About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a speaker, freelance writer, photographer and a "streamlined bohemian." She is a graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas with a bachelor's degree in journalism and photography. In between writing and photographing, she enjoys movies, hanging with her family and she drinks a massive amount of coffee. She is passionate about Jesus, people, life, creativity+the arts, justice, bearded hippies and making up spontaneous songs.

Most Recent Articles

Great Expectations

Posted by on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 in musings on life, love & everything in between | 0 comments

“It was the best of times… It was the worst of times” is how Charles Dickens opened his novel Great Expectations.

Oh… wait, that was the opening for A Tale of Two Cities. Pardon me. I was homeschooled and we were doing other things (i.e. papier-mâché and Civil war reenactments… but I digress).

But that paradoxical thought, “best of times/worst of times,” describes what I saw illustrated in my friends’ and acquaintances’ lives.

As 2013 drew to a close, I saw statuses and knew stories first hand of those who had suffered a devastating year: the premature loss of spouses and children; jobs terminated; financial hardship; health issues (you get the idea). Whilst others I know and love were experiencing some of the best days of their lives: approximately 50 million friends announcing their nuptials on Facebook all between Thanksgiving and NYE (Side note to The Unknown Man in case he ever happens to read my blog: PLEASE don’t propose to me over the holidays. Summer is my favorite time of year. Thanks in advance. I’m sure I love you. XO); cute, chubby babies being born; incredible jobs and promotions and start-up companies launched.

The list could go on and you know the stories and have stories of your own of how 2013 started and ended and everything in between. Personally, I had an incredible year (thank God, because the couple of years prior were ROUGH). Last year opened entirely differently than how last night ended. In almost every way—save the core people in my life—nearly everything has changed in the last year and I couldn’t be happier or more content in life yet simultaneously rearing to create things and partner in changing the world.

But regardless of what you may have felt when you woke up this morning—the first dawn of a new year—you now have choices in how you’re going to live it out.

And no I’m not talking about resolutions. I ditched those years ago. I plan and pray for the new year, but the reality is that whatever resolutions I make, usually are too idealistic and unachievable (can I get an “amen?!”).

Resolutions are expectations that have no room to grow. From their conception between your mind/heart and the paper, they have boxed you in to a set of rules, regulations and expectations of the things that “need” to change in order to bring you a “better” life.

Cognitive Psychologist, Daniel Kahneman argues that inside of our mind, we have two selves: an experiencing self and a remembering self.  The experiencing self lives only in the present. And though the experiencing self may have the capabilities of remembering the past, those memories are still being relieved by the experiencing self. In contrast, the remembering self is the one who keeps score, reflecting, remembering and dealing with the story (or specific stories) of our life.  (Note: If you want to pause here and watch his 20 minute TED talk, I’d HIGHLY recommend it. I’ve read his stuff pretty extensively, but the talk is a great summary of this argument. Pause. Watch. Then continue reading this if you wish.)

I’ll give you an example: yesterday, I was vacuuming my house—admittedly a menial task. Whilst vacuuming, I was reliving a series of situations from a couple of days prior and my heart was happy… very happy. My experiencing self, which should have been fully engaged in vacuuming, was being overrun by my remembering self, which was lost in reliving beautiful moments. You might say that there is nothing wrong with that scenario. I mean, why not remember and think about things that make you happy?

My answer: because it kept me from being fully engaged in enjoying the moment before me (yes, I even try taking delight in something as tedious as vacuuming). My experiencing self could not fully experience my present because I was disengaged thinking about the past.

 

So here’s the deal: we’re launching into what I believe is going to be a big, great new year. If that’s not what you see at the outset of your year, that’s OK—I have hope for you.

But we have the potential that in the middle of remembering the best/worst of last year and also resolving how this year will be different, that we do so much remembering and planning that we miss what is right before us.

 

Expectations are the killers of reality. I can honestly say that I have absolutely NO idea how this year will unfold.

Do I have some things on the horizon? Yes.

Do I have ideas of what may or may not happen? Sort of.

Do I want to know about them ahead of time? NO.

I’ve decided that as much as it is up to me, for the rest of my life, I want my experiencing self to be able to be fully engaged, instead of my remembering self dwelling on the past OR taking ideas and constructing false realities about the future. Not that I won’t ever remember or plan ahead—but not when it’s counterproductive to my life or takes away from the beauty before my eyes in the present moment.

So make your resolutions if you want.

Take today to pray and plan and dream and write those beautiful things down (or draw, paint, video, compose them… however you want to do it).

Come to terms today with whatever beauty and/or hell or high water that you went through last year.

And then set aside your resolutions, plans, dreams and remembrances from yesterday. Set aside your expectations of how this hour/day/week/month/year is supposed to go and live in total immersion to whatever or whoever is directly before you and your fully engaged experiencing self.

We have only now—the first day of the rest of our life. So ditch the expectations and live.

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The Art of Following.

Posted by on Thursday, October 17, 2013 in musings on life, love & everything in between | 1 comment

Following is painful business.

Especially for those of us who are fiercely independent.

 

I lay in bed this morning, in the dark just before dawn, and remembered a few things. It was a succession of heart checks. In those quiet moments, huddling under the covers and wishing I could return to slumber, I realized some motivations in areas of my life were off. Sure, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, but all the while grumbling in my heart at how hard all of “this” is, at the displacement of my social life, that many of the people I do life with are leaving Dallas (or have already left) while I’m here for the foreseeable future, and my frustration that I don’t know more of “the plan.”

 

I realized that lately, I haven’t been following.

Following requires a denial of your most primal instincts and deepest learned behaviors of self-sufficiency.

 

I forgot how following felt. I forgot how vulnerable it really is.

 

“Follow the leader” is the game we play as children, yet we quickly grow out of it as we trade the game for independence.

But following should still be a game. It’s supposed to be an adventure. It was always meant to be an adventure, a wild and crazy one at that.

There are so many unknowns. Everything is unknown. So I’m taking life a day at a time. If that sounds scary, it’s because it is scary.

It’s scary to have part of it figured out and the other part not sorted whatsoever.

It’s terrifying to look your life square in the face and on the one hand know you’re committed to something for the foreseeable future and on the other you don’t know what you’re doing beyond the next week and maybe (if you’re lucky), the next month or two.

It’s unnerving when you know you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, but you wake up in the morning and realize that this is a lot more painful than what you bargained for or imagined it would be.

 

This is the art of following.

Robert Frost said that two roads diverged in a wood and he took the one less traveled; I’ve decided that I want to take the one from whence I hear the whisper.

 

“we are wandering where the Wild Wind blows; we are happy here ‘cos the Wild Wind knows what we are: orphans, kingdoms.” (Brooke Fraser)

 

It’s a Wild Wind we should follow. It is equally beautiful and terrifying; exhilarating and unpredictable; gentle and violent.

You can think you have it all together and realize that you’re a long way off. The only remedy is to follow that Wild Wind one moment at a time.

So with my heart in check, I’m doing my best to follow. What about you?

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Hey Girl… | An open letter to ladies everywhere

Posted by on Sunday, September 29, 2013 in musings on life, love & everything in between | 4 comments

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(If you’re a guy, feel free to read on, but in case you missed it, I have some thoughts just for you.)

Taking a cue from B… This is to all my single ladies (OK and you married ones too),

I wanted to just make a few things plain…

First off, let me begin by telling you that you are LOVELY. Seriously, you are. I’m sorry if you haven’t heard that enough from others, because truthfully, you are stunning.

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard how beautiful you are, you need to hear it again and again. Because I know that you still may struggle to hear it.

You seem to shirk when someone compliments you. You doubt their motivation and you wonder what agenda is hiding behind their “platitudes.”

But don’t. Know in the core of your being that you possess a beauty all your own. Every freckle on your face, every feature in your personality, every fiber of your soul all blends together to make stunning you.

So stop the comparison. Stop looking at the women around you—be it friends and fellow sisters or supermodels and superstars—stop comparing. You are not them and they can never be you.

What good does it do to marvel at her flawless face or another’s flat stomach? How productive is it to envy her personality or covet how another wins the men over? Be you. Be gorgeous you and affect the world in a way that only you can.

Be a life-giver—for that is the very nature of a woman. Our inherent instinct is to lend our lives to others. So give with all that you are. Have dignity and set boundaries, but give of your life to change the world around you—beginning with your family and those closest and then extending to wherever in the world you find yourself.

Your voice is powerful. You speak and things change. You have the ability to affect things by your utterance and your creative expression. It is because you are a life-giver that this is so.

Regardless of how wonderful or terrible your father was, there is a place in your heart that only the true Father can fill. Don’t try to find your identity in and of yourself, but rather go to the source and give out of what you have been given from the beautiful Father of Lights.

Know that you have value. And I’ll say it again so that you really hear me; YOU are valuable. When others—especially men—would try to tell you otherwise, stand up and proclaim your intrinsic worth… not because of what you’ve done, but because of who you are.

Call your brothers to a higher standard. Love them and give your life to serve them in ways that are right and proper to the level of relationship that you have. If he is not committed to you, don’t waste your life. Be honorable, but don’t be a doormat. Don’t give for free what should cost him moving heaven and earth to earn. You are worth a man committing his heart, soul and body to you in the right context and with fidelity.

You are worth a man pursuing you. That’s right… He is supposed to chase you. He’s been hardwired to hunt (and that’s not meant as an insult as though you’re game to be chased and conquered), but science has shown that men value more that which they’ve had to work for. If you want him to value you, let him pursue you.

Don’t make excuses for his lack of pursuit. If he hasn’t asked you out, unfortunately he may never and it’s usually for one of these reasons: 1. he’s scared, 2. he doesn’t think you’re interested, 3. he’s just not that into you (and that’s OK).

The reality is that the right man will move heaven and earth to pursue you and if this joker isn’t doing that don’t resent him, don’t be angry and definitely don’t take his lack of pursuit as a rejection of you. Be yourself, hold your head up high and focus on being the best you that you can be and the right one will pursue you in the right timing. TRUST ME on this. So BACK OFF and be a lady. When a man pursues you, let him lead. If you’re chasing down men, stop immediately… because you’re worth being pursued remember?

If you’ve been letting him lead and he’s not leading you anywhere (i.e. he has no long-term vision or plan for his life and/or he has no intention of putting a ring on it at any point in the semi-near future) then there is a high probability that he is not good enough for you. So move on. His job is to get healthy so that he can properly lead you. That’s not on you, but you also don’t have to hold your life up if you’re a ways into this thing and it’s going nowhere.

Live in the reality of today. Partly because we’re relational and partly because we have life-giving creative power, our girly imaginations can run wild with romantic ideas. Where men may struggle with pornography, women can often struggle with emotional fantasies. Don’t check out of life through romantic movies, emotional affairs with the opposite sex or even your own imagination. Stay grounded by acknowledging the reality of your today. Live in your today and let tomorrow worry about itself. You don’t have to have it all figured out and fantasizing about the beautiful possibilities (although enjoyable and pretty) definitely won’t help anything.

If you’re single, LOVE IT. Love every moment of it. If you’ve been bouncing from relationship to relationship, you probably need to be single for awhile. Take a boy break… a nice, long one to work on your stuff (because constant drama in your life is not normal and not healthy). Recognize that being single is a gift for a designated time and if you desire to get married some day, that desire will be fulfilled in time. But in the meantime, make the most of your today. Remember that (hypothetically) if you got married at age 30 and you live to be 90, that’s still two-thirds of your life spent with one person. That’s beautiful and wonderful, but soak up your singleness baby and don’t waste a day wishing you were somewhere else with someone else.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable in life. Laugh, cry, go a day (or a few) without makeup just because you can and because those freckles are amazing. You don’t have to have it all together all of the time (or even most of the time). Women are actually most beautiful when they’re comfortable in their own skin and their own emotion. Don’t be an emotional ragdoll that falls apart every five minutes, but don’t bottle up your expressiveness either. Pursue emotional, physical and spiritual health and then BE YOURSELF.

Don’t show your pain as anger. Those are two separate emotions. All of us get hurt at some point, both emotionally and physically. Yet too many women show anger instead of identifying and dealing with their pain. In small moments and in life, if you’re in pain, show pain and don’t lash out at those around you in anger.

Be smart. You can be feminine and not be an idiot. Sure the “dumb blonde” act may score you men, but a woman who is confident and intelligent is the kind of woman that others want to go into battle with.

Embrace your curves. Every. Single. One. Just look at the marble sculptures throughout history, women were curvy and they were considered the most beautiful. Find your favorite asset and love that part of yourself. You can work on the rest of you and living a healthy lifestyle is very important, but just remember that what we see in current media with uber-skinny models and barely there celebs is not how beauty has been portrayed for centuries.

Love. Love. Love. because love looks great on everyone. Don’t compete and compare. Find your identity by living in the truth that you are loved by the Father of Lights and live out of that reality. Pursue being healthy and whole and then be your gorgeous self to everyone you meet. The world needs you… It needs you to give of your unique, beautiful heart and share the Love that you’ve found and the Life that you offer in a way that only you, gorgeous one, can do.

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Dear Gentlemen | An open letter to men everywhere

Posted by on Friday, September 20, 2013 in musings on life, love & everything in between | 7 comments

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I rarely blog about dating relationships. This is not because I’m aloof, but rather largely because I’m well aware that often when a single girl is writing about dating, the subconscious assumption by most readers is: this girl must be ready to get hitched because it’s all she’s been thinking about.

On the contrary, there are A LOT of other things that occupy my brain and constantly dreaming about The Unknown Man is not currently a main one. (Full disclosure: I am a woman and romance makes me swoon, so if you catch me eating chocolate whilst watching Jane Austen and looking at wedding blogs, it’s not depression… that’s normal behavior. I also like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars so it all balances out).

But today, I want to share something specifically on my heart after having numerous conversations with multiple friends (men and women) about the proverbial “state of the dating union.” And so below are my heartfelt thoughts directed to all of my brothers.

I know too many gorgeous, incredible, valuable, got-their-stuff-together women who are either waiting on men to step up to the plate and pursue them, are in relationships with men who are passive as all get out, or are married and struggling.

Something has got to change.

Now it takes two to tango, so I’m well aware that we women are slightly crazy, but I’m a believer that our job is to all get whole and also you choose which brand of crazy you want to live your life with. So women don’t get a free pass here, but my Brothers, please hear me…

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Dear Gentlemen,

We need you. Your sisters, your friends, your future wives… We need you.

We need your strength and we need your masculinity. We need your gentle affirmation of our feminine character and kind, yet firm reminders that we are not in the lead.

We need your support for the dreams that are in our hearts—even if you’re not the one to partner with them.

We need your leadership… in all ways.

We need you to do us a favor and help us guard our hearts.

We know you may be figuring out your life and we understand that you’re petrified, but don’t lead us on. If you’re not into us, that’s OK. That’s your prerogative and our identity and every breath should not be tied to our futures with you. But if you’re not into us, don’t flirt. Plain and simple. Don’t call us, text us, give us pet names, make out with us or take us home if you have no intention to follow through on any real commitment to us.

We need you to be clear in your communication. Spell it out. Be gentle, but be direct. We ladies may or may not have already gotten our hearts involved before you were thinking this relationship was something… if so, we’re sorry. We need you to know that we appreciate you valuing us enough to speak to us directly. If you like us and you see potential, ask us out. If not, don’t play games. If you’re not interested, tell us that too… as gently and with as much affirmation of our true identity as you can muster. We know that confrontation is awkward and we may cry or be hurt or say mean things and we may think that you’re rejecting us even when you say that you’re not. But at the end of the day, we recognize and we thank you for honoring us by communicating clearly your thoughts and expectations (or lack thereof). Your direct definition of what we are… or are not… may sting at first, but it saves us MONTHS (sometimes years) of guessing games and gives us a chance to move on.

We need you to know that we’re sorry for the times that we’ve been silly girls. We’re sorry for misreading your signals and for making up fantasies in our heads of what our children will look like and where in the world we’d live after we’ve married you.

We’re sorry for not holding men to a higher standard by deferring to your leadership. We’re sorry for the times where we didn’t trust you: our brothers, our friends, our future husbands, enough to let you lead us. We fight control. It’s an age old problem and we’re well aware of it. We need you to know that we sometimes feel unprotected and that’s not your fault. Some of us still have Daddy issues to work on, but all of us girls fight the fear that we will one day be abandoned and alone. And so we manipulate and push you and for those moments when we’re in control, we forget that we can defer to your protective, instinctual masculinity and rest in your ability to war on our behalf.

We know that you ask yourself most days if you’re good enough and we want to affirm that you are. We need you. Desperately. But some of us are presently aware (and the rest of us will soon find out) that you will never fulfill us. You simply can’t. But that doesn’t mean that we might not make you try. When that happens, when we act like you’re all that we need, please sweetly remind us that you’re flawed but you know where to find Flawlessness. When we’ve too aptly tried to give you all of our heart, please remind us where it should truly lie first. Please do us the honor of encouraging us to pursue Love before loving you.

We need you to know that although at times we may roll our eyes, we truly love when you are being a man. We love that you’re different from us and we love that your different comes in varying styles: a competitive edge and intellectual banter, fart jokes and video games, boxing matches and paintball wars, tears in tender moments and screams of celebration in the most inconvenient situations. Thank you for being you. We couldn’t do without you.

We need you to be the best you that you can be… for our sakes, for the sake of your future children, and for the sake of all others around you.

See without you, we’d likely be a big glob of drama. You help bring balance to our beautifully diverse emotional spectrum.
Without you, we would be missing a very practical, pragmatic side of life.
Without you, life would be a lot less fun.
Without you, we would be lacking a significant amount of strength that the world so desperately needs.
Without you, our hearts would not be able to tangibly know what it is to come alive when it is being pursued.
Without you being the full, gentle yet firm masculine demonstration of life, we’re lacking a portion of what we as women so crave in our lives.

We need you… We need you to be who you were born to be and to mark the world around you with your strong, brave, uniquely masculine heart.

On behalf of all of us… your sisters, your friends, your future wives. Thank you for being men. We love you and we hope that we can be women who fuel you on to become who you were born to be.

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The Death of a Plan… and All its Friends

Posted by on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 in musings on life, love & everything in between | 0 comments

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“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” –John Lennon, Beautiful Boy

I am the queen of announcing life plans to the world and then having them change.

Like when I was in junior high and I was asked to speak to the church congregation about God-knows-what. I publicly declared to multiple thousands of people that I was going to become an OB/GYN to Central and South American countries.

That was thrown out a couple of years later when I realized it would be difficult to raise a family and be a doctor.

The summer before my last year of college (remember… I was getting a degree in journalism) when I swung the pendulum from considering going to law school to once again entertaining medical school or (this is the craziest of them all) getting an upper level degree in psychology, meanwhile getting a two-year nursing degree… because those are skills you can actually use.

Then there was that time (like last year) that I said I was moving to New York. Yeah, that’s not happening either… at least not in the foreseeable future.

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Starting at age 13, I had not one, but two five-year plans mapped out. The last one expired when I turned 23 and I actually accomplished quite a few of the things I wrote down. There is power in goal making and planning.

But my compulsive need for a plan changed in the summer of 2011. I remember coming back from London that July and God speaking clearly to me to stop planning my life. I’ve gotta be honest… it scared the $#!+ out of me. I had NO idea how difficult having no plan would be for me. Nor did I realize that he wanted me without a plan for a year and a half. It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I was able to get any direction for the future.

It required every part of me trusting him in and for everything: friendships; relationships; finances (I became a fulltime freelancer at the beginning of 2011, so income can be volatile); stupid stuff like health insurance and of course the general trajectory of my life. For the last two years, every week of my life has been unique. No two weeks are the same. And until January, I had no plan beyond the week ahead of me and photoshoots and weddings booked in advance.

Here are a few things I learned about planning over the last two years:

  1. Having a plan is not in and of itself bad.
  2. You can plan your way, but understand that ultimately God will direct your life if you choose to partner with Him. As cliché as it sounds, His plans are ALWAYS better than ours.
  3. God won’t trick you into doing something you don’t want to. If Africa isn’t in your heart, you won’t go there. Don’t sweat it. He will send you to places that make your heart come alive.
  4. If you’re not willing to give up your plan/dream/desire/goals, you’re holding on too tight. Have an open hand so that you can give it up if needed, but also so that God can add or replace it with something else if he chooses.
  5. Do your part. If you’re supposed to go for something, do the due diligence to plan, prepare, follow through and make the call, fill out the paperwork, submit it before the deadline, etc.
  6. Relax and live in Nowhere. Now + Here = Nowhere… It’s the idea that life can only be experienced fully in the current moment. So live it to the fullest here instead of analyzing the past or obsessing over the future.

Last fall, I was doing well living for each day and I quite enjoyed not planning my life. I had already delayed grad school one year, but I felt it was time to start my application for my Masters at NYU before the December deadline. As far as I knew, NYU was the only university to offer the type of program I needed AND I was a shoo-in for a fellowship that would pay for my Masters.

About five minutes into applying, I realized that the funding for the fellowship, which was ultimately my ticket to NYU, had dried up. I made a call to my NYU advisor who I had met with the previous spring and she gave me a plethora of other options for funding, but I knew that none of them were going to give me enough to enable a $40,000 a year school and the cost of living.

So I had about 15 minutes of throwing a fit to God about the plan changing again and then began to research my options. What I’m going back to school for is super specific and I knew of no other school offering a program like NYU’s. However, God had something up His sleeve. Within a few minutes of finding out that NYU wasn’t an option, I had discovered a state university only 20 minutes from home had a rapidly expanding program that more than rivals the one I was going to at NYU. Bottom line (the “plan” as it currently stands): I will begin this fall at UTD getting a double masters into a Ph.D. in both Applied Cognition & Neuroscience and Arts & Technology. I’ve been accepted into the Neuroscience program and am still waiting on the official word from Arts & Technology (already received the verbal yes).

 I am well aware that all of these “plans” could change and a year from now I could be blogging from India or something crazy. But I feel really clearly like going back to school is one part of this season of my life.

Despite my school plans, I’ve let go of my need for a five-year plan, I still live pretty week-to-week and I have definitely been surprised by a few things since the beginning of this year. I have learned that godliness paired with contentment really is the key to life. I’ll be totally excited whenever it’s time for me to get married (to God-only-knows who), but I’m not counting down the days; babies are wonderful, but I don’t want them tomorrow or the next day; I love my quality time with family and friends, but alone time is great too.

Contentment, I’ve learned, is the balance to all of my crazy plans.

 

“At some point, you gotta let go, and sit still, and allow contentment to come to you.” –Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love­­

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How a Hula Hoop Changed My Life (Redefining Boundaries)

Posted by on Wednesday, June 5, 2013 in communication, musings on life, love & everything in between | 0 comments

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I thought I was pretty good at relating to people. I’ve always had lots of friends (not bragging… I was just born a social butterfly) and I really try to make a concerted effort to connect with people’s hearts as well as the fun, light, social stuff.

In the midst of building friendships and relationships, I began to learn that I was horrible with boundaries. I’ve always been a strong personality, yet at the same time, I have no problem accommodating others (with me, it’s not often “my way or the highway”). I’m definitely not a doormat, but I had no idea until about two years ago, how much of my life I was inadvertently allowing others to dictate because of my poor boundaries.

A couple of summers ago, a girlfriend called me up and told me she had sent me a link to an two-part audio series by her pastor, Alyn Jones in Nashville. He talked about boundaries and she said it had changed her life. I reluctantly agreed to listen, but really felt I had no need for a “boundaries” talk since I wasn’t dating anyone at the time.

Little did I know…

I listened to that two-part teaching and have listened countless times since and even coerced friends to listen (I may or may not have played it on long road trips when they couldn’t escape the car. ;) ). I’m not exaggerating when I say that it is one of only two messages that have been personally life altering.

I cannot tell you in strong enough language how you NEED to listen to this podcast (below). It WILL change your life. Every one of my close friends has heard it and our relationships have all dramatically improved as a result. I will ask the man I marry to please listen to it one day. I will teach my children the principles. I will shout it from the rooftops because it has SO impacted me.

I encourage you to listen to the podcasts which I’ve embedded below, but let me sum up what I learned through both the podcast and some life lessons in the last two years about retracing boundaries:

  • There are four ways that people try to get their needs met:
    1. People
    2. Pleasure
    3. Possessions
    4. Performance/Power

I think it goes without saying that none of these will ultimately satisfy our deepest desires.

  • Fundamentally, your value is NOT in what others think/feel about you. – It is based on the deep, trusting, heart-knowledge that you are loved by God. You were made to receive and give love and that is enough.
  • You are valued regardless of how well you perform. – Seriously, you are.
  • “No” is a complete sentence. – You do not owe others excuses or explanations for why you choose to do or not do something. You may offer them an explanation if you choose, but it is out of love that you offer it, not obligation. People with healthy boundaries won’t manipulate or guilt you for your “no.” I love how Alyn says it, “until you are free to say ‘no,’ you’re not free to say ‘yes.’” On the flip side, if people aren’t free to say “no” to you, then they’re not truly free to say “yes.”
  • The Hula-Hoop Rule. – Understanding I am not responsible for other people’s stuff.

Imagine there is an invisible hula-hoop around you. In your hoop are your feelings, your actions, your hopes/fears, your reactions… anything that has “your” in front of it. Inside Jane’s hula-hoop are her emotions, her actions, her reactions… etc. I am not responsible for anything in Jane’s hula-hoop. Those are hers to deal with. If she chooses to invite me in, I can consult or guide and vice versa, but an invitation must be offered or it is a violation of boundaries.

Understanding the hula-hoop rule has helped my friends and I SO VERY MUCH. We are much less affected by or feel the need to “fix” others problems and will kindly remind each other “that is not in your hula-hoop” when one or another of us is trying to take on someone else’s hurt feeling, worry, problem, etc.

  • Not everyone has the same access. – Sorry, I love everyone, but there are only a handful of girlfriends and members of my family (and one day, my husband) who have full access to call out junk in my life. That’s for two reasons: 1. I have given them that access… verbally and by investing my time into them. 2. They have given me their time and they encourage me even more than they challenge/critique me.
  • I’m not your Savior, so don’t expect me to fix your problems. – I swear that every member of my family has 1-800-TellMeAllYourStuff tattooed invisibly on our foreheads. EVERYWHERE we go, people offer up their issues. We don’t mind it; we love people, but it has become imperative over the years that we understand boundaries. Including understanding that it is NOT up to me to fix all of your problems. (It goes back to the hula-hoop rule). Jesus is the only Savior I know and he does a better job than I ever could. Also, it’s your life… I’ve got my own issues to fix. I love ya. I may or may not share some wisdom, but I’m not gonna save you.

 

I have been involved in ministries and businesses where there was enormous pressure to say “yes” to everything and a strong emphasis on performance. Perfection was masked as “excellence” and if you dared take time for family or yourself, it was as though you were living in sin. (More on perfectionism in an upcoming post.) Understanding these (and other) principles of boundaries have changed my life. I no longer feel the pressure to perform. I am not offended if you tell me “no” to an invitation I extend and I feel no twinges of worry if I have offended you with my “no.”

Retracing my boundaries in relationships has enabled me to have an unspoken agreement in all my close friendships and with my family (with whom it can be the hardest for me to have boundaries). But now, publically online, I’m speaking forth my agreement.

Now, better understanding boundaries, here is my heart toward all those I have in my life (from strangers to family): lovingly and respectfully, I don’t need you… if I’m inviting you into my life, it’s because I want you in it. And I do want you. But I want you to know that I’m not here to perform or to please you.

I will do my upmost to invest in you, pray for you and point you to toward Jesus. I’ll join with you in having fun, adventuring and laughing at life on both the days of beauty and those of heartache. I’ll sing spontaneously, dance like a crazy person and care for your sick babies. I’ll ask for your advice and constructive criticism and I’ll welcome your love and encouragement.

I’ll do what I can to always be a shoulder for you to cry on and a friend to lean on, but with all of my heart, I’ll encourage you to pursue Jesus to find your wholeness and pray that you’ll do the same for me.

I’ll do my best to let my yes be yes and my no be no. I’ll strive to uplift you with my words and in my heart. I’ll respect you by respecting your boundaries, and I ask you to do the same.

Welcome to my life, my friend. May we together, always grow into a greater knowledge of love and may that outward expression change the landscape of our world for eternity.

Xoxo,

Elizabeth

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Panic Attacks! (and how to overcome them)

Posted by on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 in musings on life, love & everything in between | 1 comment

I remember it starting one particular Friday morning; junior year of college; an hour and a half before a math test.

Shallow breathing.

Darting thoughts.

Freaking out that my life was over.

Or at least my life with Statistics was over.

 

I was having a PANIC ATTACK. (I’m shouting it because that’s what your body is doing when you’re having one.)

Typical symptoms of a panic attack can include an assortment of: shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness, hot and/or cold flashes, nausea, dizziness, paresthesias (tingling sensations—like pins and needles in your hands and feet).

This was the beginning of what was about a two-year-long struggle to overcome panic attacks.

It wasn’t every day. It wasn’t even every week. But I found myself experiencing strange sensations that had no explanation for.

In addition to panic attacks, I was experiencing frequent heartburn, acid reflux and regular digestive issues. (And I will leave the descriptions of my complicated digestive functions at that.)

In the midst of learning about Grace, giving up coffee, whilst I was without a plan, my body was detoxing, distressing and needed a good reboot.

What I know now that I did not realize then was­­ that my panic attacks and my screwed up digestive system were intricately related.

In fact, 75 percent of the nerve receptors having to do with stress are actually found in your gut. So when your tummy is sick, your propensity toward severe stress is heightened.

I’ve met countless people recently who tell me about their anxiety or the panic attack they just had. Whether you are having regular panic attacks, struggle with anxiety or just have a bit of extra stress in your life, I’m going to share with you my secrets on how I’ve been getting better. I still have a mini-freakout every now and again, but it’s irregular and never goes into a full-blown panic attack. Thank God.

 

1.    I worked on my gut. I cut out coffee, went gluten free/dairy free for a little while and gave my body a chance to get regulated. I am not currently gluten/dairy free, but maybe at some point. My inflammation got SO much better just by changing my diet and I found that a lot of my digestive issues got better. I have an excellent naturopathic doctor that I see every six-ish months, Danette Goodyear, here in Dallas. I highly recommend working with a doctor who will help you get to the root issue instead of just giving you medication (I had a previous M.D. prescribe me PepcidAC for digestive stuff. It only masked the symptoms instead of treating the root issues).

2.    Essential Oils. Everyday I use various therapeutic grade essential oils. My favorites for combatting stress and using them in the midst of a panic attack are Peace & Calming, Valor, and Lavender. I’ve found that my body will be drawn to one oil or another depending on what I’m needing that day. I rub them on topically, inhale them or put them in a diffuser to disseminate throughout the room (or all three). For helping with all of those weird digestive issues, Di-Gize essential oil is literally my best friend. I rub it on topically or take it in a capsule form and Dear God, I feel better almost instantly. 

3.    GABA. Words cannot describe how much I love GABA… My eldest sister jokes that I used “coffee, GABA, coffee, GABA, etc.” on rotation throughout school. Seriously, nothing (other than the essential oils) has helped me combat panic more quickly than this. You can find it at any health food store.

GABA is an amino acid and works as an inhibitory neurotransmitter to regulate brain and nerve cell activity by restricting the number of neurons firing at once, calming both your central and peripheral nervous systems. GABA is referred to as the “brain’s natural calming agent.”

Before I moved to London, I was having major freak-outs. One night, I was in the middle of hyperventilating (not dramatic at all), I took one GABA and my breathing slowed within seconds. Literally. You can safely take up to 1500mg of GABA in a 24-hour period (500mg 3x day). (Any more than that and it might actually make you feel a little jittery, but there shouldn’t be any major adverse reactions). I get the 500mg pills and take one. If after 20 minutes, I’m still feeling a little jittery, I’ll take another 500mg pill. Usually just one GABA combined with using essential oils, I’m good to go.

4.    Serotonin (Tryptophan). Serotonin is one of the major neurotransmitters in your brain/gut for controlling stress. Whenever your gut is sick and/or you’ve been feeling heightened emotion (anxiety, anger, fear, sadness) your body uses serotonin in order to cope. If your body hasn’t had time to replenish the serotonin, you’re going to be more susceptible to all of those negative, high emotions. Tryptophan (yes, like the turkey) is the precursor for serotonin in your brain. I take homeopathic drops of tryptophan from my naturopathic doctor, but exercise, fresh air, sunshine and a serotonin-rich diet (proteins such as turkey, fish, chicken, cottage cheese, nuts, cheese, eggs and beans all contain good levels of tryptophan; both medium and long-chain healthy fats high in Omega-3s such as avocados, nuts, flaxseed, vegetable oils and seeds, salmon, tuna) can all help to boost your serotonin levels naturally.

5.    Prayer. This has become my staple: Philippians 4:4-7. I live by it. Enough said.

 

If you want to research more on the topic, here are some things I’d recommend…

  • Listen to Radiolab’s podcast “Guts”. Specifically the story in the middle section of the podcast (about 17 minutes in) illustrates why Serotonin is so key to your life and your gut. I warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart… or those with weak stomachs.
  • Click through some of the links embedded in this article for specifics on some of what I’ve talked about. Do your own research and find what works for you.

 

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor… so talk to yours. If yours is lame, find a new one. Do lots of research. Ask questions. Don’t go on any crazy fads/diets. Be smart and do everything in moderation. Ultimately, it’s your body so take care of it and don’t be an idiot. :) xoxo

elizabeth_erickson_panic_attacks

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Dear Coffee…

Posted by on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 in musings on life, love & everything in between | 0 comments

My Dear Coffee,

I find that I’m at a loss for words. I never thought this day would come.

This letter is to tell you plainly: I love you, but we need to break up.

I must admit that it pains me deeply to have to tell you such things. Although you give me buttery warm feelings as take you in, I find that you could very well be the death of me.

Your caffeination causes me to have jitters of all sorts. Heart palpitations, yet not from affections for you. Shallow breathing. My tummy in knots.

When I’m without you, my head aches in all sorts of ways. My sight is blurred almost to the point of blindness. I think it is what some may call a ‘withdraw migraine.’

Whatever it may be, I can trace it to you. Although presently, we meet five times a day—sometimes more, sometimes less—it has to stop. I cannot continue loving you the way that I do.

 

I’m so sorry, dearest Coffee. I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth

 

Such were my sentiments two years ago. Coffee had done a number on me. I was drinking up to five shots of espresso and/or cups of coffee a day. If I accidentally missed a day, it was head pain at monumental intensity. The panic attacks* were horrible. I had to do something.

So I weaned myself off of coffee. Completely. I only drank water and sometimes tea. I hated it… but I loved it.

I came to realize once coffee and I had broken up that I was using coffee not only for it’s caffeine benefits, but as a sort of… emotional booty call. Essentially, a large part of my motivation for drinking coffee was comfort.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter (connector in the brain) responsible for helping us feel pleasure. It’s commonly known as being responsible for “reward-driven” learning.

For instance, if I wanted to train my puppy, I would “reward” her by giving her a treat after she did something positive like coming when I called. Eventually it will get to the point that I don’t even need a treat in hand. Her brain will adapt so that just me calling to her will fire off the dopamine—she doesn’t even have to have the treat in her possession yet.

So it was with me. I was the little puppy drinking coffee as a reward. When I was stressed: coffee; feeling happy: coffee; being social: coffee; sad: coffee.

Coffee was no longer just a desire, it was a necessary part of my life. It used to be that one cup gave me the dopamine hit. But I was at the point where five cups still wasn’t doing it.

My adrenal glands were shot. My digestive system was torn up. I had to do something. So coffee and I broke up. It was heartbreaking. But it was necessary. Coffee and it’s dopamine-inducing-relaxation were not inherently evil or bad, but I began to realize that I was using it as a pacifier instead of dealing with whatever was the actual stressor. Again, not inherently bad, but anything in excess is unhealthy.

So I said goodbye to coffee for a good several months. I detoxed my system and dealt with some other issues and now I can enjoy a cup or maybe even two without any of the painful side effects or emotional drama. I don’t have it every day, sometimes not even every other. I still love coffee… but I realized that we’re better off just as friends.

coffee_elizabeth_erickson

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Somewhere Between (Rediscovering Grace: Part II)

Posted by on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 in faith, musings on life, love & everything in between | 0 comments

If you missed the first post, read it here.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

I think I came to full awareness of what Grace did for me a few months later. It was October 2011 and I was still under a pretty hefty cloud for reasons that will mostly be explained in a string of the other “Since I’ve Been Gone” blogs… Needless to say, I’m assuming you’re starting to get the idea that I was a tangled mess.

Although I could rest somewhat easier after reading Ruthless Trust, I was still not talking to God (I had however dealt with my anger and bitterness for none of my… I mean “His” plans coming to pass). I wasn’t doing any of the good Christian things that usually help you out in crisis. You know: reading your bible, praying 15 hours a day, helping others, yada yada.

Instead I tried a multitude of practical things: exercise, cutting out coffee*, dealing with anxiety*, homeopathic and herbal supplements, talking with a counselor, blah blah blah. Some helped, but I still wasn’t “better.”

During the course of my grossness, Brittany (the one who was in New York with me when we first discovered Ruthless Trust) had gotten engaged. I was genuinely excited for her. Not that the excitement could do anything to push back the depression. But nonetheless, I hopped on a plane to Nashville for five, yes five, engagement portrait sessions with her and her fiancé (now husband) John.

I left on a Friday and returned on a Thursday. Seven days and nothing substantial had happened. Nothing except the cloud had lifted. Somewhere between Dallas and Nashville and sometime between a Friday and a Thursday, something substantial had happened. Grace.

 

Grace had seen me at my worst.

It looked past the brokenness.

It wasn’t worried about what I had or had not produced.

It lifted off the heaviness.

It took me where I could not take myself: into openness.

 

Everything changed on that trip to Nashville. I haven’t dealt with depression at all since that trip.

And what is so powerful here is that I did nothing to make that happen.

I want to emphasize here that I DID NOTHING TO HELP MYSELF. All of my feeble efforts failed. I was too battle weary and broken to do anything. Grace did it entirely on it’s own. Whilst I was asleep the seeds were growing.

That is why I know I’ve met Grace. Because Grace did what I couldn’t do. It rescued me out of darkness into glorious light. I’m not just talking about salvation here. I received salvation at age three, consciously and in a very real way.

Grace goes beyond salvation; Grace is about living in the light and loving the freedom within. It’s about resting in the goodness of a God who loves unconditionally. We can’t earn Grace; it’s freely given. We open ourselves to receive it and sometimes, when we’re desperate and broken and unaware of our need, God gives us grace somewhere between Dallas and Nashville, sometime between a Friday and a Thursday.

 

“…but equally amazing to me is the steadfast grace that allows us to remain relentlessly faithfulthrough the disasters and disappointments, the struggles and the heartaches of the human adventure. Our graced track record instills a modest confidence that, although we often stumble and fall, we will keep getting up; that we will not be numbered among the superficial who burn their Bibles at the first sign of trouble, or the defeated who fight long and struggle honorably for their faith but eventually yield to despair; that the grace for the next step and the courage to receive it will be given.” –Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

dallas to nasville

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Rediscovering Grace (Part I)

Posted by on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 in faith, musings on life, love & everything in between | 0 comments

When most people think of the word “grace,” they picture the following:

Until a year and a half ago, as far as I was concerned, Grace indeed had died 40 years ago. At least I didn’t know what “grace” meant for me.

Intellectually, I understood from childhood that Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died a painful death as the penalty for my wrongdoings and offers me something called “Grace” instead of the judgment that I deserve.

All of that is great and good, but was not especially moving to me. And I’m a moderately emotional person.

But all that has changed. If you’ll allow me, I’ll tell you a short story about when I met Grace…

 

Back up to two years ago. March 2011, I was in New York with one of my besties Brittany. Whilst we were there, our host handed me a stack his favorite books. Among them was one in particular entitled Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning.

The cover was a deep red with an antiqued image of some sort of a tree. I keenly read a chapter aloud to Brittany and we went about our day in the city.

 

Fast forward a few months, to late summer. My life was in shambles. Every dream and plan I thought was supposed to be happening was not. I was jobless, husbandless, brokenhearted, depressed and without a plan (which was for sure the hardest part to deal with).

All I could do most days was do my best to avoid having a panic attack (more on that later), try not to be depressed by using every natural and practical method I could muster, and plug along freelancing.

I had bought a copy of that Ruthless Trust book at some point that year and it had been sitting on my bookshelf along with five or six other books all begging for me to crack them open and explore. None of them were appealing. I was at the height of depression-induced-apathy.

I began reading the book at the beginning. 

I made it two-thirds of the way through the book and although the content was wonderful, nothing struck me as particularly significant. That was until I got to one passage. The author began by reminding the reader that Jesus likened the Kingdom of God to a farmer who throws seed on the land.

“With that simple act, the farmer’s work is done. He watches television, washes clothes, repairs the hole in the roof, and travels to Delaware, New Mexico, and Oregon to visit his three children. Whether it is night or day, whether the farmer is asleep or awake, at home or on the road, the seed he scattered sprouts and grows. He does not have a clue how it happed. The earth does it all without his help…

That is the way it is with trust. Over the years it ripens into confidence. Based on the solid, irrefutable evidence of God’s relentless faithfulness, a certainty in the trustworthiness of the tremendous Lover evolves without the least sweat and strain on our part…”

But it was this next part that made me weep, for as I began reading it for the first time, it was as if it had been inscribed on the page only for me:

“When the farmer arises in the morning, unreconciled to getting out of bed, he feels no anxiety that he has wasted time through his sleep; au contraire, he is confident that the seed has continued to grow during the night. So, too, the spiritual woman does not fret and flap over opportunities missed, does not hammer herself for not working hard enough, and does not have a panic attack wondering whether she has received grace in vain. She lives in quiet confidence that God is working in her by day and by night. Like the farmer, she is not totally passive or presumptuous. The woman knows that she has her full measure of work to do, but she realizes that the outcome rests with God and that the decisive factor is unearned grace. Thus, she works as if everything depends on God and prays as if everything depends on her. (emphasis mine).

Brennan Manning had just read my mail. Really what happened was that God was gracious enough to use a book to speak to my heart about this thing called “Grace.” And in that moment, I was beginning to understand.

To be continued…

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Verbal Vulnerability (It’s not you… It’s me!)

Posted by on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 in musings on life, love & everything in between | 0 comments

I believe that one of the hallmarks of a life well-lived is vulnerability. If you don’t believe me, then maybe you’ll believe Brene Brown. She has a Ph.D. and a heck of a lot more life experience than I. Plus, everyone at TED and on YouTube loves her, so she’s got to be saying something right.

Understanding the importance of vulnerability, I’m penning down these thoughts fresh off a conversation last night with a friend in which some broken areas of my heart were revealed. Please note at the outset of this post, unlike most of my other writing, this post has not been censored by any of my loving girlfriends who all keep me from saying things publically that could reveal how crazy I actually am. (See… Had this been edited, they probably wouldn’t have let me talk about being crazy).

 

But really… if you’ll allow me… I’d love to share what this mid-twenties, overcoming-perfectionistic-tendencies, single, white female learned about herself last night:

I hate being verbally affirmed.

And I don’t know how to get over that.

 

Let’s back this story up to a few days ago… I was at lunch with two very sincere girlfriends last week when one of them, with no ulterior motives or guile, began complementing me on a couple of physical features of mine. Lest you think this is weird, it’s totally normal for girls to show appreciation (or comparison in some cases) by pointing out aspects of another girl to her directly or to others around. Men often simply observe, but girls will usually verbalize.

As her specific compliments mounted in number, I began to squirm in my chair and then thanked her before nicely, yet awkwardly asking her to stop talking about me because I was feeling the strong urge to run in a corner and hide.

And that wasn’t the first time I’ve felt uncomfortable like that. For years, I’ve felt like I was getting internal hives as strangers, friends or family would compliment me on a job well done, a dance performance well executed or a physical or personality characteristic that they deemed charming.

Shoot me. Someone. Please.

A few years ago, I just decided that the best thing to do when verbal affirmation was offered to me (because we all need to give and receive it) is to just suck it up, smile and graciously reply “thank you.” Even though internally, I would be screaming for them to shut up about whatever they were saying about me so we could talk about the weather, their children or even sports; something… anything other than having their verbal attention on me.

If you know me at all, then you know that I am not shy whatsoever. So I knew my aversion to verbal affirmation didn’t come from being a wallflower or not desiring attention (I’ve hogged the stage since I was three for heaven’s sake!). Though I felt uncomfortable whenever there was verbal affirmation toward me, I never probed any deeper as I assumed it was just a normal side effect to humility (not necessarily a trait I think I have a lot of naturally).

But over the last couple of months I began to feel like God was probing my words of affirmation sore spot. As my friend complimented me at lunch the other day, I finally realized that I really needed to get to the bottom of why I really just wanted everyone to shut up if they were going to affirm me.

I had recognized over the last month or so that a small part of my aversion to verbal affirmation is that I watched churches and organizations I’ve been a part of that used flattery as a manipulation technique and many people had mixed motives. As a result of learning from their (unhealthy) communication styles and desiring to be a woman who you can take at her word and at face value, I’ve prayed and worked to be one who doesn’t mince words and also trusts people at their word without mistrusting their motivation for giving compliments.

But I knew that it went deeper than just seeing words of affirmation used as manipulation… I knew there was more. And then last night, I figured it out…

Fundamentally, I haven’t felt deserving of your compliment.

I began to look back… if you were complimenting me on a performance, I probably didn’t feel like I had performed well enough so thanks for the compliment, but I could have been better’ is really what was running through my head as I smiled and said “thank you.”

If you were complimenting me on my looks (whatever that means) or my personality (which is winning if I do say so… there’s that humility showing again!) than I feel undeserving because I DIDN’T EARN THOSE… I didn’t even choose them. They’re all gifts from God, genetics and the environment I grew up in so who am I to take any credit?

Please hear my heart that do I NOT, in any way, think that I’m all that and a bag of chips. I don’t. This post is not meant to be The Elizabeth Show. Frankly, Amanda Bynes did that with The Amanda Show and we all know how well that turned out for her. No, I don’t think I’m all that; nor do I think I’m a doormat. I’ve got a pretty healthy dose of confidence (thanks to the grace of God and supportive growth environments), but my point here is to simply be real. I don’t have it all together. Far from it. I’m a mess: my family knows it, my close friends know it and God sure as hell knows it. Some days I’m better than others. Most days I underperform and I’m learning to live with it.

I’m just being real here and letting you know what I’m working through.

So if I cringe if/when you say something nice… It’s not you, it’s me and I’m working on it. ;)

All my love… for everyone,

Elizabeth

 

P.S. If you made it this far, thanks for putting up with vulnerable, uncensored-by-my-besties Liz. You’re a dear. xo

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