly oversimplify the experiences: the first time it happened I was sad and disappointed. The second time it happened I was pissed and depressed.

I took the anger and depression out on myself, both mentally and physically. It had to be someone’s fault, and who else could I blame but me? I did not eat much, I didn’t sleep much, and I heaped emotional abuse on myself all day and night. I could not get out of my own head and I hated my body for lying to me.

It wasn’t my fault, of course. There are things in our lives that we simply cannot control. That is as true as it is terrifying. But there are many things that we can, and after a while I made a conscious choice to focus on those instead because I did not like who I had become, an angry, bitter, mistrusting person. I knew that if anything was going to change for me, it had to come from me. So I decided to claw my way back out of the hole I’d fallen into and to do that, I had to forgive. I had to painfully, intentionally, and thoroughly forgive.

Slowly I began to take better care of myself. I ate three meals a day again. I sipped a glass of wine during a hot bath to unwind before an early bedtime, and did a meditation exercise to clear my mind so that I could welcome sleep. I took a Facebook hiatus. I cried through yoga classes. I made myself socialize. I started working out, for the first time in many years, so that I could learn to respect my body – its capabilities, its strength, its resilience – again. I had to relearn how to be thankful for my body and all the things that it does for me. Yes, in a way it had failed me, but to wallow in that would be short-sighted and a waste of time, when I should be grateful for all the other gifts that it gives me.

I stuck this to my mirror and looked at it every day, my mantra for healing. You are welcome to print and use it if you like!

I didn’t do it all on my own, but another part of heeding internal cues is knowing when to ask for help. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, resulting in a prescription for antidepressants and weekly sessions with a counselor. I leaned on my husband – my partner – and took strength from the knowledge that I could lean all I wanted and he wouldn’t give way. I talked with friends who’d had similar experiences. I devoured blogs and articles about miscarriage. I watched the Beyoncé documentary and mourned her miscarriage along with her. And incrementally I started to climb out of that hole.

The end result is that when I forgave myself, my body, and stopped the punishment, I began to recognize myself again. To be sure, I was not exactly the same; I was never going to be. But I was at least a different version of my true self, instead of the stranger I’d been for months.

The hole is still there. Filling it with dirt and planting grass over it would serve no purpose, because pretending that something didn’t happen does not lead to healing. I can still peer over the edge and see exactly how far I have come out.

Perhaps it actually is possible for me to forgive without forgetting, but only if the remembrance does not build walls, but monuments.

I can, of course, speak only about my own experiences and do not profess to represent everyone who has experienced these things. I hope that sharing my story might help someone else who is going through something similar but I want to reiterate that I am no expert! Though I usually have mixed feelings about the internet, I am grateful to have had it as a resource throughout this experience, because it was helpful for me to read other women’s stories. However, the web is another hole that is easy to fall into, so I caution you to use it wisely. 🙂

 


Claire Bailey is grateful to have been born and raised in the mountains of North Carolina. She loves hiking, crafts, binge-watching, re-reading novels, and admiring pretty views. She is constantly battling the invasive wisteria in her yard and trying to amass an army of rhododendrons instead, and if that’s not a metaphor for something I don’t know what is.

Kenya Reflections – A Post by Kathryn Clontz

In June of 2017, No Ordinary Women led 14 women to Nakuru, Kenya, to meet and work alongside our Artisans in Oasis Women’s Group. To say that this was a dream come true, a dreamy adventure with dear sisters, a dream within a dream…well, even all of that seems insufficient. While we could talk for ages about our adventure, what we saw God doing, how lives were transformed, we think that our incredible team can tell you better themselves. We’ll be posting once a month a story or two from someone on our team,                so be sure to follow along!


As we entered Oasis, the women began streaming out while singing, chanting, crying, and hugging us. Though we were “strangers”, we instantly bonded through hugs and shared admiration for one another. One of the first women I met was Janet. She was holding her child that had significant special needs. I was immediately drawn to Elizabeth and asked if I could hold her. I felt at home.

As we met all the women that day, I found out that there were four mamas with children with significant special needs who were part of the Rainney Sewing Class and a community outreach that was connected with Oasis. They had formed a community group for women to get training as well as for them to have a place to bring their children as these children do not go to school. Once I laid eyes on these precious children, I new my purpose for this trip. These mothers had to either hold their babies while working on lay them on a flat mat in a dark corner. One child would sit in a plastic storage tub propped up with scrap fabric or pillows. I talked with each mother and explained what I do as my job here (I am a speech-language pathologist for students with significant disabilities for Haywood County Schools). They do not have speech-therapists here (in this area) and these children receive very little, if any services. I asked if I could work with them the next day and my mind immediately started planning for ways to help them. I began thinking of appropriate seating options and adaptive toys and books.

I spent most of the day loving on these children and getting to know their mamas and getting

the children involved with play with the other children (bubbles, parachute, toys, etc.). Their faces filled with joy as a ran them under the parachute or helped them pop bubbles. I was in my element.

I thought of an “easy” solution to the seating – bean bag chairs. That would be easy, right? Nope! The ladies weren’t familiar with them. That night, while having internet service, I searched up photos of bean bags to show them as well as patterns for simple sewing of bean bag chairs. The next morning, Ashley C. and I went to the store with a driver to get supplies for Oasis and materials to adapt toys. When returning, I met with three moms and their amazing daughters: Abigail, Elizabeth, and Stephanie. Violet, one of the Oasis women and a community program worker, helped translate when needed. The first thing I observed was that these mamas (and also the siblings) were SO in-tune with their children. They were so loving and patient and knew every need. They patiently spent over an hour feeding them if needed and were very attentive to their needs. I began by praising them

and telling them how smart their daughters were and that I could see that. I also told them how evident the love they have for their children was to me. Next, I provided some communication strategies and modeled play therapy sessions for the moms. I gave the moms some examples of how to offer their daughters choices and encourage them to reach, look, or vocalize to make a choice. I modeled how to wait and look expectantly at their child for the child to request continuation of a preferred activity. I showed them how to adapt simple toys and books (tying pipe cleaners to a car and wrapping the pipe cleaner around the child’s hand so she could push a car back and forth, adapting board books by putting separators between the pages so they could turn the pages easily, etc.) They all were so excited and seemed very receptive to all the information. It was a privilege to work with these children and mamas.

We also looked for bean bag chairs at the Nakumatt (K-mart type store) that evening. We found them. They were huge, dirty, and $80.00 a piece!! We were shocked. That was not in our budget at all. So the next morning, we visited Start with One Kenya (Bill and Chat Coble) to learn about their work with water filters and when we walked in the door, low and behold there was a bean

bag chair! After digging, we found out that Bill knows a man that makes insulation (for walls they were using to build a church) using the filler of bean bags! (those little white Styrofoam balls). So he made the bean bag chair and gave it to Bill! We decided to follow through with this and try to get the chairs or filler from this connection. Our NOW sister, Ashely C. stayed behind in Kenya for an additional month of work. Through lots of coordination and perseverance, right before she returned home to the U.S. she was able to deliver the bags to these amazing children!

Later that day we told the women about the bean bag chairs and that we were working on a way to get them to use at Oasis. Bonnie also had the idea to give them something to hang off the sewing tables that they could look at or play with while their moms worked. So, the fabric mobile idea was born. Simple leftover wire and small scraps of fabric were transformed into beautiful mobiles for the children to watch, bat, and pull. These mobiles were such a hit that we brought some back for the NOW booths here at home.

It was an amazing experience to meet these moms and children and I truly feel that God had a purpose for me on this trip. I remember when Leah asked me to go, I thought, what could I offer? Why “me”? I do love the jewelry but I am no fashion or business expert. I am not crafty or artsy or talented in that way at all. What could I offer these women of Oasis? And then I met Stephanie, Elizabeth, Abigail, and Purity. And their mamas. And I knew. And God knew. Leah did not even know that the Oasis group had this community outreach for these families. But God did.


Kathryn Clontz has been working with children and families her  entire adult career, advocating for those with Special Needs and  their people, as well as giving selflessly of her time and heart to  her church and community, her family, and No Ordinary Women.  Kathryn has 2 wild and compassionate boys that are pretty much  as cool as kids can get, and a pretty rad husband who shares her  love of outdoors and small town living.

Humility and Truth in the Midst of Treatment – A Post by Alexa Cook

From the beginning of my college experience my prayer has been that God would grant me the gift of humility. I struggle with pride, an addiction to competition, and an eternal need to be the “best of the best”. Additionally, I prayed for opportunities to grow in my faith, to share my love for Jesus with others, and to minister to those who do not believe. Little did I know what my God of provisions would lay on my “plate” in the middle of the spring 2017 semester.

I should preface with the fact that I have struggled with an eating disorder (ED) for several years. When I first accepted this I “did recovery/treatment” on my own. After all, I was “perfect Alexa” and I definitely didn’t need “help”. This was my freshman year of college. I saw a therapist and have continued seeing one over the years. I had maintained my “recovery” for the most part during this time, but I honestly wasn’t fully recovered. I wasn’t honest with myself or others about the life I was living. I was in denial because I thought that this was the only way I could be happy. Honestly, it was about the most unhappy way to live.

Eating disorders are tricky boogers. They are “real, complex, and devastating conditions that can have serious consequences for health, productivity, and relationships” (NEDA, 2016). Eating disorders are a daily struggle for ten million females and one million males in the U.S. alone (EDH, 2017). They have the highest fatality rate of any mental illness, yet seem to be one of the least understood or accepted by our society. Only one third of those suffering with Anorexia Nervosa (the Eating Disorder I personally struggle with) obtain treatment. Thus, it was challenging for me to seek help of any sort.

I noticed some of my disordered thoughts and behaviors creeping back in throughout my junior year of college. With the pressures from school, health, daily life, and many “unknowns” my dearest friend (ED) snuck his way back in.

I confessed my struggles to my therapist, who to my surprise, suggested seeking a facility in which I could receive residential treatment from. Again, “perfect Alexa” doesn’t need help. But, oh she sure did. I took a deep breath and dove into the pool of humility. I found a treatment facility that would accept me, filled out many papers, talked with several authority figures within my college, and with many, many tears left Boone for a while. Throughout this entire process I prayed many angry prayers, prayers pleading for help and discernment, and eventually prayers of gratitude.

I was frustrated that the ED had found its way back so easily. I was angry that God didn’t stop it or “protect” me from it. I was grateful for my doctor, therapist, family, friends, and other supports.  The most potent feeling throughout all of this, however, was humbled. I was no longer able to be proud of the ways I could “fix” everything and be the most successful. I had to swallow a large gulp of my bitter pride and I did not like that.

Answered prayers can be tricky, you know. I wanted to be grateful for this “answer”, but at the same time it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for when I asked for the courage and strength to be humble.

God knows more about me than I know about myself. How could I pretend like my ideas for my life and the “timeline” I had planned out was greater than His Will?

There is opportunity for connection, understanding, growth, empathy- so much!- when we trust God with all of our situations and truly believe He has a plan and purpose. He is not done! Even when life feels like it is over, He gives new life. The One who IS life, gives life freely! This is one lesson I learned from a nurse at the beginning of my treatment journey. I have come to understand that I can glorify God in the way that I handle the leap of faith and humility as I continue to recover and share my story.

Before I left school one of my dear friends met with me on one of my lowest nights. She did not know I was in need, but simply came by to say goodbye. I was so grateful that God sent her to come to me when He did. My friend is still exploring the idea of faith and expressed her admiration of my spirituality during our conversation that night. She openly asked questions and I openly answered them. Afterward my heart was radiating with the beauty of God’s Light in me and the joy I felt. I honestly do not think this conversation would have happened if I hadn’t made the choice to submit to and obey God by humbling myself and seeking treatment. Without doing so the friend would not have visited me to say goodbye and I’m not sure if we would have ever had such a vulnerable conversation.

The day before I left for my treatment I kept getting an overwhelming “vision”. I have always loved the idea of God and His Angel Armies.

“I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the armies of heaven around him, on his right and on his left.”1 Kings 22:19

I kept envisioning the Lord and His Angel armies gathering and going out to battle for me. The fight was against this world and all it was saying to me. The eating disordered thoughts, distorted body images I was seeing when I looked at myself, my insecurities, the pressure to be perfect. All of these struggles I was trying so hard to fight on my own, finally I was surrendering and allowing God and His Angels to fight for me.

“The Lord will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm.” Exodus 14:14

I was determined to live like these Angel Armies were at battle for my soul. I wanted to show everyone what God will do if we work for Him and let Him move in our lives. My prayer was to be an example of a life lived for Him alone.

On my first day the clinical director won me over to the program. She explained that my identity is in who God calls me- His Daughter. She explained that He has big and amazing plans for me. We talked about God’s grace and the beauty of it. I know that God sent her to me and planned this conversation from the very beginning. It had a very strong influence on my trusting the program and surrendering to the idea of treatment and recovery.

One thing I have learned during my treatment is how creative God is. His creativity is INFINITE! Humans are all so different and we have different experiences. However, it is interesting how God will use two totally different people with very different experiences to arrive at very similar outcomes. Many of the ladies I have met at the facility have had very different lives, come from diverse backgrounds, and struggle with a variety of challenges within the label of “eating disorder”. Yet, we are able to bond, connect, and love one another so deeply because of the outcome of our experiences! God never ceases to amaze me.

The bonds I have formed with my “sisters” in the program has been so intimate and precious. In these types of relationships there is opportunity to share openly with one another, as well as, ask questions and learn about each other’s passions and values. This being said, I have praised God for every opportunity to share about my faith during this process. Several ladies have asked me why I believe what I do, and I have been blessed to share my love for Jesus with them. Some of these conversations were left with tension, skepticism, and frustrations but most ended with what I believe to be a seed planted and curiosity piqued. I’ve even had one lady join me in attending church. This new friend told me that she identifies as Agnostic when I first met her; now she is exploring the idea of Jesus, our Lord and Savior! I gave her a devotional that I had an extra copy of and my heart absolutely explodes every morning as I witness her curled up on the couch starting her day with it.

God is so good. He has blessed me with so much throughout my treatment process. It is one of the hardest times I have ever been through in my twenty one years of life, but one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences. I have learned how to be kind to myself and am developing skill sets that cultivate healthy relationships. Every part of treatment has all helped me grow in my faith and shine Christ’s light in the world all around me. Sometimes the biggest blessings come from the circumstances we least expect to have any sort of good in them.

I am still walking on my journey with the Lord. The process of recovery from an eating disorder is ongoing- a choice I will have to make every day. The same goes with my faith and obeying the call the Lord has placed on my heart. Every single day will be a choice and I choose humility, obeying God, surrendering to the Lord, and living my life for Him- ministering to everyone I know. What a blessing it is to choose this- true life from the True Life Himself. Zepheniah 3:17 says “The Lord your God… will renew you in His love,” and this is exactly what He has done and is continuing to do as I walk with Him on the path of humility.

 

References

https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/statistics-studies

The Holy Bible

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/general-statistics


Alexa is a student at ASU and plans to be a special education teacher. She is a Daughter of God, runner, reader, nature lover, learner, and coffee addict. Alexa values community, vulnerability, tight knit relationships. When she isn’t lounging in a coffee shop with her nose in a book, you can find her exploring trails, listening to Jesus jams, teaching and learning from children at church, or spending time with those she loves.

Kenya Reflections – A Post by Olivia

In June of 2017, No Ordinary Women led 14 women to Nakuru, Kenya, to meet and work alongside our Artisans in Oasis Women’s Group. To say that this was a dream come true, a dreamy adventure with dear sisters, a dream within a dream…well, even all of that seems insufficient. While we could talk for ages about our adventure, what we saw God doing, how lives were transformed, we think that our incredible team can tell you better themselves. We’ll be posting once a month a story or two from someone on our team,                so be sure to follow along!


I cannot even begin to put into words how this trip has affected me. It was a life-changing experience I will never forget. When we first arrived, we watched our surroundings go from a big city to a slum in a short amount of time and it broke my heart into a million pieces. Yet, the people appeared happy and carefree, especially the children. Watching them go through so many hardships in their day-to-day life, but being so joyful and happy and content with what they have fills my heart with joy. Meeting and talking to the wonderful people really changed me. No matter what their situation in life was they were always so happy and polite; it really gives me hope for the world. Everyone I came into contact with, whether it was our amazing drivers or the people who worked at our lodges, were always willing to help and became our friends. That’s what I saw within these people: friendship and kindness.

One of my happiest memories from this trip was after our team meeting at the Flamingo Lodge.

Jordan, Sophi, Avery and I met two kids (brother and sister) who had climbed the wall to talk to us. We asked them about their lives and then they sang us a song. No matter their circumstances they still had joy in their heart.

Every morning I woke up to the sounds of birds chirping. One morning, I woke up to a woman singing her heart out. She had the most amazing, soothing voice I’d ever heard. It was absolutely breathtaking. When we went to the Methodist School for church I was astounded by what I saw. Those kids had so much joy and love in their hearts and they worshiped with an intensity that I’ve never seen in a church in the United States in all my life. Our first day at Oasis will forever stick in my mind as one of my most cherished memories. When the women greeted us with their dancing and singing, it almost brought me to tears (and if you know me, I’m not much of a crier). They are some of the most astounding women. Hearing their stories and how they’ve made a better life for themselves and their children left me in awe. Our second day at Oasis was definitely an emotional one. We all got a deeper look into the lives of the women and those around us. We learned we aren’t so different after all. Our last day at Oasis was also very emotional. It was difficult leaving the people I’d grown so close to in just a matter of days. I couldn’t stop hugging everybody and the van ride back was hard for all of us.

When we went on safari, it was a mind-blowing experience. Seeing all the animals in their natural habitat, their home, filled my heart with joy. I still can’t believe I sat on top of a van driving through the African Savannah on safari.

Overall, this trip has been life-changing. I’ll never see anything the same again. I loved growing closer to all the women on this trip (and especially the kids) and most importantly growing closer to God and traveling further on my spiritual journey.

(This blog post has been edited for length and clarity.) 

 

 


Olivia is 14 years old and a Freshman at Pisgah High School. An aspiring writer and photographer, Olivia is also a lover of the outdoors, coffee, and giggling in the backseat of pretty much any vehicle. Olivia Owens is a founding member of ‘The Quad’. 

Body Image – A Post by Jennifer Smith

“And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.”  Galatians 3:29

I’ve struggled with body image since college.  I can remember when I went from wearing a bikini bottom, to boy shorts, to preferring a one piece, to dreading bathing suit season all together; not wanting to wear sleeveless shirts, or even shorts for that matter.   I longed for the winter (though summer is by far my favorite season) where I could hide more by adding those extra layers of clothes.

Before cancer, I had come a long way toward resolving such issues.   When I was told that it would be in my best interest to have chemo, where I would lose my long blonde hair, a bilateral mastectomy, where I would lose my breasts, and a total hysterectomy where I would lose even more of my womanhood, I worried that I would again backslide.

I had no idea how I would handle losing my hair.  I did well, but the growing back was difficult.  No longer that woman with long blonde hair, but now trying to adjust to short grey hair.  After losing both breasts,  I did fairly well during the fall and winter, but as it became warmer, I began yearning for breasts.  Lastly, after losing even more of my womanhood from a total hysterectomy, I came to the realization that although my husband and I already decided that we were done having children, there would be no “oops!” or change of heart.   And even on a basic hormonal level, my body was in a state of shock.

Then comes God’s Grace!

I was reminded last night during a bible study that as believers, we are heirs of the Almighty God.  We are princesses and princes to the King.   We stand to inherit His Kingdom. We are a direct line from our Father. We are God’s children, and He is our “Abba”.  On my way home, those words began to resonate within me.  It doesn’t matter if I don’t have long hair, breasts or ovaries.    What matters is that I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I am a princess, and so are YOU!

To God be the glory!

This writing originally featured in Compassion That Compels via: https://compassionthatcompels.org/2017/07/12/body-image/  


Jennifer Smith is a mom, wife, friend, former mental health professional, teacher, and believer who loves to spend time with her family, nap, read, enjoy dinner out and helping others. She met her husband when she was a sophomore in high school when they both ran track.  Along with Jason, the other two loves of her life are Jacob (13) and Jonah (9).

NOW does Oasis 2017: Reflections

In June of 2017, No Ordinary Women led 14 women to Nakuru, Kenya, to meet and work alongside our Artisans in Oasis Womens Group. To say that this was a dream come true, a dreamy adventure with dear sisters, a dream within a dream…well, even all of that seems insufficient.

Our trip was filled with the making of new sisters, hearty laughter, exhausting travel, breathtaking sunrises, rivers of tears, worship that knows no language but Love, loads of hard work and so many moments of simply standing in awe of our Creator.

Our primary goal for this trip was deepened relationships on both sides- for our local women to see the impact of their advocacy of our company, and for our Oasis Artisans to be able to share their work and be encouraged in the value of their skills. We wanted both groups to finally look each other in the eyes and see a reflection of themselves, their Creator, and women everywhere.

While we could talk for ages about our adventure, what we saw God doing, how lives were transformed, we think that our incredible team can tell you better themselves. We’ll be posting once a month a story or two from someone on our team, so stay tuned!

If you’re interested in making this journey with us in July 2018, email Leah@NoOrdinaryWomen.org for more details.


 

Jamie Cogdill, 50 (& Fabulous!), Waynesville NC

Journal excerpt June 24, 2017 Saturday at Massai Mara….

The dust of Africa is in my bones-my heart is as open, and free, and wild as the savanna. The rustling of the plains grass will soon turn to the rustling of papers on my desk. I feel restless, on the cusp of change, as I have been forever changed by this trip. How does one settle back into 9-5 doing seemingly ordinary and meaningless things after such a trip? Although I know all too well that what I do matters to some and all I do matters to God so on a day by day basis I just keep plugging along.

Here at safari camp the generators switch off for hours at a time to conserve energy….we have to wait to plug in and we quickly forget we cannot have power. We immediately become disappointed when we flip a dead switch…all things we have in steady supply and take for granted back home. So it is with life…at times we feel powerful and power-full…other times we just feel dark, disconnected, and impatient waiting for the switch to come on. I’ve wrestled with God my entire life it seems, searching for my purposeful outlet of true connectivity. My introversion keeps me unplugged many times and I’ve accepted myself for those natural leanings but Kenya has inspired my prayers to God to help me keep my switch on, my heart open, and to push through hard things. I want to stay receptive to my generator God and creatively stay connected to the lovely souls of Kenya.

Finding God- A Post by Mary Ashley McCrory

Ever since I learned how to walk, I have loved being outside. When I was small, I loved collecting gravel and pretending it was treasure, or counting stars and giving names to new constellations. As I grew older, I found joy in a different kind of outdoors: in hiking endless trails and hunting down waterfalls with friends I soon would leave behind.

One of the cool parts of nature is how consistent it is. There is never a sunset like another, and mountain ranges change form while rivers change paths, but no matter how much change occurs, nature is still there. Thousands of years from now it will still be there, after many storms and obstacles. I have found this to be true for God.

No matter how many times our lives spiral out of control, how many times we are pushed to our knees and kicked around a few times, God remains. He is and always will be. Imagine Him like the moon: Even when you cannot see Him, He is there. Even when the skies are cloudy and grey, there is a God watching us and leading us exactly where we are intended to be.

There are always those few minutes in the middle of a hike when you do not think continuing is an option. It usually happens in a patch of dead trees and a path that does not seem to end, but the view at the end makes your sore calves worth it. When life is in one of these roughs patches, it is hard to see the bigger picture. We are often handed situations that seem overbearing, impossible even, but the God that paves the paths we walk gives them purpose. He gives us purpose. We were never called to be the same. The paths we walk are all unique, just as the people who walk them.

One great leader recently said, “God puts in us the ability to see ourselves in a different circumstance than the one we are in.” How encouraging is that? We are capable of being somewhere other than where are are. We, as human beings created by a loving God, are able to rely on his presence and have faith that the outcome is exactly where we are meant to be. We are capable of moving mountains and shaking grounds.

There is so much contentment in nature. There is something about being among skeleton like trees that make me feel so free. As I watch the waterfalls, I become them. They are humble, not demanding to be seen or heard. They do not let any obstacle disrupt their intentions. The moss on the rocks and pines under my boots are my closest friends.

As I stand in the middle of a barren forest, screaming at the universe to teach me my name, my voice is as little, as unheard, as the smallest bugs. I am nothing, and as nothing I become part of the creation around me.

 

Love- A Post by Allie Jo Fisher

I worry about love. A lot.

Loving the wrong person or messing up love with the right one.  But I realized on my drive home tonight that I’m already in love but not with anyone or anything in particular.

Just IN love. Smack dab in the middle of it, soaking it up. Like when the sun goes down and the whole town lights up fiery gold.

Or when laughter bubbles up in my chest, which is a lot. When I crawl into my fluffy, warm, gray sheets at the end of the day. When all of the “just right” songs come on the radio on the drive home.

The mountains. When I look at the mountains, and climb them, and sit at their feet, and stand at the very tip top of them. When I look around and see them in every direction, keeping all of the love in and keeping the rest of the world locked out. That’s when I know that I’m standing right in the center of love. When my heart feels at home.

People. My people, the ones who make me laugh and let me cry. The ones who don’t give up and the ones who show up. When we are all together, just swimming around in our love for each other. Music. When a song clicks so well with my soul I figure it must’ve been buried in my heart all along.

When I see kindness being passed around, when I can be a source of love for others. All of these things send me straight to love, wrapped up in its graceful and strong arms. This is the right kind of love. This is God showing me that being IN love has nothing to do with another person, and that this is how it should feel when you do find yourself in someone else’s love. Comfortable but not stuck. Like home.

I am IN love, every day, and have been since the moment I took my first breath. God put me here, in all of this love. I don’t have to worry about never falling in love, or loving the wrong person, or messing it up with the right one, because I’ve already made it here, to love.

 

God made someone for me who will meet me in my love, and in my mess. We will find our way to each other. But I don’t need to be looking for them because He has that covered. I already have mountains and mountains of love surrounding me, keeping me safe and sound and locked in tight. I have it all right inside of myself, and in God, and he won’t let me lose it.

Love is all around us and all we really have to do is look a little deeper.

Love is my favorite place to be.

 

AllieJo is a sixteen-year old junior at Tuscola High school. She loves to be outside and feels at peace when surrounded by her Blue Ridge Mountains. You’ll often find AllieJo laughing and smiling for she is full of love and life. She is a musician, a writer, a child of God, a beautiful soul, and a dear friend to many.