Taking Back Control of Your Health

I Instagrammed (still mind-boggling that that’s an unofficial verb now) about my thoughts regarding intentional self-love/self-care and mental/physical health a couple of days ago, but in case you missed it, here was my little blurb:

Corey has been in New York (Lake Champion – A Young Life Camp) for the past week for work. People have been constantly asking how tough it’s been. Though I’d like to imagine what it’s like to be the sweet, compassionate wife who suffers longingly for her “other half” (don’t even get me started on that phrase) to come home, I also take comfort in knowing that I — in the deepest, densest part of me — am an independent. And that’s okay. I very much enjoy taking advantage of the fact that while we don’t have children, I can sow all the time I get to grow further into myself.

He comes home tonight (weather willing) and I am so excited to share with him the things the Lord allowed me to experience in my time alone.

I found my routine again. I began introducing my mornings with the Word again. I finished a private online course on nutrition and health. I tried cooking a new 4-course vegan meal, and it was delicious. I dug up my Mizunos and revisited my favorite way to spend quality time with Jesus: running.

My discipline, re-centered.

My joy, abundant.

My faith, rekindled.

My spirit, alive.

I encourage all of my strong sisters (and brothers) out there to never stop growing into yourself. I don’t know about you, but I love romancing myself. Pursuing myself. Allowing me to be me and accepting myself for it. It is so exciting to know that everyday we can become a better version of such. I believe this is why we are still alive; to press in. To play the part o this large space to make good, starting from within. And the ability to cultivate this environment for yourself is multiplied tenfold when you are willing to look within yourself and gain understanding on what kind of personality you are. How to love yourself well. Truly. Because everyone is different.

I am an independent. I am an introvert. (Surprising? It was for me, too.) I love people but I love spending time with Jesus by myself more. I know I do best in wide open spaces and I know I don’t need verbal affirmation from others to know who I am.

I am weird, I am strong, this is me.

I believe strongly that the definition of health ought to be boundless when it comes to how to work on it.

I think for so many of us nowadays, the term in itself seems unappetizing because so often does find itself associated with diet fads, unrealistic expectations, and disappointment. But I wish to change that culture for myself and my household. I believe health is so much more than a number on a scale, the texture of my hair, my exercising habits (or lack thereof). I believe being healthy starts with a mindset. It is nourished from within. Otherwise it’s all just a big cakey lie that eats itself up.

I believe being healthy starts with loving yourself.

It starts with loving yourself and finding the best way for you to get there.

For me, this journey of living a plant-based (vegan) lifestyle has been such a good practice to gain control of the simplest of mental strides. Mental strides that has allowed room in my life to love myself wholly… better, harder, and stronger. Yes, I do have the more tangible reasons why it has been beneficial for our family (listed here). But mentally, it has allowed me to work on disciplines I’ve long forgotten were key to my daily successes.

1. To research and intentionally prepare each and every thing that me and my loved ones are consuming (and have previously consumed) has taught me to not take my one body and one life for granted. It has forced me to educate myself on biology, nutrition, physiology, and self-care. This concept alone has made me read more, purchase more books, and realize that I am capable of understanding ideas I once thought were overwhelming. This has now expanded into educating myself regarding just about anything else this life has for us to explore and recognizing that my brain is capable and ready to absorb more information. I think after graduating college I was just done with “school” in general… but an unteachable mind is, I have learned, is one of the scariest things.

2. It has also given me back my self-control. Before, I lacked in this department completely. I gave into the liberal mindset of “YOLO” and thinking I’m deserving of every sugary taste, every greasy bite, every bit of life to devour. Now, I do wholly believe in experiencing LIFE, yes. (Duh, do you even know me?) But I do think we have a warped mindset on what it means to live life FULLY.

3. One of the best things this lifestyle of gaining back my health has really given me is reconnecting me with the truth that nothing is impossible. And in that, rediscovering my childlike faith. Though I wanted to attempt a shot at trying to change my ways time and time again in the past, I — for the longest season — assumed I couldn’t. Why? I’m still not sure. Maybe because I was uninformed? Maybe because I didn’t think I’d have the time or money? Probably because I just lacked a desire in general because… like anything important to grasp in life, it wasn’t easy. But proving yourself wrong on your potential is an amazing feeling. It’s empowering, it’s satisfying, and it allows yourself to marinate in the newly defined concept of success. This will look different for everyone, but it is an important idea. I have redefined myself as a successful person, for no one else but me. Because I set small, realistic, short-term expectations, get there, and understand that it is about these small victories that lead to a war fought. By seeing myself “get there” with my healthier and wiser eating habits for my personal body, I have seeped this attitude toward my desire to getting to a better place with my faith again. Becoming a better wife. Being a better friend. Being a better neighbor. Being a better person. These are all graspable, real, doable projects that begin with a positive change in our attitude. And where ever that stem can grow from, let it. For me, it started in the kitchen.

It’s true what they say, you really are what you eat. It controls a LOT more of you than you think you do. From the types of proteins to the types of hormones they manipulate. (And you allow it to by eating it!) From the healthy fats to the artificial sugars. From killing your memory to maintaining it. From a life leading to an eventual heart disease to being able to run with your grandchildren at ages unimaginable. From being grumpy to feeling like you can jump off of the walls. From the table to the workplace. From the inside out.

I’ll try to get better at listing recipes. I know I’ve gotten requests but… Let me be honest — I cook like my mother! (Yikes.) I don’t measure, I don’t write things down… I taste as I go, I change it up every time, and I love making cooking into an art! BUTTTT… I WILL try to do better. Until then, take my suggested measurements with a grain of salt. (Unintended pun.) Also, just be inspired! Get crazy in the kitchen! That’s how I find most of my favorite consistent recipes! I try new things, mess up, and create something fab that’s here to stay.

Here is one of mine and Corey’s faves. I’ll call it… Green Babies. (Because they look like they’re coddled up in a blanket… Until they’re eaten. Is that morbid?)

Ingredients;

A bunch of collard greens
1 cup of mushrooms (chopped)
3/4 cup of carrots (chopped)
1 cup of quinoa
1/3 cup of red bell pepper (chopped)
1/2 cup of corn
Curry powder
Garlic powder
Cumin
Basil

Season with salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast to taste! (As usual.)


Start by sautéing the chopped carrots and mushrooms in a stir fry skillet (or something similar).


Cook the quinoa with the chopped red bell pepper in another pan. Let it simmer with basil, salt, pepper, and cumin to taste.


Take the quinoa/pepper off of the heat once the quinoa is fully cooked. Keep lid on to contain heat.



Wash the collard greens and cut off the leaf-less stem part.


Stir in the quinoa mix with the carrots and mushroom. Add the corn, curry powder, onion powder, and keep it on low heat as the mixture immerses together. Add little bit of water if the texture is too dry.


Blanch the green collards until you can cut into the center stem piece without effort.

 Take them out and pat them dry with a paper towel.


Spoon desired amount in the center of the freshly blanched collard greens.


And there you have it! Little Green Babies to love and devour! You can add pan-tossed tofu chopped up in there as well for extra texture and protein. You can add anything you’d really like, honestly. I just hope these little posts can inspire you! Enjoy!

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Starve Your Ego; Feed Your Soul

  

To say a lot has happened since I’ve last posted a blog is an understatement.

Exactly one month ago, Corey was climbing a well-maintained corporate ladder at a head-turning pace while I was finally starting to feel the ground again in terms of really creating momentum with my photography business. We lived in an all too comfortable luxury apartment that came with its own library and multiple heated infinity pools, our two dogs were eating the most stupid organic thing you could possibly find on the suburban Denver shelves, and we were quickly becoming the type of people I used to question and I didn’t even know it.

The funny thing about leisure is that it’s always a Catch 22. One of the many falls of this world.

(Also, a precursor: This isn’t a bash on wealth. Rather, a claim on how unfit it’s been for us.)

Had we kept this pattern going, I’m sure we could’ve been great. Defined by what and who, though?

For the first time in my life, I witnessed my husband go through depression. (Yeah, can you believe that? For those of you who know Corey personally, you know how unbelievable that sounds. He lives to make others happy. And maybe that was the problem.) I don’t know how these things start; I’m not even sure if there is a way to detect Day 1. It wasn’t until late October that I really noticed. And the thing with most men — ladies — is that they like to think they can manage things on their own sometimes. Is it pride? Is it strength? I’d honestly consider it both. Regardless, it’s false. We all need each other.

Corey’s job was taking a toll and quite frankly, I’m not sure who wouldn’t have felt the way he felt. Averaging 1 day off every 40 days or so, his body was the last thing to fail. His spirit and his mental health? They started to deteriorate a lot quicker. But with the heightened growth of my own career path and the lies thrown at us about the definition of success, the concept of really taking care of ourselves became the last thing on our list of priorities.

It was a Tuesday, I remember. Corey and I were both home (a rarity) and I had asked him what he’d like to do in the few moments we had together. He neglected any option; regretfully saying no to it all. At last when I asked, “well, what sounds fun to you?” He solemnly let out a single tear. The thing is, I don’t even think he realized he cried. He just looked off into the abyss and breathed out, “nothing.” It was then I had realized we were no longer in Colorado because of a calling we had received from the Lord. We were still there for our own sake of ego and kingdom.

The thing about changing trajectories is that, because we are such creatures of habit, it is remarkably easier said than done. I remember looking my husband in the face and telling him what I think we all need to hear every so often:

It is okay to not be okay.

Your feelings are valid.

You do not have to please your boss, this world’s standards, your expectations of who you could’ve been… You do not have to please anyone else but the Lord.

This life is too short to live another day wishing it away.

You have permission to express what’s inside.

You have permission to quit.

I think the most difficult discernment to make when in positions similar to this is wondering whether it is actually a time to change something, or if it is a test and we should see it through with persistence and endurance. I also think that, for me, a really easy way to go about answering that question is asking myself and reflecting with the Lord: How have I been practicing my role as a disciple of Christ? As in, am I going out and being the Church toward the ones around me? Have I even had the energy to? Have I found myself willing to sacrifice the time to? (Or is my life just one big bag of lousy and self-centered excuses?) Even if all else is a loss, am I at least still remembering what it means to love? Am I going out and making more disciples? Do I even remember why I am here in terms of eternal salvation? Or am I wondering why our company doesn’t offer us a better insurance package while my new order of farm-to-market produce is delivered at the door?

We learn this in high school psychology, but honestly, y’all… You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. You need to be poured in to be poured out. Listen to the flight attendants; you can’t assist someone with their oxygen mask if you yourself is dead.

About three weeks ago, we accepted a position out in Oregon. In the middle of nowhere past all the mountains and trees, where Corey and I had met. I wish to explain how it all came to be, but that in itself would be a completely separate blog post. But let’s just say: God is great. (And He so desperately awaits us to come knock at His door because all He wants to do is save you.) Corey is currently finishing out his last week in office and will be driving westward soon to begin his new position with YoungLife. We had already moved all of our belongings a couple weeks ago and he’s been living out of our empty apartment with a sleeping bag and three changes of clothes. You’d think that wouldn’t be the most pleasant, but he’s never been merrier. I asked him the other day why and how this temporary lapse in his well-being was able to rectify so quickly, and he simply replied, “Ji, I wasn’t doing what I was passionate about. I had forgotten to ask myself that during the process of becoming successful. And that’s just it. I’m not passionate about being a businessman. I am passionate about being in relational ministry. I’m sorry I had forgotten. But I don’t think we’re supposed to ignore what God has build us all individually to do. And what I’m about to do next, I know that’s what I’m supposed to do. And the knowing of what I was made to do… that makes all the difference.”

I remember sometime during college, someone explained to me their definition of passion and it has always stuck. They said when you finally get to a place in life where you experience yourself truly passionate about something, it is that moment when the Lord has finally decided to reveal to you, specifically, a very special portion of His heart. Not all can see it because not all will be revealed to it. But the moment you realize you’ve been shown it, it is then your responsibility to do something about it. If you don’t, you’ll never fully live.

Apart from prayer and supplication, the greatest lesson Corey and I have taken from this rollercoaster is that it does no good to keep moving just to move. You can be as busy as the next person, but there is nothing scarier than a lost ghost. It does one good to have regular check-ups with yourself. Are you being filled spiritually? Are you remembering to ask yourself what you were made to do? Are you actively surrounding yourself with people who remind you of your worth? And most importantly, for my Christian friends, are you serving God… or people (including you)?

I’m including in this entry in a gluten-free vegan soup I had made.

I find it relevant and it is a mental note I want to keep for my personal files because it is made with practically nothing. I mean, okay so obviously there are things in it. But I have been living out of moving boxes for the past who-knows-how-long while waiting for our new condo here in Oregon to finish. With the minimum utensils and groceries I had, I have never felt so full. When Super Target is just down the street, you forget what real hunger feels like. Or what it really means to enjoy the things in front of you. Everything is an option; nothing is received with the heart of gratitude it deserves. This wholesome, simple, and nutrition-packed soul food has reminded me through its essence that sometimes the best way to be filled is to go back to the roots. Go back to what you know replenishes you.

Ingredients;

7 (? -ish?) cups of organic vegetable broth
3/4 cups of red lentils
1/2 cup of brown rice
2 whole carrots (diced)
2 stalks of celery (diced)
1 white onion (diced) — I prefer them larger for texture
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 can of tomato + green chiles
1 1/2-2 cups of kale (chopped)
Season with salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast to taste!

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Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

I’ve always associated September with starting new.

Maybe that’s an influence from the academic calendar, or perhaps because it introduces my favorite season.

I’m not quite sure.

I want to talk about suicide today. I am currently on the road for photography work and have inevitably found myself back in my stomping grounds: Grand Rapids, Michigan. A couple days ago, I ran into someone I knew during grade school. I don’t know how and am still uncertain why, but she boldly made the decision to tell me about how she’s been wanting to end her life. Soon.

If there is anything we as a society don’t talk about honestly enough, it is depression. It is considered taboo to bring it up. So many don’t.

I’m not under the illusion that all experiences of depression are alike. I cannot speak on behalf of everyone out there struggling. But I can speak out of my personal experiences.

It’s waking up everyday, counting down the moments until you can close your eyes again. Secretly hoping it’d be the last time. It’s when the simplest of tasks such as getting out of bed and putting on your face for the day is an Everest of a climb and you’ve somehow misplaced all of your tools to get there. It’s looking into every opportunity possible for an imminent death — everywhere you go, everyday you’re alive. Daydreaming about it. The thought of it being an escape. Realizing that the only time you can ever feel any sense of peace is when you dwell about not having to do this anymore. This dance between earth and hell. This charade of a life you’ve had to create while people buzz around you without a clue, without seeming to care.

You feel waves of guilt. Always bigger than the wave before. It gets harder and heavier to keep your feet planted while the words and the thoughts wash over you… drowning you quite literally in a place you don’t want to stay in. Yet you don’t know where else to go. You wonder how you were ever anywhere else. You wonder why someone more grateful couldn’t have had your life. You would easily donate your time left to someone willing to receive it. You’ve heard people dismiss the opinions of those who’ve committed suicide before you. They say they were weak. They say they didn’t seek help. They say they were selfish and wrong. You begin to implant those words, those opinions, those identities in yourself. It doesn’t help. It makes you less tempted than ever to reach out to anyone. Due to judgement. Due to condemnation. Due to hopelessness of anyone out there who might dare to try on your shoes. You become easily envious of those in hospital beds, only a few breaths left until they pass. At most, they have loved ones around them, and they know they will not die in vain. You pray for something like that. You pray for a plausible death so that you don’t have to commit this sin. But praying for such a thing seems like a sin in itself. If anyone else heard your thoughts, they’d probably find you arrogant and self-absorbed. You come back to square one. Feeling completely and utterly alone.

To be depressed is feeling completely misunderstood, wildly incapable, and wholly alone.

What I want to educate others about thoughts of depression is that although someone’s feelings and views may seem dramatic or invalid at the time, you are not one to judge that. No matter the circumstance, the background, the size of the matter, everyone’s feelings and views are valid in their world. To them, it is everything. It is their lens, it is their emotions, and during that time being, all of those feelings and views are the realist things they know. So for someone to come up to them and say that it is not as difficult as it seems… you may as well have not given effort to “help” at all. This may go against the concept of discipline and hard truth. But in such fragile instances, a simple act or word could make it or break it for someone. There are definitely right and not so right moments to teach somebody a life lesson. But during the depths of dark depression is not the right time to lecture someone. It is the most pivotal time to love someone. To embrace someone. To comfort someone. To cherish someone.

What you can do is be there. Quite literally. Be present. Pursue them. Think of the ways in which Christ has pursued the Church even whilst we push away time and time again. Extend your time. Be bothersome if you have to. If you have an inkling, if you have even a remote curiosity that something might be wrong, don’t hesitate to open up a conversation about it. In reality, those suffering are dying for someone to see that they are barely making it inside. The fact that people don’t only affirms them in their mind that no one in their world actually ever knew them because they are obviously depressed and no one has noticed. Which makes them feel valueless. Unimportant. A burden.

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I am a suicide attempt survivor. It was autumn, weather was very similar to this, and it was the beginning of my senior year in high school. I was dubbed homecoming queen and skinny as a stick. It’s funny how creative and great one can get at making people assume you are just fine. I specifically remember someone that evening coming up to me and saying, “You literally have the perfect life, you know that? I’m so jealous. Your parents must be so proud.” I also remember driving home by myself on an empty road, the unforgiving tiara tousling about in my trunk, cheap makeup running down my face, chuckling like a crazy person as those words echoed and swirled about in my head. Jealous? Proud? My parents? Oh how perceptions can be so far from the truth. I would say that night was the peak of feeling that this world will never see me for me. When I got home, I stared at the mirror in my parents’ basement for a very long time. I crawled into the corner of the bathroom, swallowed pills of death and immediately the images of every person who I’d be killing by killing myself flashed before my eyes. My little sister. My best friend. The people who depended on me, those who may have looked up to me. Maybe it was my people-pleasing heart, or maybe the fear of my sister losing hope, but I stuck my index finger down my throat immediately like instinct. I puked. Hard. Incredible panting, incredible pain. I just lied in the fetal position, listening to the faucet drip slow droplets of excess water onto the base of the sink, wondering if I was making things up, or if it was Jesus that I just heard say through the fog,

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

You want to know the only resource that truly helped post-suicide besides my years of counseling and digging into the Bible?

Moments after my attempt, I Googled something along the lines of, “easiest ways to kill myself,” (since my previous try had too many controllable variables for me to prevent the intended purpose) or “DIY suicide” — something bleak as such. One of the first links to pop up simply read, “Read this before committing suicide.”

Guys, the internet can be a real pain the butt sometimes. But there is always beauty to be found when a gathering of people realize something can be used for good. Whoever typed this up is a hero. I clicked on the link. Looking back, I wonder why. I think — even if I didn’t know it, I didn’t actually want to die. I think somewhere deep inside of me, I may have been hoping that there could be a way out of this trap that the devil has so mischievously set up for me. It was a website with all too simple of a layout. There were white words written on a black background and I ate up every sentence because my life depended on it. It told me to just do anything I can to get by the next minute. Whatever that looks like. So I did. I’ve never paid more attention to anything before in my life. I obeyed every little task it asked me to do. It told me to breathe. I did. It told me a lot of things, actually. It told me I mattered. It told me that I wasn’t alone in this, and that someone out there might care. It told me that my life was worthy to continue with and… for the first time, I felt loved. I felt loved by a computer screen. But even so. At that point, it didn’t matter. I felt known. I felt understood. I felt loved.

It’s been seven years since then. I can confidently say that I have been fully healed and have fully processed that season of my life. I am making sure to state this, because for anybody out there who may be wondering if the misery could ever end, I want to assure you: It can. It will.

You are important to me.

You are beautiful.

Your every breath is intended to exist.

You were not a mistake.

Your scars, your wounds, your past are all remarkable testimonies of your strength, your confidence, your perseverance.

Your laughter is heard. Your cries are valid. Your smile is perfect. Your joy is missed.

There is a way out of this. There are options. There is hope.

You matter. You aren’t forgotten.

You. Are. Not. Alone.

It’s not to say that the traces of depression are forever gone. I think someone might be lying to you if they’ve come to live through their twenties and thirties and still claim they’ve never experienced an ounce of anxiety or depression. This kind of stuff, this mirky, gross, toxic in-between emotion that comes and attacks when the enemy wants to feast on your life… Take them as vivid reminders that spiritual warfare is real and that the biggest lie Satan wants to buy you with is that you are alone. He sees you fighting. He sees you conquering at life and he is jealous. I dare you to spit in his face. I hope you throw his plans into hell along with him by finding the courage to reach out to others. Near, far, where ever. People are listening. People care. God is listening. And He cares.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Let us not shy away from something so real. I bet you’d be surprised to know who is suicidal around you. Not to say that that is the kind of radar you should be aware of 24/7. But it’s the dense truth. Never take for granted the moments you have with those around you to affirm them in their life plans, in who they are, in the impact they make in this world. We need more transparency and less of this hiding behind screens, have-our-lives-put-together, altogether perfect facade.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

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