What Defines You?


You have the ugliest feet I’ve ever seen!” he slurred.

I remember where we were
The dirt stain from one end to the other of his well-worn white t-shirt
The way his breath stank of cheap booze from 4 ft. away
His skinny arm around the beautiful girl he was with
The grin that spread across his face, exposing the toothpick pinned between his upper and lower teeth
I cannot, however, remember his name.

We all kind of laughed quietly and awkwardly.
For the next 3 years, anytime I was in public, I wore closed-toe shoes.
He had confirmed what I suspected all along. My ugly.

A guy.
I’d only just met.
When I was 18 years old.
At a concert.
Who I haven’t seen since.

That’s messed up.
But so very normal for a girl like me with a mind and emotions like mine.
I wish someone had told me that.

It’s regretful to think of all the time I’ve wasted replaying scenarios of happenings decades ago and because I was not already defined in my own mind and heart, I grabbed hold of them and said, “You will define me.”

Fast forward 20 somethin’ years later…When it was time to unshackle myself from these definitions.
It has been an incredibly painful process…the tearing away of that which was never meant to be part of me at all, but by doing so has, by fire, refined me.
Not without tears and wounds, and, at times, gnashing of teeth.
Not without a notable amount of doubt.
But nonetheless, improved.

Why must we strive so hard to hold on to that which keeps us paralyzed?
It is only when seeing the space once bloodied and torn, peeled away for the first time, I can appreciate the beauty of the scar that remains.

I do not find it coincidental that the season of life when I’m learning the most is in my 40’s… when I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my own skin…but something is always breaking down, requiring repair.
We’re not talkin’ about a few split-ends or a smudged manicure, we’re talking degenerative disc disease and bone spurs, torn ligaments requiring an air-cast one would wear when walking on the moon. (okay, I made that last part up about the moon, but still…) I ended up flat on my back for 3 days after pulling a muscle while bending over to pick up a receipt.

Simultaneously, as this body is going into “just out of warranty” mode, my spirit has never been so free.
Is that strange? Or is it as each decade has been?
Looking back makes more sense than I ever thought it could.

I actually don’t think I would have wanted to be 40 in my 20’s. While I could have prevented some astronomical errors in judgment, I also wouldn’t have experienced the pain that led me here, to this moment of spiritual freedom. Of that, I am certain.

Shame is a powerful thing, friend.
It has weighted down my spirit for many years making me more accessible to the chains of the lies that bind and deplete.
It’s easy for me to look back now and think, “Why didn’t I do this SO much sooner?!
As I feel a quiet voice in my spirit speak, “Because the lesson wouldn’t have been the same.”

Everything is timing Y’all.
Or as it’s said, “Timing Is Everything.”

If you’re reading this and you’re in…
… your 20‘s, you’ll just have to trust me. You’ve been skimming this anyway so maybe set a digital reminder to come back and read it in a few years.
… your 30‘s, you’re nodding your head a bit realizing that more is being revealed. Even now, in the midst of uncertainty. You may have grinned and laughed a little at the thought of being bedridden from bending over. Careful. I probably laughed too.
… your 40‘s, you may have read half way down and already related to my beginning… Even said an “Mmm-Hmm.” “Yeah, Girl!” “Me too!” “I feel you!” Or maybe you’re thanking God for those of us who were good enough examples of what rebellion looked like to keep you on the straight and narrow.
… your 50‘s+, my guess is that you’re thinking, “Darling, just wait!”
And I’ll be honest, I’m going to take that as something to be both excited and terrified by.

My Brand of Crazy

“I want to be a mouthpiece for hope not a megaphone for fear.”
– Joy Cannis Original

Now more than ever, we need someone to lift our face from the ground, back to what’s in front of us and up to the heavens, reminding us who we are and that there is greater purpose just beyond our edges of self-preservation. Recognizing and utilizing that which has been inside us all along. (Yet what we’ve been looking for everywhere but where it is.)

Stop waiting for hope to find you and be the hope right where you are. I am learning that the only way to become unstuck is to put one foot in front of the other until I’ve repositioned myself to excel and grow.

The last 18 months have been some of the most difficult in my journey.
My children have struggled beyond my ability to step in and rescue.
I weened off of a two-year opioid prescription.
I ran back into the arms of my eating disorder.
I cried on my doctor’s exam table.
I shared my testimony with thousands of women.
I entered into a season of intensive outpatient therapy.
I broke apart…shattered…into tiny pieces that I wasn’t sure could ever be repaired
until the Master Creator picked them up, one by one, sanctified each jagged edge and put me back together in a new way than I’ve ever been before.
And the Holy Spirit is present with me in a way I never thought possible.

Have you heard the saying, “Feelings are constantly changing so don’t rush to act on a certain/current feeling”? I have experienced a multitude of feelings in this season. I would go from sheer elation to utter hopelessness within the course of 24 hours. Sometimes more than once. Most days I felt like I was on the brink of insanity. I’m so grateful I didn’t act on any one particular feeling.

I think back to a time, 22 years ago, when the head of psychiatry at the treatment center where I had taken up temporary residency wrote, “This girl is narcissistic and beyond human aid!” on my treatment plan. I cut out of rehab 1 day shy of the required 30 and was therefore considered to have left “against doctor’s orders” and didn’t receive any of the personal items I had come in with. Nope. Just the clothes on my back. That was my m.o. You say I’m ________________ and I’ll prove it.

I stayed mad at that shrink for a long time. I replayed his words while picturing the scribbled notes in blue ink. I used it as an excuse to stay drunk.

Now, today, in this moment, I can tell you that doctor was right. His definition of me was spot on. I wasbeyond human aid.” Which allows no room for doubt…

Only God.
Only God could heal what was fractured.
Only God could restore me to sanity.
Only God could allow me to be broken, once again in such a way that He alone could pick up each piece, breathe life back into it, and put me back together.

Although I have had a tribe of badass physicians, friends, prayer warriors and family surround me with their incredible courage, love, and support, God changed this girl’s heart. From the inside out. He gets all the credit.

I don’t know what “feeling” you’re sitting in today?
For what it’s worth, I’m living proof that yesterday’s feeling turns into today’s relief.
Whatever it is,
However hopeless or wonderful it “feels”,
It’s going to change.
So if it’s incredible, enjoy every moment
and if it’s seemingly unbearable,
Hold on.
Hold on.
Relief is coming.
Maybe not the way you are expecting or what you’re used to, but it’s there and it will be yours.

Stepping Back Into The Ring

IMG_1408_ppQuite some time has passed since we met here, in this space.
Enough time to have my hair bleached blonde, travel thousands of miles and remove any doubt that writing is part of who I am. I need it for my sanity as my lungs need air to breathe.

I have been writing.
Sporadically.
Going longer periods between has caused inner turmoil for which there is no other cure than meeting you here, more frequently, and being my fully authentic self.

Something happened last Spring. Something that would change the trajectory of my future.
I decided it was time to wean off some prescribed medication that I had been taking every day for 2 years for degenerative disc disease & chronic pain in L4, L5 & S1 of my spine.

Each one of our children was going through battles of their own which many times presented as a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

I fell back into my eating disorder. Hard.
I was all in.

We were being pressed from every side… and I wasn’t handling it well.

We will dive into the most difficult year in the life of our family, through stories from the depths of my memory. Which means there is mentionable room for error. I thought I was being authentic before, but Darlins’ as the song says, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”

I should probably let you know that some subjects call for a 4-letter word (or two). I don’t mean to offend. I love Jesus, and I cuss a little. “Progress not perfection“, is my mantra.

This is a safe space to be vulnerable. I want to lead by example and to pretend I don’t say the “s” word, even when writing is lying, and we don’t want to build our relationship on a lie.

So here’s the deal…I won’t preach religion. I don’t think that’s what Jesus did, so I won’t.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on everything, although I do consider myself a master of my personal adventures. I believe I am a spiritual being having an earthly experience, not the other way around. (I’m 99.99% sure Oprah said that on Super Soul Sunday. I’m borrowing it now.)

What I will do is keep it real.

I will speak truth…my truth to the best of my ability and I will pray for each of you, every day, on this journey.

If you aren’t sure about God…believe that there is no God…are a bible beater…a seeker…a Jesus freak…a veteran Christian or anything in between, my hope is that something here will resonate in your gut and move you to positive action.

Thank you for taking the time out of this incredibly busy life to listen to my compilation of thoughts. I hope that you will visit often, leave encouraged and know that no matter what, you are not alone.

Remember this truth, God does not change and He is never surprised by anything. He created you with great purpose and there’s nothing you or anyone else can ever do to ruin that.

Love & Gratitude,
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#ProdigalDaughter #Ransomed #Redeemed #Restored #Renewed #Refined #POTSC

I Have An Eating Disorder…What Should I Do?

I have the privilege of sharing my story with women from all walks of life. To watch someone’s eyes change as they hear and embrace hope… well… there’s nothing else like it.
So when Emily invited me to be a part of her series, “Questions Everyone Is Asking But No One Wants To Answer” I gladly accepted. Em is the Founder of BecomingMe.tv and is making it her life’s mission to help women find their voice through the power of sharing their story. And friends, this is only the beginning.
My prayer is that something in this video will resonate with you and move you to positive action. May ours eyes be opened to the truth of what we are… a masterpiece in the making. 

 

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please get help. It is serious and in many cases, a matter of life and death. You can start by visiting the National Eating Disorders Association.

If you are, like I was, broken & without hope, I beg you to reach out to someone at one of the resources listed below. As long as you are breathing, there is still hope.
People of the Second Chance
Central Christian Church: Las Vegas
To Write Love on Her Arms

Related Posts;
3 things the Girl in your life needs to know
What Matters Now?
I’m a hypocrite
It’s time to step off the Scale
Ransomed
Wrestling demons
One Word: Enough
Anyone…anyone 
Pardon me while I compare my insides to your outsides
Just like that, a Mother is born

5 Things Not to Say When Talking With a Child About Death

How does one go about choosing an outfit to wear to the funeral of someone they love knowing that going forward it will be thought of as, “The outfit I wore to the funeral.”?

While staring blankly into my closet full of more than enough clothes to wear, a little voice from behind me said, ”Mommy, what are you doing?”
“I’m trying to decide what to wear to the service for Uncle Buddy tomorrow.”
“Oh...” [long pause] “Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes…right now, in this moment…I’m okay.” I replied.
“Alright. I’m going to play in the fort. Call me if you need me.” he said, skipping out of the room.

“Call him if I need him…” I said to myself smiling.
He’s 9 and I’m convinced he has a better grasp on everything than I do.

As I turn back to the plethora of clothing, the silence falls heavily.

I take some options from the hangers and fold them into my suitcase, careful to lay a few things out so that I can slip into them as quietly as possible after my 4:00 a.m. alarm alerts me to the beginning of this journey into grief.

Two days ago, after receiving the call that my uncle had laid his head back to rest, falling asleep one last time, it began a slew of conversations. The kind that take time and intentional thought. The ones that include long pauses and deep sighs. Are you familiar with these kinds of conversations?

I’m going to skip a ton of detail and get to the point as quickly as possible.

Sometimes we don’t understand why we are in certain seasons of life and why we are walking through things that seem far from what we had planned. And then one day, if we pay attention, we get a glimpse of the answer.

I have learned so much from the families who have welcomed me alongside them while they are experiencing loss. Being a witness to someone else’s pain is difficult to describe. To say that it puts things into perspective is much too basic. It has reshaped the way I see the world and now feel the reality that everyone lives and will one day die.

I am being taught how to navigate difficult conversations with my own children about death without being afraid. Out of all the many words and spoken thoughts we have shared, here are words and phrases I’ve learned not to use.

“He passed away.” Children are literal. We adults have a hard time saying the words, “He died.” We want to cushion the news. Don’t. This only confuses a child. When Jesus said that we need to become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven, I’m beginning to understand what he meant. Their eyes have not been clouded. They are still able to see things as they truly are.

“We lost him.” Again, children are literal and will question, “If we lost him, we will be able to find him.”

“He’s in a better place.” They will want to know why they can’t be there too if it’s a better place. And why would we be left behind instead of going with him?

“It’s okay.” It’s not okay. It’s sad and the grieving process may not have even begun due to the shock of losing someone suddenly. It will be okay, but for now, it’s sad and we should experience the sadness and grieve the loss. Remember that grief is unpredictable. It comes at the most inopportune times. Be prepared to react to things much differently for a time.

“We aren’t going to talk about it.” They want to talk about it. They want to share memories and tell stories. It is counterproductive not to let them express their emotions and thoughts. Of the many people I have talked with after the loss of someone close to them, the thing I hear repeatedly is, “I wish people weren’t afraid to talk about him. I want to keep his memory alive and the best way to do that is by sharing stories about him.” 

I don’t know this for sure, but maybe children intuitively know how to process grief much better than we adults do? I want to be open to change and continually learning. Who knew that some of my best teachers would be the smallest people in my home?Boys in sunlight

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 
So we have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day.
17 You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. 18 So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on.

I’m sure you have many things to add to my five. What are they? Let’s ease each other’s burdens, even if only through the comments on this page. You never know how far your hope is reaching.

Why it’s not time to give up… yet.

Every time I sit down to write something, I stare at the blank page, with the cursor pulsing as if to say, “Well, what are you going to say?! Don’t just sit there!”

So I close the page and think to myself, “Maybe tomorrow?
And tomorrow comes and goes… without so much as a keystroke.

Today, while staring at the cursor, I began typing just to interrupt it’s rhythm.
I started writing to spite my cursor.

As the thoughts keep coming, it’s difficult to move my fingers quickly enough. Words are skipped and thoughts are gone before they can be noted, but there is always another one to take the last ones place.

FullSizeRender

looking back, I’m really glad Chris took this pic.

Last week, I gave up hope.
I was sicker than I have ever been in my life.

An infection that started in one area of my body quickly spread to my throat and sinus’, making it difficult to breathe and threatening to grow new abscess’, pushing on the two large arteries in the sides of my neck. My words were muffled and I couldn’t speak above a whisper. My mind hurt as my head throbbed and the sound of my heart beating in my ears was a constant companion.

My eyes cried tears of grief on and off for 7 days even though my body had given up.

I thought I was going to die.
I decided it was okay to die.
I processed everything that would happen to my children… the celebrations and milestones I would miss.
I would never again laugh with Chris or kiss his mouth…
My niece would grow up only hearing stories about me, never knowing me…

It was, by far, one of the deepest, darkest, pits I have ever fallen into and the more I lay with my face against the cold ground, the deeper I sank into the abyss.

As I type, the logical part of my brain (which is small and rarely speaks up) is telling me to shut up. The more I type, the louder it gets. This is deeply personal and one of you needs to read this today… in this moment. You are contemplating giving up hope and what you do not realize is that your miracle is only a few breaths away.

I began to understand and embrace the meaning of the phrase, “My soul aches.

It’s as if, with one long exhale, my desire to exist was extinguished and I released my children, my lover, my best friends, my family, my memories, my future plans… everything went dark and the world became still.

I didn’t beg God for life, bargain for more time, or recount any regrets.
I simply closed my eyes and went to sleep with the thought that if I didn’t wake up on that bed in the ER, that’s what was supposed to happen and I didn’t have the strength or desire to fight it.

For several months now, I have been praying this prayer,
“God, break my heart for what breaks yours. Stretch me far from my place of comfort and lead me to the cross… into the center of other people’s pain. Teach me how to trust you, sitting quietly in your presence, even when it’s uncomfortable..”

I want to know Christ in a deeply personal way. As I began asking God what exactly that meant, the prayer above is what came into my spirit as clear as if someone spoke it audibly to me in conversation. I don’t know why I thought intimacy with my Savior could ever be attained without suffering.

So to sum this up…
I had to sit in the moments of desolation.
I had to trust that God still held me closely in His will.
I had to believe that He wouldn’t leave me where He had led me.
I had to call out the hollow, hopeless feeling for what it was… a feeling, that no matter how “real” it felt, would eventually pass.
I had to claim life.

I receive the gifts that came from a season of dwelling in the darkness.
One might argue that a couple of weeks does not a season make. I would have to disagree.

My Friend, if you are learning how to walk in the dark, without fear of being swallowed up, keep going, the other side is well worth the journey.

5 Reasons to Spend Time With a Mother and Her Young Children

JCP-8081I had the opportunity to spend part of my morning with my friend Melissa and her two children, Alex (2 years) and Eliana (10 months). I’m so glad I had my camera, because what I captured tells the story better than my words can.

1) Be curious. Wonder. Participate in life from the ground up. Don’t be afraid to mess up. You can always start again.

2) Ask lot’s of questions. (Even if you think they’re silly) Life is about learning and growing, no matter your age.

3) When having a serious conversation, eat chocolate… and laugh… throw your head back and let loose. (Chocolate and laughing make everything better.)

4) Play and Explore (Be resourceful)
Build a drum set from the buckets you just took off your head when you were being a robot. Play hide and seek with the nearest blanket. Sit in the rocking chair backwards.

“Mommy, wanna go look for giants with me?”
This question from Alex diverted me from all other conversation.
“Melissa, did he just ask you to go look for giants?!” I asked.
“Yes. We look for giants at least once a day.” she replied.

 

5) Take naps. Even if you don’t think you’re tired…
Feeling grumpy? Chances are, ya just need a nap.

Children are the best teachers. And most of them don’t even use words. They use action. It’s not always the right action, but it’s action nonetheless. They don’t sit around, talking about it and wait to see what happens.

When did we (adults) stop learning by doing?
When did we choose to walk away from a challenge and instead immerse ourselves in a Google search or social media for the answer?
When did we stop playing?
Why don’t we laugh with abandon?
When was the last time you sat on the floor, observing your surroundings?
Some of us need to revisit childhood. If you don’t like the one you had, ask someone to take you back with them to theirs.
Come back and tell us about your adventures in the comment section.

Other things I learned on my morning excursion…

A single shoestring can transform a toddler into a giant-slayer.
JCP-8049Egg cartons double as very hungry caterpillars.

Robots get hungry too.

What are you learning from your kids…or friends kids…or nieces and nephews, grandchildren or students in your class? Have any great pictures that tell a story? Email them to me at joycannisphotography(at)gmail(dot)com