Top 10 Life Lessons

I was challenged by my uncle to list my Top 10 Life’s Lessons. I think I relearned all of these lessons simply by thinking about them all over again.

I saw this quote today not long after I received this challenge and its so fitting:

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What a great way to move forward and be present: reflect on how the past has made me who I am today.

1. Don’t gossip:
At a very young age I learned how hurtful words can be. It’s not worth trash talking people I love for the sake of keeping other “friends.” If they gossip to me, they’ll gossip about me.

Learn who you can trust:
My most valued and cherished friendships are girls who are honest, brutally honest sometimes, but who love me enough to be honest. There is no flattery! There is encouragement. We aren’t afraid to be down in the trenches with each other when needed, but we also help lift each other out of them.

2. Stop worrying about what others think of me:
I still have to remind myself of this one. Most of the time what I perceive other people to be “thinking” are just my own insecurities projected onto them. God gave me my own conviction, passion, and vision. The more I focus on others’ approval the less I focus on God’s purpose.

3. Don’t be afraid to try new things, especially when it comes to food:
I lived most of my childhood hating seafood. I had only had salmon BBQd, “well”-done, with a either lemon or a brown sugar glaze. Bbllleecckk! Now, hand over the sashimi or catch it fresh on the rivers of Idaho and sear it with a little salt and pepper medium-medium rare…now we’re talking!! I had never tried sushi until I was 21 because I was told eating raw food was dangerous.

Most everything tastes good if made the right way!!!!

4. Smile:
If someone looks grumpy or rude, smile, say “hello”. I’m only responsible for my own attitude and actions. More often than not, I discover how nice people really are. Some are just deep in thought, more reserved or not having a good day. When I smile, it makes their day and my day too!

5. I am my son’s (and soon to be born daughter’s) Mommy for a reason:
God gave him to me, not someone else. Not the over-opinionated old lady leaving the grocery store who thinks my 8 month old needs to be wearing sunglasses for his 30 second trip inside. Not to the family member or friend who sees things differently. We (my hubby &I) make decisions for our children based on prayer and the convictions God has given us.

It is important to learn from other people’s experiences and heed the wisdom, but discernment is also necessary. Just because there’s a blog that says this or that doesn’t mean our choice was wrong…just different than how that family decided to do things for their child(ren)…and that’s OK!

We need to support and love each other with our words and actions, not judge and tear each other down.

6. Forgive myself:
I make mistakes. I can and have been well-intentioned and still hurt people. Good people do bad things sometimes, and it’s not always on purpose. Being humble and apologizing is huge, but still not always received. Forgive myself, learn the lesson, move on and don’t repeat the same mistake. Living in the past just prevents me from being my best now and in the future.

7. Quinoa is a superfood: It is a complete protein:
It serves as a great alternative for pasta or rice. There are many delicious ways to cook it, both alone- hot and cold (mmm yummy greek salad!!)- or in a casserole or some other fun Pinterest recipe. Try it!
(This leads me to my next lesson)

8. Quinoa should not replace everything:
Meat is good! Sometimes you just need a good steak…or chicken…or ground beef or sausage. God created plants AND animals for us to enjoy. There are few things better than my Nana’s Rosemary Garlic Rack-of-lamb or All Day Meat Sauce!

9. Lighten up:
I’m still working on this one… One of God’s greatest gifts to me is my husband Joseph. He teaches me how to laugh at myself and not take life so seriously all the time. And now I have a son, with his Daddy’s sense of humor, who by 16 months had discovered the humor in hiding and jumping out to scare me.

I love to laugh and have a good sense of humor, but I also know I’m not that funny, so my most memorable moments are when I surround myself with people who help bring the silly out of me.

This reminds me of one of the funniest road trips: crank up the music in the car with a good friend, do some hand motions while you dance, and sing as loud as you can…and if you end up on the wrong freeway, remember the lesson: lighten up:)

10. Miracles do happen:
God heals! The stories in the Bible are important to teach us lessons in history, but Go is the same God now.

I, personally, within a 6 year period, was diagnosed with a chronic digestive disorder, suffered migraines, anxiety, had mysterious inflammation that “wasn’t quite rheumatoid arthritis”, a brain tumor, and was told it would probably be impossible to have children. All of which through prayer and God’s Grace are completely gone.

God wants to be present and in our lives, but He doesn’t force Himself. We must invite Him to participate. He wants to show us His power that will work in us, through us, and around us.

Until my munchkin’s next nap time: I challenge you and encourage you to Make your own list.

It’s really cool what happens in your brain and in your heart when you write stuff like this down. If you’re comfortable sharing some of them, I’d love for you to comment. I can always handle some more learning from others.

Two Words Doctor’s (& Insurance companies) Hate: Juicing & Miracles Part 4

Today at my Women’s Bible study I realized that I need to stop wasting my energy trying to control people and my circumstances, and redirect that energy into controlling my negative thinking.

Thank God for His gentle reminders! Now if only doctors and insurance companies operated in that same faith. I wrote previously about how God’s healed me, and ever since I’ve been in a battle trying to prove to these companies that I no longer should have these diagnoses in my medical records.

My husband and I are trying to be responsible parents and set up life insurance for our son, and apparently his very life isn’t proof to them that I don’t have these issues anymore.

I had a colonoscopy done again because of unpleasant side effects of child bearing and the results even showed there was no sign of the previously diagnosed Colitis, yet they won’t take it off my records.

Side note: I scheduled the colonoscopy before praying. Lesson learned. As soon as my friends and I prayed, the discomfort went away and hasn’t come back.

Now, I just found out, after such an encouraging morning at church, that I must prove the brain tumor isn’t there anymore. On my own dime, which is over $5000 for just an MRI by the way, I must get labs, an MRI and visual tests to show evidence it’s “under control.”

Although by nature I am extremely irritated about this delay, after such an incredible morning, I just keep telling myself that it’s not in my control.
This is when I need to pray and know that God is in control. I’m praying that insurance will take care of the expenses and that this “proof” will be used to show someone God’s amazing love and power over circumstances that seem impossible.

Like I was reminded this morning, God has a plan and a purpose for my life. It’s one more opportunity to surrender, let go, and let God!

Until my munchkin’s next nap, I hope my lesson of the day finds you encouraged in whatever circumstances you’re facing. Just remember, our thoughts about ourself and what’s happening around us have the power to either bring destruction or bring life and healing to the situation. I choose the latter. Be blessed today!

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Two Words Doctors Hate: Juicing & Miracles Part 3

If you’ve read the preceding posts then you can skip the next paragraph, but if not, you should read them, but let me give you a quick synopsis:

…I suffered most of my life from a chronic digestive disorder called Microscopic Colitis. God healed me in early 2010, almost four years ago. Don’t run! Read! It’s an incredible story; it’s hard for me to believe it too sometimes!

Six months before I was healed of the Colitis, I was told I had a brain tumor that would prevent me from having kids. About a year later, I had these weird, hard grape-size bumps growing under the skin on my hands and sharp shooting pains through my wrists. I slept with braces on my wrists every night to alleviate the pain. I’m a hair stylist, so these were not good signs for the longevity of my career, or being a mom for that matter. It would be a little difficult to cradle a baby with that pain.

After x-rays, labs, cortisone shots from Hell, and two MRIs, nothing was showing up…yet, you could visibly see them. So, here’s that crazy story…

My Miracle:

It was December 14, 2008, a beautiful, hazy, winter morning in the Bay Area of California as we drove to the Napa Valley. We arrived. Joseph Kazarian walked me through the beautiful rock garden of Domaine Chandon. He stopped on the bridge crossing the pond. With dew on the wild flowers all around and a slight morning mist, he got on one knee and ask me to be his wife.

…In his version, he studder-stepped, fell to a knee, and said, “Bbbbllluueeehhh?”

Either way, I cried. Nodded. Said, “YES!” Reached with both hands toward the ring and asked, “Can I put it on?” We started our day with a toast of our favorite Champagne Sparkling Wine, Riche, and made phone calls to the family.

I’ve always wanted to be be a wife! A Mom! Have a family!! No, I was not the crazy girl who chased boys to make this happen quickly. Well, I kind of did chase boys in Jr. High, but that doesn’t count. And I was young when we got married. However, I had my fair share of unhealthy dating relationships to prove I was ready. Do I have you convinced?

Anyways, I can’t help that God blessed me with an incredibly Hott man who is hilarious, driven, motivated, can cook, but most importantly loves God and cherishes me!

Let the wedding planning begin…

Fast forward to June: we decided to move back down to Southern California, where we met and he grew up, to start our lives together. This move was to take place the weekend of my bridal shower.

As if wedding planning and moving weren’t enough…here’s what happened the week before moving:

Late Tuesday night (sorry about the next detail), I started lactating. Ok, so if you don’t know, that’s only supposed to happen when you’re pregnant or breast feeding obviously. We were waiting until we got married for certain things, so I knew I was not pregnant!

I got labs results by Friday, suggesting a tumor, and I needed an MRI immediately. We decided to have me stay in town for further tests to avoid switching doctors, hospitals, etc. I put on my happy face for my bridal shower Saturday evening, and Joseph did the 400 mile move Sunday with his parents, but without me.

I get my MRI, make all the crazy calls to change my doctors, and schedule an appointment with my new doctor to find out the results.

Pituitary Micro-adenoma: aka a small tumor on my brain.

Three weeks before our wedding, I’m sitting in the doctor’s office with my fiancĂ© and soon-to-be Mother-in-law, or Mother-in-love as she likes to say, and the doctor says in an unsympathetic, matter-of-fact tone, “With this tumor, you won’t be able to get pregnant.”

Immediately, without control, tears start flowing down my face. It was nothing I could fight back. I was not blubbering; I simply just had my dreams ripped from my heart in front of the man who was making these dreams come true; tears were not an option, they just were.

“Well,” says the doctor, “you clearly are a little high strung. I’ll step out and give you a minute to calm yourself down.”

“I’m not high strung, you just told me I’m infertile!”

…He walked out as we all stared dumbfounded at each other. I started medication the next day that would “regulate” the size of the tumor, and was monitored every six months after that with labs and visual field tests to make sure the tumor didn’t grow.

…moving forward to March 2012…

I was half-way through the intern program at our church. A decision I made for personal and spiritual growth. One of the best choices I’ve made in my life!!!

[Insert necessary, but dramatic rabbit trail:] That lost, buried little girl who didn’t even know her true self, began to emerge from the dark hole she had dug for herself. That first sight of light is hard to look at sometimes. With squinted eyes, that bright, white light slowly turns to colors and images that make sense; so my soul was transformed. Oh, the sweet taste of oxygen again. Breathe!

It was conference time, and as I was praying for people, the guest speaker, Pastor Andrew Kubala asked, “Is there someone here who has had wrist issues?” I immediately start looking around, excited for what God’s going to do in someone’s life.
…no response…
…he asks again…
…I wait…

My mentor was standing a few feet behind me and assertively, but gently says, “WRISTS!!” There’s my reminder.

Oh, ya, that’s me. He’s talking about me! I, like most people (despite my previous healing), had resolved to the idea of living with pain.

How stupid! God is loud and clear,in a microphone, through a pastor, trying to get my attention, and I almost ignore it.

I slowly slip my hand into the air. He has me come up on stage to pray with me.

As if reading out of my diary, Pastor Kubala begins to speak words of healing over my life. I immediately feel an overwhelming warmth flow through my arms, wrists, hands, and every knuckle. As he prayed I watched the bumps disappear. I felt the pain leave my wrists. For the first time in six months I had full rotation of my wrists. I stood on awe.

Then, he looks at me and says, “Danielle, God wants you to believe him for more than just the physical healing we can see. There’s more healing He wants to do for you, but you need to have faith that He will.”

I knew he was talking about the tumor (let me remind you that he knew nothing about it, hardly anyone did, he didn’t even know me); I stopped the medication that night.

April 10, 2012 I looked up at Joseph from across the room in shock and said, “It’s a plus sign.”

“So…that’s a yes?”
“Ya, I guess so.”
“So…you’re pregnant?”
“I guess that’s what that means.”
“Uh, should we go get dinner.”
“Ya, let me make some calls first.”

Don’t get me wrong, we were both excited, but sometimes when a miracle happens, it’s really hard to believe!

I called my best friend, who I call my sister, and I called my sister, who I call my friend. Joseph and I processed the information through awkward dialogue over dinner. We told our parents the next day, and the rest of our worlds after that.

December 11, 2012 Daniel Robert was born 8 lbs 8 oz, 21 inches long. Our Miracle!

Nine months later, I still look at Daniel every day in awe and humility. When he smiles he radiates God’s joy, and I can’t help but be reminded of God’s grace in my life.

Until my munchkin’s next nap: Thanks for letting me take you through that journey. I hope it brings light, encouragement, and healing into areas of your life as well. Don’t be afraid to have a little faith.

Have you experienced a miracle?
What’s your story?

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Two Words Doctors Hate: Juicing & Miracles Part 2

If you read Part 1, you know that I just recently had some tests done to find out why I’ve been experiencing some unpleasant symptoms after having my son 8 months ago. Before going into further details, you must know that these symptoms are completely different and unrelated to what I’m about to share with you. I’m a little hesitant to take you down this next path with me, but I feel like it’ll encourage you, so I can’t be selfish and withhold my story.

I started blogging hoping my life’s lessons and experiences would give you some tools, if not to help you through some of your biggest challenges, at least maybe to put a smile on your face for the moment. My intent was to explore with you this chapter of my life, on my road to healthy living, with lessons from friends and family, with hope that you’d see my lessons as beneficial in your circumstances.

Its hard to be vulnerable to the world, or at least the small, hopefully growing population of readers, so bare with me through this process. I made some poor choices in relationships as an adolescent, escaping and recovering from the devastation of divorce. I ruined some friendships as a result of the hurt I was experiencing (not to make excuses, but unfortunately hurt people hurt people). As a young adult trying to find my own identity, my communication and ability to articulate my emotions has cost me some friendships as well. I’ve gone through the wringer of doctors because of mysterious health issues. Now, venturing into the world of wifedom and mommyhood, I want to pass on wisdom as I nurture my son; I want to show him what a healthy, loving, committed marriage looks like. I don’t want to parent him out of resentment of my past, fear of making mistakes, or desperation to avoid him feeling the hurt I did.

My intent was avoid mentioning my relationship with God as my foundation and strength in overcoming these obstacles because I know the mention of Jesus sends a lot of people running for the hills. The reality, however, as much as I don’t want to scare people off, I can’t deny that the only true reason I am who I am today is because of His overwhelming grace.

This is my story of how my healing began, where I am now, and how we need to protect ourselves from the negativity people speak into our lives, including doctors. If you’re a skeptic of faith or maybe discount it completely, I’m not here to try to change your thinking, in fact, until this happened to me I probably wouldn’t have believed this story either. With all of the bad that happens in the world, I just encourage you to stay with me for the next few minutes and read something good, something positive; it’s pretty cool what happened actually.

My first miracle:

My whole life I suffered from a chronic digestive disorder that was finally diagnosed in 2004 as microscopic colitis. Most of my life was experimenting with possible solutions: trying different ways of eating: increased fiber, eliminating dairy, gluten-free, superfoods, organic; Yoga for stress relief (because in the medical realm, everything has to do with stress and anxiety apparently); undesirable herbal remedies, suggested by my semi-granola, holistic mother with whom, by-the-way, I now agree with most of what I thought were ridiculous solutions; colonics: this is weird, just weird; three different prescription medications, to humor my dad, who is the polar opposite if my mom–Vicks, Ny-Quil, a glass of wine, and sleep are his solutions to everything (and maybe a Diet Pepsi); two colonoscopies; one endoscopy; and a partridge in a pear tree.

After being “diagnosed” there was a brief sense of relief because there was an answer, but upon diagnosis was the information that “nothing can help”, “there’s no known cause”, “no treatment”, I was. “just going to have to live with it for the rest of my life or hope it goes away.” You would think that being raised in a Christian home the first response would have been to actively pray about it. Somewhere, however, was a huge disconnect between believing in God and the miracles of the Bible, and the reality that He’s the same God today that made the deaf hear, the lame walk, and blind see two thousand years ago.

Fast forward to 2009. After hiding this cramping and discomfort that overwhelmed my body for so long, embarrassed to talk about it even with my family, I decided to share with some new friends at church what I had been suffering from and asked them to pray for me. Just weeks before this happened I had moved 400 miles, found out I had a small brain tumor that was going to prevent me from having children, and got married. Nonetheless, I was starting a new chapter in my life and was sick of being debilitated; it was time for change, time for a fresh start, time to do something I had never done before; actually have faith not only that God exists, but that he could also help me–and heal me.

We started going through a book called Life’s Healing Choices by: John Baker. This was a rough few months of digging up my past hang-ups and habits and chiseling away the bricks I had built around my heart to protect myself. After much anger, many tears, lots of conversations, I started to feel a sense of identity again, but the weird reality was I had to meet myself. Who was I? Who did God create Danielle Marie Kazarian to be? What was my purpose?

Although my heart was healing, I still had this aching through my body everyday. Our church held a conference for young adults. Before attending we were each asked what we were believing God to do in our lives. Mine was obvious.

At the conference one night, I finally just surrendered my pride, walked to the front of the room to be prayed for, lifted my hands and out loud said, “God, I’m yours. I want you to use me. I give up trying to do this on my own. I stand in faith that You will heal me in your timing.” God’s response very clearly (if you don’t know if you’ve hear God’s voice, just ask Him to show up, he will!), “You already are healed.”

I began to weep uncontrollably at the comfort of His gentle words to His daughter.

The following two weeks were the worst two weeks of health I had experienced, but they were the last two weeks. Almost five years later I have not had a single symptom. I can eat whatever I want with no issues. If that’s not a miracle then I don’t know what is.

After experiencing this miracle my eyes began to open to the reality of God’s Grace, Freedom, and Forgiveness.

Now, remember that tumor I mentioned? My baby boy is another miracle story! I invite you to follow my journey as I share his story next time.

Until my munchkin’s next nap time, breathe, smile, trust, have faith. There’s no freedom living life as a skeptic, worried and criticizing everyone else’s opinions. Sharing this story with you, is one small step toward my freedom. I hope it encourages you today!