Saturday, February 28, 2009

Digital Photo Collage

So...it's still really really cold outside. Despite the fact that the high is 40 today, the windchill makes it feel like it's in the 20s outside (painful!). I decided to stay indoors for a few hours, at least until it feels more like 30 something. I spent the morning playing around with the gimp, creating a digital collage. Gimp is so much fun, I love that stuff like this is free :P!




Here are some of the pictures taken beforehand and edited:


right outside of the law school...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Words and Pictures


Psalm 62:5-8 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; his is my mighty rocky, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him for God is our refuge.


Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.


Philippians 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.


2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ready, Set, Go!

Over the years, I have grown more and more skeptical of doctors! Seriously, they pay these people to give me crazy drugs that don't work and just make me feel more sick?!

Ok... so that's not always the case, but sometimes it feels like it :P. Those of you who've followed this and other blogs of mine know that I've had issues with my gut since who knows when. Things got progressively worse as I got older, but I've learned how to 'manage' the symptoms to the point where I just have a mild stomach ache every day, instead of a gut-wrenching one. Every now and then I do have my flair-ups, like now, but why be in pain at all?!

The doctors want to poke and prod me even more than they already have, make me drink a couple pints of gag-inducing laxative to undergo a nasty test, and diagnose me with ibs, crohn's or some other ugly digestive autoimmune disease. Why? Because of the gut pain; because of results that came back in a blood test I had done years ago. What's that? A high white blood cell count and the annoying presence of antinuclear antibodies in my body. What do I have to say to this? NO!

Yes, I am a stubborn patient. I don't like to take medicine unless I have an infection. But steroids? No, thank you. I already had to take them nearly every month for my asthma when I was little and I don't like how they make me feel.

So what's left? The holistic approach: The healing of the mind and body! I used to be very skeptical of this shady type of 'medicine' (back when I had faith in doctors) but when it comes right down to it, I just want to feel better. Steroids aren't going to cut it for me anymore.

I'm writing this on here to keep it real, not to whine--that'll just make it worse. I hate pretending like everything's perfect, that makes it worse too. I'm also writing this to better hold myself accountable. So here it goes, "Self, I'm going to treat you well. I'm going to be disciplined and actually take this program seriously because it's helped many people and it can help me. Plus, there are no nasty side-effects."

I don't know how many times I've heard it said that most illnesses are caused by stress. It's been drilled into my stubborn head over and over. Though I feel quite happy with my life at the moment, I will admit that my digestive system is still recovering from previous periods of grief and hell.

You see, the digestive system is like the serotonin powerhouse. In fact, it holds most of the serotonin in our body. Check this out:

A recent study published found that people with IBS have significantly lower levels of serotonin in cells lining the stomach. Although serotonin is best known for its role as a mood-boosting brain chemical, it is also involved in many digestive functions and in the perception of pain. In fact, more serotonin is found in the stomach than in the brain, and the GI tract is very sensitive to changes in its serotonin level. The researchers concluded that IBS may arise from abnormalities in serotonin levels responsible for digestive functions.

For more, see this article

According to an old child development textbook I used in school, if you experience long periods of low serotonin levels as a child, your body struggles to maintain a normal level as an adult. Basically, you never reach the healthy peak--your levels are always low, which just exacerbates things.

Though crohn's disease and IBS are not one in the same, since IBS does not cause physical damage to the intestines, it's possible to have both. (Also, doctors are beginning to think that IBS is an autoimmune disease.) What triggers an autoimmune disease? Not only genetics but stress. When your body's defenses are on overdrive, it's hard for them to go back to normal; your body can start attacking itself--which is pretty much what happens in an autoimmune disease. Just take a look:

Does stress cause autoimmune disease?

Stress is definitely a factor. Researchers have identified hormonal and cellular changes that occur in our bodies when we are under stress. Chronic stress is thought to be worse for our immune systems. When our body perceives an attack, we go into attack mode, often referred to as the "fight or flight" syndrome. This response to acute stress could be a lifesaver. However, after a period of chronic stress, our bodies can't keep up the fight and may produce less of these hormones leaving our tissues vulnerable to inflammation and disease.

and read this

Childhood traumatic stress increased the likelihood of hospitalization with a diagnosed autoimmune disease decades into adulthood. These findings are consistent with recent biological studies on the impact of early life stress on subsequent inflammatory responses.

Taken from here

So why share this with you? Well, sometimes we forget how much power we have over our own suffering. (Points finger at self.) Life isn't fair, that's why there's prayer and plenty of wisdom to be given by God who gives you the strength to act. Remember the sparrow? Always be your own advocate! Even though it may not be in your gut, you could still be carrying around something debilitating that's taking a physical, mental, or emotional toll on you, especially during these rough times.

I don't blame anyone or anything from my past for this, even if my 'illness' is a result of unpleasant experiences. Why? Because I can do something about it now and because it's been a blessing in disguise; it's made me who I am. I don't give up easily. My stubbornness can be a very good thing :).

Side note: I am not getting paid to promote the site I linked to earlier on. I am seriously going to try that program by Jini Patel. It is definitely a much safer approach than anything the doctors want me to try. I will try it out and post back with results later, it might be awhile; it'll be a long journey! I pray it works...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Maybe Sparrow

Matthew 10:29
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.

Luke 12:7
Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Job 12:10
In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

The first is a verse I often here quoted when worry related issues arise. We're told to have faith that God will work things out because he even protects the sparrows. But that doesn't mean we're supposed to just have faith or just trust and pray...

Getting a picture of the sparrows outside my apartment yesterday morning wasn't easy. It was cold so their feathers were fluffy. Still, they were happily chirping away, probably celebrating Spring's oncoming arrival and a sunny morning without snowfall, rain or high speed winds.

Then I enter the scene. Huge black camera in hand, big black coat on, scarf around my face, glasses on, the works--I probably looked like a monster to them. They see me. They're gone... I spent the next 10 to 15 minutes looking for a gutsy but photogenic birdie that might've stuck around. Finally found one, he's pictured hiding behind a branch. The rest followed their God-given instincts and flew away...

So why is it that when we're afraid or worried about something, we expect God to do it all? Even sparrows know better...well, some ;).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Illustration Friday: Instinct

Learning how to fly isn't always a matter of instinct, sometimes you need a little push.


Illustration medium: pen and ink/pencil
Children's Art

Thursday, February 19, 2009

because You're here.

There's something simmering on the stove every day
and
I'm thankful for the dirty dishes.


Against an old cold wall
there is a used couch,
with worn but inviting cushions.


There are crumbs sprinkled across the floor,
and paid bills in the drawer...
Snowfalls outside our window,
And books for books, in piles.


But there are no questions
Or
sealed boxes
in the
small closets
whose doors never close.


There are no flecks of insecurity
clinging like dust
to tired childhood belongings.


There is a peace
that comes with seeing
an unopened box of tissues...
next to my pillow
(next to you).


This is home:
With confidence and empty wallets
we can open the front door and smile,
even if and especially when
uncertainty rings like a desperate salesman.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A 'cute' verse

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."
Colossians 4:6

I read this verse and had to laugh a little, being a foodie and all. Salt really does make or break a baked good. I've learned from experience. When I first started baking, I used to do away with the salt in recipes because I saw no point in adding the one little teaspoon or half teaspoon of salt.

I thought, "What can a tiny pinch of salt do to a batch of cookies that sugar and all the other good stuff can't?". Well, when batch after batch of those saltless cookies kept coming up bland and missing 'something', I eventually realized how much their yumminess depends on a smidgen of salt.

God knows my responses are sometimes missing salt, the extra something that makes my words palatable and effective in representing my faith in God. How many times have you heard a sermon or someone (even this blog ;) trying to express God's love and it just sounds impersonal and 'Hallmark'? It really gives a whole new meaning to the phrase Pass the Salt! :D

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Personality?


INFJ - "Author". Strong drive and enjoyment to help others. Complex personality. 1.5% of total population.

Take Free Myers-Briggs Personality Test

Introverted (I) 52.63% Extroverted (E) 47.37%
Intuitive (N) 64.52% Sensing (S) 35.48%
Feeling (F) 68.57% Thinking (T) 31.43%
Judging (J) 70.97% Perceiving (P) 29.03%

INFJ
Seek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material possessions. Want to understand what motivates people and are insightful about others. Conscientious and committed to their firm values. Develop a clear vision about how best to serve the common good. Organized and decisive in implementing their vision.

Jose was an ISTJ
Quiet, serious, earn success by thoroughness and dependability. Practical, matter-of-fact, realistic, and responsible. Decide logically what should be done and work toward it steadily, regardless of distractions. Take pleasure in making everything orderly and organized – their work, their home, their life. Value traditions and loyalty.

More here...

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Lost Sock.

Want to know what becomes of your socks, the ones that disappear without a trace? This one's mine, I can tell by the long pointy toe ;).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Connections

I just finished reading an excerpt from Life on Purpose for Women, a devotional by JM Farro. Today's lesson was called "Praying God's Will"; I had a 'hmmm?' moment shortly after reading this:

It is in knowing and believing God's Word that our hearts and minds are transformed, and our wills become aligned with God's.

It's not all that surprising of a statement, but what caught my attention was minds, especially when she inserts the following verse a few sentences later: "Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think" (Romans 12:2). So, basically, if our thoughts (minds) aren't focused on God, and all that he represents (love), we'll not only be unhappy, but we're probably not going to hear our prayers get answered (we'll miss it)--that's what she says in the book. But it's not just about our hearts, it's also about our minds. That's where it gets a little confusing.

So then I start thinking that minds=soul=spirit? Nope. The state of the heart affects the mind (brain?) which then influences the soul (or spirit's?) condition, right?

In college I took a class called "The Philosophy of the Mind", which was not as fun as I'd hoped it'd be. The only interesting thing we discussed was the difference between the mind and the soul, whether there was a distinction, or whether people just use the term 'soul' as a stand-in for mind (the first not really existing, was one argument). Of course, it was just one circular claim after another; questions leading to more questions. I was certain we had a soul, but I assumed that the words mind and soul (and even spirit) could be used interchangeably...

There's a verse that mentions the mind being a separate entity from the spirit and, of course, the heart. They have a unique direct relationship but exist apart from each other. Here are a few verses:

1 Corinthians 14:15
So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

Matthew 22:37
Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Jeremiah 17:10
"I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."

John 3:6
Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

God's Spirit gives birth to our spirit so that our minds can be renewed. The condition of our spirit will reflect and be influenced by what occurs in our mind (our thoughts). Our spirit is the vehicle God uses to communicates with our mind, which then affects everything else.

Ephesians 4: 22-24
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

It took awhile, but I see the distinctions now. It's the Holy Spirit that convicts our spirit, which then directs our mind's thoughts. If we listen to the convictions, our mind will be at peace and it follows that our heart will be as well...and isn't that what it means to be truly happy?

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

Phillipians 4: 7-8
...the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, 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.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The best Valentine's Day Gift

...this is it, what more could a gal ask for?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Poladroids

Thanks to Floresita's Things I've Made, I've been having fun making Poladroids and editing the photos with Gimp and iPhoto...here are some random pictures I took awhile ago and fiddled with.



Thursday, February 12, 2009

Illustration Friday: Time

Even ice cream cones have their meltdowns...this is a job for Dr. Time!


Illustration medium: Colored pencil/pen and ink
Illustration style: Cartoon

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Resolve to love yourself...

So many folks resolve to eat healthier, that's the stereotypical New Year's resolution, right? Well, maybe the more common one is deciding to eat leaner foods...

In a way, my body forces me to eat healthy; it literally rejects the really bad stuff. I don't eat anything with preservatives or heavy oils. I just can't digest it. I've said this before, but in college, my diet consisted of a bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies (in one sitting!), tons of soda, a burger, fries, processed dorm food...and I was always sick and broke-out too much! And to think, I weighed 110 when I was eating like this, but I also had high cholesterol and a gallbladder that didn't work. I was NOT healthy, even though I was thin.

These days, I go on the occasional chocolate binge, only to suffer the consequences shortly after. My gut is wimpy, and became even more difficult after the cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal). All of that acidic bile, previously held by my gallbladder, now goes straight to my intestines from my liver. Oh yes, I also found out that 60% or so of my digestive issues were related to food allergies and sensitivities! And have you all ever noticed how expensive pre-packaged and gluten-free/allergy-friendly products are? It's ridiculous.

Problem: Allergy-friendly food is expensive and I can't eat hard-to-digest foods. Solution: Cook and bake almost everything from scratch. This is very time consuming; lucky for me, I love to cook and bake. I usually cook copious amounts of food on Sundays, so that Jose and I can eat mostly leftovers during the week. (Or I cook the main entrees on the weekend and the sides on weeknights.)

Awhile ago, Jose read The Omnivore's Dilemma, and he shared a few eye-opening facts with me...after reading those enlightening facts, we were very convicted. So now we try to shop for more 'humane' meats and as much organic produce as possible. (There is actually a chart, click here for it, you can check out that measures produce pesticide levels, we use this to decide what NEEDS to be organic.)

I bet you're you're wondering how we do it on a tight budget, with Jose in law school and all. Well, like I said, I make as much as I can from scratch. We buy the raw ingredients; the veggies, meats, fruits, and flours. I do the rest! Also, we are very stingy when it comes to everything BUT food. We don't have fancy clothing, I'm always looking for stuff that's on sale. We sold our car before moving to Cambridge, so that we could afford to live this way; we also live in a humble one bedroom apartment. We walk as much as we can, instead of renting a Zipcar or taking the subway (which contributes to an even healthier lifestyle). We also don't have to spend as much on medical expenses!

I'm not bragging; this isn't easy, really. We have our personal incentives and beliefs. I admit, we cheat, but we also try very hard to live a spiritually and physically healthy life; the two go hand-in-hand, in my humble opinion.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Look

So I changed the look of the blog again...thanks to Poppytalk :).

They featured House of 3 on their site and I really liked some of their fun headers. They're affordable and colorful. Plus, they have other cute stuff on their site...check out their Valentine's Day coupons.

Ah, memories.

I have no idea why, but I was very obsessed with Peewee's Big Adventure (and this show) when I was little, so much that I even named my first dog Pee Wee. (For laughs, I showed my mom, she said I practically had the whole script memorized.) I watched it over and over and over. This scene was my favorite; I had a love-hate relationship with it, actually. I'd pretend to cover my eyes, then I'd sneak a peak when I was ready to behold the eye-popping ghost of LARGE MARGE! I'm totally Netflixing this tonight :P!



Funny thing is, my mother also had a strange liking for peculiar and semi-traumatizing movies when she was a kiddo. She made me watch this with her when I was about 11, it was an interesting experience :P...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rich in faith

As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."
Luke 21: 1-4
Funny how I tend to glance over what I initially perceive to be the more 'simple' verses in the Bible. Over time, I've learned that there are no simple verses, just simple ways of thinking; I am guilty of the latter. But, when I'm available, God opens my eyes and shows me things I never would've seen without his wisdom, and that's what happened with these first few verses in the 21st chapter of Luke.

So many of us can relate to that "poor woman," as Jesus put it. Whether we're struggling financially or emotionally, we know what loss feels like, and possibly even the self-pity that comes along with that loss. It can be quite engrossing; we get wrapped up in our struggles so much that we forget to give back...

Wait a minute! Give back? What's left to give when you're living a life like Job and you've lost it all? You say you've done everything right and you can't figure out why YOU should be the one giving back; shouldn't the ball be on God's side of the court? Not in this case, God's for us--he's not the opponent we're up against.

That 'poor woman' lost her husband and could only offer God a fraction of a penny, but it was more than enough for him. She gave. This isn't Jesus lecturing his disciples about the importance of tithing; it's not about giving money to the church--it's about faith, giving God the benefit of the doubt when you'd rather not. This woman did not let her heart become consumed with bitterness; she did not give 'reluctantly or under compulsion' (2 Cor. 9:7) but 'freely and wholeheartedly' (1 Chron. 29:9). To think, though she was poor, she was free; she was not a slave to her sadness. Her heart was whole because it belonged to God and he acknowledged her for that, we see it happen literally right there in Luke.

To some, it may seem like you're not giving much to God; your walk with him is a humble one. Others might even think you're a fool for believing in God because you're financially poor or struggling somehow--but God sees your heart, as he saw this woman's. So where is your hope? You can be certain that A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all (Psalm 34:19).

Isaiah says it like this, Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction...(Isaiah 38:17) What if it feels like you're in the pit of destruction right now? (Though you probably aren't, as it seems God did spare Isaiah from the worst.) Maybe it's time to focus on the first part of the aforementioned verse; instead of looking for the obvious benefits, look at the ones you can gather from the hardships. It's easy to have faith when all is going well. This woman's faith was tried and true, probably even stronger than that of the wealthy men who gave more money. She'd lost her husband, she was struggling financially, and she probably was going to have it pretty rough for awhile. (Let's not forget that men were the breadwinners back then, and she'd lost hers!)

The ability to have faith when all else fails is one of the greatest benefits/blessings you will ever receive in this life--it means your faith is real. We can take comfort in these golden verses:

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way; in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distress...sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
2 Corinthians 6:4 & 10
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. Luke 6:20
 

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