That Dusty Corner

The following words push together to form a story that can be true of all of us today. God wipes clean what we’ve made black, and we must share this hope and healing with other believers.

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So right now, God sweeps me clean. I hurt, but I am thankful. While, I help wipe the grime, I reflect on days prior. Weeks, really. It took so long for anyone to enter this corner. But, I let Him see it. Little did I know, He could always see that dusty space. I just never willingly led Him there.

I went about my busy life, tending to business, doing my things, and going my own way, occasionally looking to Him for guidance. He already lived in my heart. I’d opened the doors years ago. Though, I often locked Him in, never telling others about my Peace Keeper and my Savior.

She Is Significant Too

I know you’re told on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter that you are significant.

And you are.

But I want you to think about something–

She is significant too.

The woman working in the drive-thru. The one nursing a baby. The one driving one lane over. The one filling her gas tank. The one frustrated at the checkout. The one on the other side of that perfect Instagram account. The one who has a bigger blog following than you. The one with essential oils and the one with medicine prescriptions.

SignificantToo

Not just you, but her too.

The world does not just revolve around you, and neither will it adjust to make you the center. Because you’re not.

Society says it’s all about me, what makes me happy, significant, fulfilled, loved, and uplifted. I can slide easily into the mindset that I’m at the top, and all of you just circle around me and give me my worth.

When the Journey Changes

At the age of 15, I experienced intense, regular headaches. They came so often that I began to worry. By 16, I suffered with unbearable migraines. I would lie down in the school nurses station between classes so I could gather enough stamina to sit upright for the lecture. I would groan quietly to deal with the sharp twists and turns knifing through my head.

It was agony.

near the beginning of my chronic pain journey
Near the beginning of my chronic pain journey

For the last 4 years or so, I’ve recounted this tumultuous journey of chronic pain. Every chronic pain story differs, but each one hurts. My own journey holds much personal depth, and I hope that soon I can adequately communicate my experience with you.

However, in the past year, I have known healing and rest from physical pain. It still remains, but not in the same agonizing way. I am not in darkness. How unique that you and I should meet when this journey of mine has just begun to change.

You see, I recently did a 5-minute cardio workout. Those of you with chronic pain understand the significance of that statement. It feels so good to have my muscles burning again. It is a happiness that I have just begun to re-experience. I thank God for a body that can move intensely for 5 minutes and for these moments of exercise that leave my body burning in the best type of pain I could ever wish for.

This is healing pain. My journey has just begun to change, and I must record it.

I have clearly documented my chronic pain. It is set in my history, but I cannot only recount the dark and hard part of my journey. I must also share when it is full of light and ease. I must remember today. I must remember this healing. No journey stays the same forever. At times, I felt as though the pain held me tight, pulling me closer and swallowing me up. But that’s not the truth.

It can feel desperate, black, and eternal, but this chronic pain journey has slowly changed throughout the last 6 years. Here I am today, having completed a 5-minute intense cardio work-out! The journey does change. It just takes time.

Whatever you face today is hard and often unbearable. But if I could offer you a cup of coffee and have you sit at my kitchen table, I would tell you this …

Don’t impatiently wait for the journey to change. Keep living day by day, step by step. If you need to cry, do it. If you fall into discouragement, fall. But let every pain, heartbreak, and discouragement push you closer to Christ. He is your refuge. Trust in Him.

It is easy to remember and memorize the hard times, but when a moment of joy, light-living, and healing comes your way…savor it, recount it, weave it tightly into your history. That is your journey changing, and just as you remember the hard times, remember the good times too.

As you pray for healing, strength, and guidance, bind your heart closer to God. You may not always receive the answer you hope for, but never let your wishes stand as a barricade between you and the Savior who loves you more deeply, freely, and fully than anyone else ever will. To be frustrated at God is to forfeit your only peace and hope.

You are not alone on this path. Everyone deals with some type of chronic pain. It may not be physical, but it could be mental, emotional, and even spiritual. We all hurt in some way. We were not meant for this world after all. But we have hope! Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to You. Then, look at others and really see them. Ask how they are doing. See how you can share in the burden.

The journey will change, and it will most assuredly take a long time. But we cannot lose heart, God is our refuge and there is joy to be realized in this life of hard valleys. As a woman struggling under chronic pain, I experienced 5 minutes of intense cardio.

That is joy. It is healing.

And I am determined to remember it.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

 

 

 

Your Story Is Different than Mine

Comparing my life to someone else’s always comes easily. Chances are, if you’ve been in this Internet world long enough, you’ve read a blog post — or two or three — about the futility and vanity of comparison. They are right! It destroys and leads to pride or discontent.

I’ve fallen in the comparison trap plenty of times. Too many. We all have! By this point, most (if not all!) of us know that comparison is empty and we don’t need another blog post to tell us all about its vanity. Instead, I want you to get excited about your story. Look at what you have, the experiences you’ve been through, the adventures you’ve enjoyed, the trials you’ve endured, and become excited for this gift of your life!

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Not too long ago, I stumbled into the comparison game. Unrest plagued me as I pondered on what I had missed as though it held the key to my happiness. I became so absorbed in what might have been and in trying to squeeze into another person’s reality that I totally disregarded my life.

It left me drained and restless. So, I embarked on a partial media fast. I steered clear of Instagram and the Facebook Newsfeed, and I only used Pinterest for recipes. Instead, I focused on my own story. I decided to remove distractions to get to the heart of my problem.

Continue reading “Your Story Is Different than Mine”

The Kitchen, Cooking, & Confidence

My husband and I recently celebrated our first year anniversary (May 23rd!). It has been a full year! I have enjoyed being a wife and not having to plan a wedding anymore! I’ve also learned a lot.

I’ve had a good start to my journey as Mrs. Sierra Fedorko, but I had to re-learn a lesson that can apply to anyone’s life, married or not.

our fist home
Our first home

I used to call myself a go-getter. The kind of person who confidently plunged into new things. It turns out, I’m confident with the things I know I do well, those that hold minimal risk of failure. I accept failure as long as I don’t believe I can succeed. I automatically cross off anything that doesn’t fall under my natural gifts and abilities. I don’t try to learn it. I give up before I even begin. I’m notorious for this. So much for being a confident, go-getter!

Leading up to marrying Ben, I convinced myself I couldn’t cook. Now, I do have some horror stories in the kitchen department, including a box cake that turned out flat and super oily brownies (stories for a different day!). But I had barely spent time in the kitchen. I just assumed that since I wasn’t a natural, I wouldn’t excel at it.

Could we live off of chocolate chip cookies? After all, that entailed the extent of my culinary prowess. It became our joke, but I knew I had to learn. I was nervous about it. When I voiced my concern to Ben, he assured me that we could learn together. I didn’t marry a make-me-a-sandwich man, and I was thankful he’d learn alongside me. It comforted me.

So, we got married on a windy May day. I wore a pretty dress. We took a thousand+ photos. We said our vows. Happiness abounded. But do you want to know something?! The wedding day doesn’t last forever, and I had to buckle down and learn how to cook!

Remember, I had already accepted failure. I let fear stand in the way and put unnecessary limitations on myself. So my kitchen days began. I scoured Pinterest for easy recipes, I fumbled with pans and measuring cups, I had a horribly hilarious experience baking bread, and I made a surprising discovery.

I enjoyed cooking!

Wait a minute … how many times had I vocalized my inaptitude in the kitchen? How many times had I said how much I disliked cooking? How many times had I accepted failure, before making any true attempts to learn? So, so many times!

You can’t pick and choose when to exemplify confidence in life. It doesn’t mean doing only what you’re good at and avoiding anything new and different. Don’t pull a Sierra!

Understand that failure is inevitable, but don’t place limitations on yourself and accept defeat as the final word. I’m learning to tackle new things and exhibit confidence even in areas I struggle with. I now plunge in, knowing that failure means I can learn from my mistakes.

Being confident doesn’t mean I’ll thrive in everything. It means I refuse to limit myself to a little Sierra Box. I want to keep learning, undertaking challenges that scare me. And folks, cooking scared me! However, a year later, I have learned I love spending time in the kitchen. Can you imagine if I had gone on forever just believing that I was a terrible cook? I almost did.

These days, I experience more successes than failures in the kitchen, but the failures make for hilarious stories. All because I made myself learn something that didn’t flow naturally.

My advice? Don’t give up before you begin. Don’t be scared of failure. Confidently plunge into the things you don’t do well and let yourself learn. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Sierra Straightforward

 

On Worry | Part 3

It all came back. Not in the force of the dark thoughts that I had before. This was totally different, but it had the same effect. These new thoughts twisted my gut and imprisoned me. I didn’t expect it. I hadn’t dealt with an onslaught like this for a long, long time. But, it came. Fast and sure, and plunged me back in the depths. Even though I’d climbed out before, I didn’t know how to crawl out now. I felt trapped. I felt broken. I felt dark.

worry3I had succumbed, dived deep, and here I struggled again. Frustration and heartbreak overwhelmed me. This all over again?! The earlier darkness hadn’t returned but worry plagued me, thick and suffocating.

If only…

What if….

Maybe if I…

How come I didn’t…

It circled endlessly, tearing at my heart. As I backed away from social media, talked to my husband, and worked through these personal struggles, I realized the root of my worries. I also began to apply, once again, Scripture truths to my life.

I asked myself the hard questions. Who defines my worth? Christ. Is this____ true about my life? No. Is this____ real in my life today? No. So, what is true? What is real? I did the hard work once more. I wrote Scripture on 3×5 cards. I prayed. I even started re-reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. (I highly recommend it!) I combated the wrong thoughts and chose to cling to real things and the truths of God. Once again, I found freedom from worry, from unreal things that didn’t matter. I found refuge in God, His Scripture. I’m 21 and anxiety, worry, what if’s, and unreal thoughts still come back to shake me to my core. I am imperfect. I get ragged and I fall back into the depths easily. Anxiety will follow me for the rest of my life.

BUT–

 There is hope. There is always hope for me and for you!

I have a sure way to fight this darkness. I know I hold the victory as I meditate on God’s truth, throwing out the untrue and unlovely, and embracing that which is real, honorable, and true. A lifetime struggle can look discouraging, but that is where I have to pause.

Am I facing the future right now? No. Is the future real right now? No.

What is true? This moment, right here. I can choose God’s truth or my own worry. What is real? The victory I have in Him. What do I need to think on? The truths of God.

Doesn’t all of this sound redundant? It is! We are experts at repetition. We just have to learn how to meditate the right way!

Perhaps, today you face discouragement because, after months of a worry-free mind, it has all come back. You crumple, not expecting this. The force of worry consumes you.

It buries you.

It pushes and pulls you.

It pierces you deeply.

You are not alone. It just happened to me. I am sure it will happen again.

BUT–

Decide to think on the truths of God. Ask yourself the hard questions, banish the unlovely and dark thoughts, and focus on real and true ones. Bathe yourself in Scripture. Experience refuge in God all over again.

Don’t despair! Rather, bask in the knowledge that God has the power to rescue you every time you fall! Every time! God will not refuse helping, comforting, and rescuing us — even after the 100th time you fall back into deep worry.

You will know freedom as you know Christ.

And you will have victory again!

Don’t dwell on the anxiety you may face tomorrow, two weeks from now, or next year.

What is real today?

The victory you have when you remain rooted in God.  

What do you need to think on today? 

The truths of God.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

If you missed them, catch Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

On Worry | Part 2

Last week, we talked about the depths of worry. (Don’t miss part one.) We discussed verbally admitting the struggle and touched the surface of freedom from darkness. By now, you know that I fight some deep, perplexing issues. We all do! We may struggle differently, but we all struggle deeply. This is a safe place for us to talk about it. So, let’s dive right in. If you haven’t written Philippians 4:8 on a 3×5 card yet, you will definitely want to by the end of this post!

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For the rest of this article, you’ll read what I like to call the Truth Process. This process is hard and easy all at the same time. But the good news is that one can live free of worry, even when it doesn’t feel possible. I can’t express to you the depths of my worry. Maybe if we sat over a cup of coffee, I could adequately describe how far I sank, but we aren’t face-to-face, and I’d rather show you the way of HOPE than drone on about my own past darkness.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

As a teen, I began the process of thinking on truth. I memorized this verse. We often say it’s too hard to meditate. But if you’re the anxious worrier that I was (and still can be sometimes!), you are an EXPERT at it. In other words, we excel at meditating! But the problem comes in dwelling on the wrong things. We focus on what could be, what might be, what I might do, what I didn’t do, on dark things, on lies, and on destruction.

So how do we use our expert meditating skills the right way? Let me share three practical ways (aka–>the Truth Process) to change those bad habits.

#1. Write Philippians 4:8 and other Scriptural truths on 3×5 cards. 

Be sure to write down Philippians 4:8 (one of the most helpful verse for freedom from anxiety), but also study Scripture to find other verses that give you comfort, strength, and hope. Remember, God wrote these truths for us! He gave His Word to help and sustain us — to tell of His love, His care, His power! Keep that in mind as you look for Scripture to write down.

After you compile 3-4 verses, carry them with you wherever you go. Read the card(s) every time you walk through a doorway, pass a trash can, look out a window … you get the point! Pick a daily action that you do frequently, and when you find yourself doing that action, read the verse as well! Just do it. You will be amazed at the subtle changes you’ll begin to see. The invasion of truth in a dark, battered mind makes a huge difference.

#2. Ask yourself, “Is this True? Is this Real?” 

We can’t just read Scripture and be done with it. We have to apply it as well. When you read Philippians 4:8, pull your anxiety parallel to God’s Word. Is this _____ true about my life? Is this _____ real? Is this ____ lovely? Continue asking yourself if these thoughts line up with Philippians 4:8. If you can’t say yes to any of these questions, then you have to throw the thought out.

How can you throw out a thought? How can you stop thinking it? Restructure the questions above. So, what is true? What is real? What is lovely? Answer those questions after you reject the untrue, unreal, and unlovely thoughts that we are so apt to focus on. You’ll begin to see a huge change!

#3. Do this over and over and over and over again. 

You won’t see much change if you don’t continually think on truth, discard wrong thoughts, and think on truth some more. It took a lot of the same dark thoughts to plunge you into despair and anxiety. It’s going to take daily, hourly, minutely meditation on truth for you to live free from anxiety. You have to keep reading Scripture, memorizing it, knowing it, and then applying it.

Ask yourself the hard questions, throw away the untrue, unlovely thoughts. Next, think again on what is true and real. You will find that God’s truth overrides darkness every time. You will find freedom from despair.

Perhaps you say I’ve had victory before, but I’m ragged again. What do I do?  Oh my dear, I understand. I recently went through a whole struggle myself, but I’ll talk about that next week. You are not alone. Keep thinking on truth and come again. We will find truth and comfort together.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

P.S. Consider reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. While I wrote this article in my own words, I’ve taken the advice from her!

On Worry | Part 1

I washed my hands all the time. I fretted about everything. I cried easily. Anxiety plagued me. I lived in prison — a prison of my own making. My struggle with anxiety increased in my early teens. I feared stealing, lying, cheating, killing myself, and so many others things.

Today, I open part 1 of my journey through worry. I hope you’ll stay for all of it.

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A life of constant worry lead to exhaustion. I felt stuck in a black hole, unsure of how to climb out. How could I go from chains to freedom? How could I break the cycle of questions and torments, especially when trapped so deep? Would it ever happen? Or would I always live like this?

These feelings tormented me.

As a young girl, this did so much damage. Such thoughts always lead to deep damage. Eventually, I voiced my twisted, dark thoughts, because I couldn’t cope alone anymore. It wasn’t hard for those close to me to know I struggled, but it was hard for me to verbally admit it.

But at last, I told my Mom the struggles I faced. I was tired of the endless darkness. My Mom gave me the first shreds of hope. She wrote Scripture on 3×5 cards for me to read over and over again. She also bought me Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. This book pointed me to Scripture and showed practical ways to break out of my self-destructive thinking patterns.

However, it isn’t easy reaching this point. Admitting one’s struggles takes courage. It’s hard to share the dark thoughts inside us or to say, “I’m afraid I’m going to kill myself.” If I could travel back to my life as a young teen, I’d tell myself three things. Continue reading “On Worry | Part 1”

Straightforward

As I started the process of writing for this ministry, Takiela asked me to come up with a name for my column. I didn’t know what to do. It stumped me for hours! My husband had some really good ideas. He claims he’s not a writer, but he’s quite poetic. Anyhow, we threw around good names, but they weren’t quite right. So, hours passed and I remained stuck in a rut!

Then, straightforward came to my attention. I wish that more adults would be straightforward. Let me tell you something, spending time with children can be refreshing and embarrassing. Why? Because, they are straightforward. They say what’s on their minds without the expended energy of beating around the bush. Kids don’t have a bush!

As you get older, you learn discernment. This is good! We should be discerning with what we say. But with age, we’ve also learned how to hide within ourselves and shut people out. We’ve learned to gloss over our problems and only show so much.

However, as a young woman, I want older women to be transparent with me. I want them to tell me what they have experienced, what they have learned. I want to hear their stories, so that I can grow from them. As people, we have all these experiences that we stack in a corner of our heart. We don’t tell or show anyone. Our hearts are closed tight, and we are closed off.

 

Sierra Straightforward

But this little column here? It’s going to be straightforward. This place will share, open up, and welcome you in. This tiny nook is going to be the corner of my heart that you get to sit inside. I’ll be discerning in the things I share, but I’ll also be straightforward and transparent. I hope you’ll do the same. Leave comments, tell me your story, and become a part of this FLOURISH community. I want to get to know you as you get to know me!

You don’t know many things about me yet, so I hope to take the next few weeks to show you some of the biggest mountaintops and deepest valleys of my life. Let me tell you, my story isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. No one has a sunshine, lollipop story! We just don’t. Each life holds hardness, goodness, heartbreak, joy, suffering, pain, hope, wonder, fulfilled dreams, and unfulfilled ones.

My life doesn’t resemble Pinterest-perfect images, and I’m glad for that. Life is much better than a perfect image. The tattered parts bring me closer to God, as the joy and fullness show me how much wonder God has given.

I hope that as I write and we share our lives together — we will come to realize the joy of imperfection, the wonder of life, whole and beaten.

Oh, how whole and beaten it is!

I have struggled with anxiety since the age of 12. It doesn’t burden me all the time. Rather, it comes in waves and knocks me off my feet. I fall flat for months at a time as I re-learn how to apply God’s truth to the battles in my mind.

At 15, I transitioned into chronic pain. It confused me. My thoughts grew dark. I took various pain medications. At times that the pain became so bad, I just wanted to die. The deepest part of the chronic pain valley stretched on for four years before I found a semblance of relief. I still struggle with pain today, but God has poured His strength on me. I have sought and found the comfort He provides. Even more, He has shown the mighty power of His healing.

So you see, my life is beaten and torn, but it is whole and joy-filled. That’s what I want to share here, the details of this beaten, whole, weary, full life. I’ve barely even scratched the surface of my young heart, but today, I wanted you to see some of what Sierra Straightforward will be about. I’ve said it before, but I can’t wait to share this life with you. And perhaps, you’ll want to share your life with me too.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

Meet Sierra Fedorko

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How do you compose the opening sentences that will introduce you to a community of people? How do you jump in and introduce yourself? First meetings can be awkward, so maybe it’s nice you’re behind a screen for this one!

All that to say, I’m Sierra. I’m glad you joined me, and I’m thrilled to be here! I won’t attempt to explain myself in one post. You might get bored and my fingers might cramp. But I can tell you that I’m thankful to start this journey alongside you.

Before we dive in too deep, I will share a few things about me. I’m young, though this last birthday had me feeling old. I mean, I’m in my 20’s now! YIKES. Also, I’ve never been a flower girl, but both my sisters and a lot of my friends have. I jokingly started the Never Been a Flower Girl club. Feel free to join if you fall under this category! Our club is small. Really small.

I started writing at about the age 10 or 11, and I took to all things poetry. I had a little desk in the trees where I wrote quite a bit of my young poetry. As I got older, I continued to write, but my writing and thoughts became darker as I endured heavy, hard chronic pain.

I eventually created a blog. My need to write only increased as I journaled, composed short stories, and worked on my first book. The journey of my life traverses through valleys and mountains, and my writing expressed all of that. Looking back, I see joy and anguish in my penned words.

As life moved forward, I continuously wrote on my blog. I recorded my journey, wrote from the darkness, wrote from the joy, and shared my life with people. Then in December 2014, Leading Young Women to Hope presented me with an opportunity. After reading my blog, talking with me, and explaining the ministry, LYWH offered me the position of columnist. This provided a place to write, a place to share my hope in Christ, and a place that would stretch me. Of course, I was excited.

The opportunity was right there, open for me, ready for me. Without obligation, they gave me time to consider it. Boy, did I consider it! The opportunity dangled close enough to touch, but I found myself in the middle of the busiest two semesters in my life (so far anyway)! To top all that, I got engaged soon after the offer came in.

A bit into the New Year, I made the decision that I couldn’t commit, not yet. I wouldn’t be able to give my best, not between teaching, taking classes, planning a wedding, enduring chronic pain, and going to numerous doctor’s appointments while waiting for approval for surgery. I couldn’t dedicate the time needed when embarking on a new project. Time is tricky. You never get more of it, forcing you to choose how you use your limited supply. So I did. I said no, and in doing so, I said yes to commitments I already had.

I took my busy classes, continued teaching JH students, planned a wedding, went on school trips, had doctor’s appointments, had surgery, got married, and honeymooned.

AND SURVIVED.

November 2015 rolled around and with it, perhaps the time to say yes to this writing opportunity. I had less commitments now and could devote my time even if it came months and months later. So here I am. I can now confidently write, invest, and share with this community, with you. I look forward to it! I want to share many things in my life with you.

I want to impart my experiences, my hope in Christ, His grace in my life. I want to cry the anguished tears together and walk hand-in-hand as we encourage each other to press on for Christ. I don’t want to hoard this journey but rather open up and let you in. I want God to receive glory as we walk together along this beaten path.

Thanks for letting me be a part of your life.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward