Doubt your doubts.

•November 14, 2012 • 4 Comments

I over heard someone once described as “Johnny – who never has one thing bad to say about anything.” I remember thinking that that is probably the ultimate compliment someone can get. Not only are the words kind, they are. But in reality it means that person is able to hold their tongue and be slow to anger. I try to be like this. I strive to have only good things come out of my mouth. Doesn’t always happen but I am getting better!

In the last few years, I have been asked why I stay so positive all the time. Sounds funny to me to even be asked that now, I have trained my brain into automatically assuming the best case scenario instead of the worst.

This comes from a few things. One: the Bible. John 10:10 [nlt] says ” The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” It also says in James 1 that “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the Heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” It’s a simple barometer for me. Is the situation trying to steal my joy? Kill my spirit? Destroy my peace of mind, confidence, or faith? Then I know the situations aren’t ‘sent’ to me from God. We’ve been created with free will. We have the ability to make wrong choices even though Jesus knows the plan He has for us. I do not believe God ‘tests’ us or our faith, (Hi my name is not Job.) but I do believe there are times after I’ve made a mistake that His hedge of protection is temporarily removed and the devil has a chance to attack. I am not without God in these moments.

So back to my point. I believe ‘bad’ things are of the Devil; good thing comes from God. I try to have a positive outlook on life because its infections and because I have been given the gift of life: twice. I debated whether or not to share this part of my story but I think it might help to shed some light on my attitude toward life.

I had arrived back home in Nashville after a week spent in Los Angeles, my first time out there. I went job searching with a friend of mine, a couple late nights but nothing out of the ordinary. No blackout drunk nights, no hard partying, hardly any drinking to be honest.  I remember getting home on a Sunday afternoon. I called my parents back in Michigan around 4pm to let them know I had made it back fine, but I needed to go to bed because I was so tired I had “heavy head,” I needed to put my head down and shut my eyes for a while. In my mind; I was tired from a long week in another timezone, lots of running around and little sleep. I just thought I was getting back on a normal schedule, no big deal.

I was working in an office at the time and the next day was a big deal because the client I was working for had just sold 5 million copies of their albums, and I managed to receive my first RIAA plaque. To prove my nerdiness – this is something that had been on my bucket list since I was about 5. Not a joke. Anyway it was a big day – that moment is still one of my favorite memories. That happened in the morning and by the afternoon, I was having trouble concentrating, had a headache so I decided to take a half day and work from home.

I ended up falling asleep until the next morning, I went to class and felt really weird, just not myself. Wasn’t in any pain, didn’t really have a headache except maybe just from being early morning/no coffee yet…Yes I have a caffeine problem. I remember being a Super Senior in a freshman level class that I had minored in at a school before I transferred, therefore texting in that class was no new phenomena. I texted my mom around 8:30 and was like, “I have to go to the hospital after class, something is just not right.” I’m not the type of person who just goes to the doctor to get checked out – I actually really loathe going to medical anything, so if I said I needed to go, I like to think she knew I was being serious. She wrote back something like yes go get checked out, and really I thought I was just having a migraine at the time.

I had propped my head on the back of my left hand and I remember my wrist started flailing back and forth- having a complete mind of its own. (If you’re a 80’s kid or older think the cheesy scary movie “Idle Hands.”) My reaction to these things is completely wrong because I thought it was funny – a seizure possibly, I had never had one but surely this must be what is happening. There is a scene in one of my favorite movies – A Christmas Carol where the ghost of Jacob Marley comes to warn Scrooge and when he goes to speak he unwraps his head wraps and his mouth falls open. It’s kind of a scary scene but I swear to you watching this little moment at 3:35-3:50 is so funny now because that is EXACTLY what my mouth involuntarily did – and moaning groaning noises started coming out of me that I promise you, I would not make on my own nor in public. I kind of thought the whole thing was amusing until we got up to leave and I couldn’t say ‘thank you’ to the person who held the door open for me – I was thinking things and the words would not come out of my mouth.

This, dear friends, is one of the most frustrating feelings anyone can ever feel. First thought: call Mom. Didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t physically tell her what was wrong, bless her heart all she could hear is me crying on the one end. As a parent that has to be the worst thing: to be 10 hours away and hear their child crying. She probably didn’t know if I was hurt or in the back of a trunk somewhere haha. [Sorry Mom!]
I hung up on her so I could text her what was happening. Awful stuff is what was happening right there.

At the time, the Health Services building was across campus, it never occurred to me to hand my phone to the nearest person I just thought I had to go to the appropriate building where I would get the best help. Turns out I hadn’t been to the health center since they moved into their own building; and I wound up in some kind of counseling office. I have since returned to apologize because the next thing I did was literally throw my phone at this poor woman at the front desk and motion for her to pick it up to her ear so my mom could tell her what was happening. She didn’t get it right away and my frustration of not being able to speak coupled with being scared that I couldn’t speak was making my hysterical fit look like I had lost my marbles; in the counseling office. I’m pretty sure they thought I was having a nervous breakdown.

The people in the office finally gave me a legal pad to write on and I calmly explained what was happening, my parents names and phone numbers (yeah all the way in Michigan – I’m in Nashville. Not cool.) where I had parked my car (oh yeah: the make/model/license plate number – I’m thorough okay?) Had a big to-do of an ambulance coming to my [very small] college and making a big scene on campus that day. They took me literally a mile away to Vanderbilt Medical Center where hours of MRI’s later, determined I had had a stroke, and a series of mini-strokes following.

I didn’t even know people under 70 had strokes, I thought it was an elderly thing. Definitely not something I ever even gave a sliver of thought to happening to me.

Why?

I had formed a blood clot that travelled through a hole in my heart and up to my brain (Stroke 1). Upon reaching, it burst into tiny pieces that caused the series of mini strokes (strokes 2-4). The doctors couldn’t tell for sure, but I believe the actual stroke happened the day I got home from LA and felt so tired. I actually got to see a scan of my brain later and see the actual clot lodge, and fragments of where it landed. If any of the pieces had landed millimeters from where they did, I would have a vastly different outcome.

The next project was fixing the hole in my heart. Unbeknownst to me, I was born with it. It’s not something that ever bothered me before, and in most patients it isn’t a problem, until there’s a problem. I underwent surgery for that and am so proud and thankful to the team at Vanderbilt who put me back together and fixed my broken heart. I learned how to speak again. I’ve never been one to shy away from people, but I was encouraged to take social settings at a slow pace to build my vocabulary again before any major speaking engagements, etc.

Naturally my next job includes speaking to groups of 200+ people every day. 😉

I don’t tell you this story to get pity from you. Thinking back on it, there was never a time I wanted pity. (I asked my mom to bring my laptop to the ICU so I could work from there. If ever there was a time for time off…) I don’t tell you these things for some moral of the story either. The reason I tell you this is because I literally could have died about 5 different times over the course of a month. It’s not an accident that I am alive (over and over and over) and I know my life has been designed for a higher purpose. I really do try to live every moment all for the glory of God. Not to be a ‘good person.’ I make mistakes. I do not have everything figured out. I cry. I pray. I think I’m one of the founding creators of emotional eating. But there is no coincidence that I was saved the amount of times I was and I get to live to talk about it; practically unscathed. I live this way to glorify the Lord for all He’s done in my life.

If you were to meet me, I bet you would never know any of this.

I choose to tell you this now as an example of life. You are not here by mistake. You are not an accident. Your life has meaning and purpose.

Sometimes I read stories and tweets of people who have believed a lie (What? The Devil stole your peace of mind and confused you?) and they say crazy things about taking their life or hurting themselves and I literally ache for you. Your life is so precious. A hurtful thing someone says or does is just a moment in time. Counteract it – say how beautiful you are (You are beautiful – incase you don’t know). Say how many friends you have. Say how great your future spouse is going to be. Your words have meaning and purpose and power. You are not ‘forever alone.’ You can not buy into a lie. By definition: it is twisted truth. That’s why they are so easy to believe. Do you think it’s ironic moments like this make you confused and doubt the faith you have or even the very reason you’re alive? Confusion = lack of peace of mind = stealing your joy = not from God.

Doubt your doubts.

But never doubt how much you can bring to the table.

Every time a situation feels out of your control, just think “But God.”

“I can’t afford to pay all of my bills this month.” BUT GOD is my provider.
“I don’t know where to go from here.” BUT GOD does.
“I don’t know how to help that person.” BUT GOD already has a plan in motion.

Let go and let God. Because you know what? Nothing is out of His control. He moves mountains. He calms storms. He saves lives. Five times.

You are here because the creator of the universe designed you for this time, this moment, and this place. You are where you are supposed to be. It doesn’t take a wake up call like mine to know that you are loved more deeply than we can know in this life. Your responsibility is to recognize you are not a mistake. You are here for a reason. You are in the right place at the right time and can have a powerful impact on something big. You can hold the place for someone else. You are important.

Don’t abandon your post.

Give thanks.

•November 3, 2012 • 6 Comments

Forced growth.

I find it’s a good thing while overwhelming at the same time. Once upon a time, I grew at my own pace, I took things at the speed I wanted to take them. And I was young.
I’m still young, but I feel like the years are going [and are going to go] by faster than ever before.

Decisions.
Overwhelming decisions.
With growth comes responsibility and with responsibility comes major decisions. I feel ready, but then questions come and I feel incapable. When? Why? What if? And what if the ‘what if’s’ in my head are an inaccurate depiction of what my future actually holds?

Lately, I have found that I have allowed my heart to open in a way I have never let people in before. The compassion I have for those around me is increasingly stronger every day.
However, lately I have found that I have allowed my heart to close because the ‘what if’s’ are hard to think about while knowing a vulnerability lays itself on the line.

Sometimes within the ‘what if’s’ are moments of insecurity. There are sometimes I have a “Grey Day.” These days are just blah. When things aren’t seeming to go how I want them to [can you say ‘control freak?’] or I’m experiencing some version of this forced growth. Either way it tends to be the days where the uncomfortable place of unknown is all I can think about.

‘I have loved you with an everlasting love, with unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.’ Jer. 31:3

Some days I shouldn’t need more than that. Actually, every day that should be enough.
God is love. He loves you. He loves me. I am loved with an everlasting love.

You are loved the same.

God is love, and He speaks. He’ll talk. If only we’ll get quiet. So hard most of the time.
Time to turn off the computer, phone, iPods, iPads, and sometimes it means shutting the school books.

If we listen, He will speak. It never fails. God never fails. Love never fails.
[For more on “getting quiet,” check out Noise‘ by Rob Bell.]

I am learning to wait for the gentle whisper. [1Kings 19:13]
I am expecting the still small voice.
Love is coming…

…Love is here.
I received an unexpected package today. For those of you who don’t know, I love standard mail. Letters, cards, presents, notes. Anything not a bill is HIGHLY welcomed and genuinely appreciated. In a day and age where instant gratification has become the norm, I love the tangible old-school letters. There is a box in my house full of these notes. Grey days usually are short-lived when I open it -how can I not know how loved, blessed, and thankful I am for the people God has placed in my life?

So this package. I had previously mentioned nonchalantly that I liked a bracelet a friend of mine had on. He told me he received it as a gift, and didn’t know where it had come from. After that response I didn’t really give it another thought, honestly I had forgotten about it. Until today.
Inside this package was not one, but three bracelets with a handwritten full-page note of motivation, inspiration and a reminder to ‘thank God throughout the day’ from a stranger whom I have mutual friends with, but I’ve never met.

Getting a note of encouragement out of the blue reminded me of just how GOOD our Father is. He reminded me that I’m surrounded by some pretty wonderful people! I am being shown one iota of the magnitude of things, people, and angels at work on my behalf in the spiritual realm. My prayers are not returning void!

If you’ve made it this far – I applaud you. I have a lot on my heart and will be sharing over the next few weeks. But for now it’s the month of thanksgiving! Being grateful is easy to do for a single day in November.
I challenge you: thank God for at least one thing every day; even if it’s just for making it through another day.

As a way of saying I’m grateful for you – reply to my tweet [@jillleeferris] containing the link for this post with the hashtag:
#ThankYouGodIAmGratefulFor _______” for a chance to win one of the bracelets. And if you’d like to purchase some of your own, you can do so by clicking HERE.

xx

What do you have?

•October 28, 2012 • 4 Comments

There are people who need you.
You might feel like you have nothing to offer to anyone, but that could not be further from the truth.

You have everything to offer.

You have hope within your hands.
Love within your heart.
Peace within your life.

And you have that to offer to people.
That is what keeps you alive.

There is something within you that somebody somewhere in this world has to have.

Life is not always easy. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes things don’t go our way. It takes courage to look into the face of life and say ‘I don’t care what comes my way because I know God and because I have a savior in Jesus.’

It is well with my soul.

Growth.

•October 24, 2012 • 2 Comments

Sometimes change scares me.

Not in a true fear, but more in a way that is hard to know what is coming.

Green light?

Red light?

Slow for a yellow?

Romanticism is in the air all around me. Love is everywhere it seems. Some close to me are getting engaged and married. Only further proof that this growing up that is on its way has already arrived.

I desire to be a woman of God that makes the right decisions. Even the decisions not to eat that piece of chocolate staring at me.

I desire to be the woman that my friends and family trust wholeheartedly.

I desire to serve the Lord with everything I have and not let anything come between me and the perfect plan He has for me.

Dependable. Beautiful. Creative. Ridiculous. Passionate. Carefree. Compassionate. Wise. Mature. Responsible. Healthy. Someone who goes to sleep on time. Someone who takes things seriously. But not too seriously.

Someone who takes green lights with excitement and stops at the red ones with respect and wisdom.

Someone who checks off things on their “to-do” list.

Someone who checks off things on their life “to-do” list.

Go with the flow. Even when there isn’t one.

I desire to be a woman of God who creates the flow.

Autumn Splendor.

•October 23, 2012 • 8 Comments

‘You are altogether beautiful, my darling,
beautiful in every way.’
Song of Solomon 4:7

Changing seasons means changing products for our hair and skin. These are good for every day use and some will be an easy transition into the winter months.

Hair:

I have a lot of baby-fine hair. Where it lacks personality, I have jazzed it up with plenty of color and teasing.

I love big hair, so my fine/limp locks don’t cut it for me, but my hair dresser will regularly scold me for the amount of back combing I do. [the higher the hair, the closer to God, right?] I’ve tried MANY products to achieve the Texas pageant hair I love, but none have made the cut.

Until now.

Dry Shampoo: I have oily hair so I normally can’t skip a wash. With all of the damage I do by coloring and styling I have been on a quest to find good products to help color longevity and restrengthen my hair. Here’s the two best I’ve found for me:

Rene Furterer Naturalia – Works great at absorbing oil. Sprays light nude color, I’d guess it works best for blonde hair types.

Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray – clear spray works amazing, helps absorb oil and gives excellent volume. (It smells delightful too!)

Volume:

BigSexyHair Powder Play – A little goes a long way, apply on roots or crown and feel a chilly sensation on your scalp!

O&M Atonic Thickening Spray – Can’t say enough good things about this product. Spray on towel-dried hair and blow-dry. Smells like tropical rain on your newly thick, voluminous locks. Blondes, also check out the O&M Conquer Blonde line!

FreezeIT Hairspray – Been using for years. Can be a bit harsh, but the hold is unbeatable, really does last 24-hours.

Skin:

I have problematic skin, in that it is oily some days, dry in some spots, and all masked by acne scaring from my lovely high school days. Covering the scars is more important some days, but typically I just start with a moisturizer (SPF is a must!).

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer (SPF 20, oil-free) – a little pricey but the colors match excellently. Good for the days you want to go sans make-up but have mild imperfections. Smooth this on for light coverage, moisture, and SPF!

bareMinerals READY Foundation (SPF 20) – Thicker than their loose powder foundations [it also comes in a compact] and has a moisturizer built in. Will be good when the cold winter months dry out my skin. Lasts 8-10 hours. Runs light, I was a shade darker (Medium Tan) than what I wear in loose powder. (Also check out bareMinerals Marvelous Moxie LipglossHot Shot has my name written all over it!)

I feel better when I have some color on my skin. I spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer months, and travel to warm climates often. Nine months out of the year, the sun does wonders. However, as an ex-tanning bed baby, it’s hard for me to let go of my summer glow in the winter. On the other hand, I don’t want to damage my skin and good spray tans can get pricey! I used to shy away from self-tanning products, however the risk of being orange for a few days far outweighed the threat of skin issues and risks. Pleasantly surprised to find two great faux glows that will leave you with NO family resemblance to the oompa-loompas:

Jergens Natural Glow & Protect – Yep. Has SPF 20. This is a light moisturizer with built-in gradual color building properties. You won’t see immediate results, but I like to use it every day on my legs in the winter. It never fails; a special night pops up where you have to wear a dress and don’t want your legs to glow in the dark. No problem!

St. Tropez Self-Tan Bronzing Mousse – The best instant color from a self-tanner. Also gets deeper as theday goes on. SPF-less, but also lacks parabens and sulfates. Dries in an instant, so no need to stay barricaded in the bathroom all morning. Apply with mitt from Sephora so palms are stain-free. Looks like you’ve just come back from a weekend of sunbathing!

Misc.

Terri Apanasewicz for Liptini in Flirtini and Starlet Cocktail

These smooth lipsticks won’t dry out
lips.Flirtini is a nude shade that works with most skin tones and can tame a deep wine color to a respectable pout. Wear alone or apply translucent gloss on top for an extra punch of color. Starlet Cocktail is a trendy oxblood hue for lips that is a real head-turner. *Note – wear subtle eye makeup so your lips do the talking.

Dolce & Gabbana The One Eau de Parfum Spray – Warm and sweet. Lasts all day, and unique smell that won’t be forgotten!

What are some of your favorite tips and tricks? :]

Christmas is coming…

•October 22, 2012 • 10 Comments

The holidays are upon us! We’ve successfully made it though another year of trials and triumphs, and I CAN’T WAIT to celebrate it with friends, family, and all of YOU!

If you’re thinking ‘isn’t it a bit early to begin Christmas season?’ You wouldn’t be incorrect. I have become the joke among my family that once October 1st hits, Christmas music starts playing. In complete honesty, if it were socially acceptable, I’d play Christmas music year-round. (Shh, I do sporadically throw some in now and then.) I chose to skip Halloween, which leads us to Thanksgiving – my second favorite holiday. I think everyone reading this knows that I know – I am extremely blessed. I give thanks and glory to God every day: especially for all of you! Skipping Halloween means I get 3 solid months of the season of giving thanks, cheerfulness, bright smiles and glowing lights, and celebrating the birth of our savior.

Despite my constant begging, my family in Michigan refuses to decorate until after Thanksgiving. Believe me, Black Friday in our house is not spent shopping: its hauling boxes of hand-made ornaments and popsicle stick reindeer from the basement and finding their strategic placement on the mantle or doorknob or tree. My parents get a real tree, Frasier Fir, for the upstairs and its decorated in old-fashioned colored bulbs and trinkets from years past. This is also the tree that we attempt to find the pickle from.

Downstairs Leann and I are responsible for draping the mantle with lit garland and lighting a pre-made tree each year. We often put on the music channels to decorate to, my most vivid memory is of Michael Jackson, ironically enough.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are spent [trying] to watch a holiday movie each night. As we’ve grown up and moved out on our own, its been fun to try to coordinate and watch together anyway – thank goodness for phones and Skype!

I love baking with my mom. Since I moved to Nashville, it’s been something I miss most during the holidays. Last year this period of time was uniquely spent seeing the country from the passenger seat of a bus.


Believe it or not – there are no ovens on buses, so my cookie baking was halted. I’ll never forget the night we had bus call closest to Christmas, my family had made my favorite treat: wreath cookies and

had them sent overnight to me. I literally got a package as I was headed out the door, and took it to be opened on the bus. One of my favorite surprises.

That, and bringing my collection of classic Christmas movies on the bus. I WILL watch them one way or another!! ;]
I am such a family person. I LOVE my family. I am so blessed to have people unconditionally love me and challenge me to be the best person I can, and forgive me when I fall short. Holidays, while they  are my favorite time of year, occasionally bring out my emotional side. I miss the innocence of being little and thinking everything was magical. I miss being closer to home and around my younger sister and now new nephew to see their memories being made and the light in their eyes. Making up dances to my all-time favorite Christmas album. You can’t deny the catchiness of ‘Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!’

Despite the things I physically can’t take part in, there are some traditions I love to this day. Christmas Eve church service, coming home and eating delivery pizza [Thankful for the people working Christmas Eve at Tomato Bros!] and watching White Christmas, Muppet Christmas Carol, [Follow @GoBeaker on Twitter for fun surprises this year] and It’s a Wonderful Life, taking bets on when Allison will fall asleep; first movie or second? Pausing mid-movie to let the dog in and out. And 5 minutes later; in and out. Sleeping next to the tree to catch a glimpse of Santa, and never being able to stay up all night to actually see anything. Sleeping all of us kids in one bed at my Granpa’s house telling stories and jokes all night. Yes – we still do this as adults!

The funny thing about Christmas to me is that like most people, I spend a lot of time reminiscing about childhood. [I got chickenpox the day of my preschool christmas program, and vividly remember my mom sitting me in front of the chocolate kiss basket telling me to just keep eating them – outrageous, I was in Heaven, then the awful pain of her popping one inside my ear so I could hear. I digress.] But I also like to look back and see the way the season changes each year, and how I get to see the magic again and again, through the eye of my nephew and other kids in our family. Perhaps the biggest Christmas tradition is how traditions are ever-changing. 🙂

Here are some of my Holiday favorites:

Music:

Various Artists – Traditional Christmas Classics (Jimmy Durante is my favorite male vocalist – download his version of ‘Frosty the Snowman!’)

Bing Crosby – White Christmas

Frank Sinatra – A Jolly Christmas

Nsync – Home for the Holidays

Lady Antebellum – On This Winter’s Night

Michael W. Smith – It’s a Wonderful Christmas

The Preacher’s Wife Soundtrack

Michael Buble – Christmas

George Strait – Merry Christmas Wherever You Are

David Grisman’s Acoustic Christmas

Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Elvis, Harry Connick, Jr., & Tony Bennett all have excellent holiday music too, among many many others!

Movies:

Muppet Christmas Carol

White Christmas

The Preacher’s Wife

A Christmas Story

(This plays for 24 hours on TBS on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.

You can catch it one of the 12 times it airs. 😉 )

It’s A Wonderful Life

A Christmas Carol (What Allison usually falls asleep during)

Treats:

Wreath Cookies

Buckeyes (Recipe calls to freeze the peanut butter balls, but we skip this step. Use fork instead of toothpick: can drain the chocolate from each ball!)

Christmas Cookies and Frosting

Chocolate Scotcheroos

Home-made Rock Candy

Happy early holiday season friends! What are some of your favorite traditions?

Believe.

•October 19, 2012 • 2 Comments

I believe life is more than just survival.

I believe the heart is more than just a muscle.

I believe I know right from wrong.

I believe in hope and freedom.

I believe my life can make a difference.

I believe in the message of the cross.