My ‘About’ page, 2 1/2 years ago

Standard

So, I really need to update my ‘About’ page, because it is seriously out of date! Basically I am in a really different place in my life right now to where I was when I wrote this so it’s currently not at all a reflection of the current me and given that I want to return more regularly to the world of blogging, I obviously need a description of the current me, particularly for any people who stumble across my blog that I don’t personally know, as 18 year old Sophie and 21 year old Sophie couldn’t really be any different! That said, I just didn’t feel I could simply delete it, given that it was a massive part of my life at the time, so I’ve copied it over to a post so that I can look back on it, and anyone else can as well 🙂
For the current almost-21-year-old Sophie go to my About page!

 

Hello…I’m Sophie, I’m 18, and have been a Christian about a year and a half. I figure the ‘About me’ page is quite fitting to write my testimony so you know where I’m coming from and why I write what I do…

I didn’t grow up in the typical ”Christian household”. I went to a Church of England Primary school, so was familiar with the Nativity Play story we performed each year at Christmas, attended the Church services at Easter without ever grasping what was really being spoken to me. As a child I have always believed in ‘God’..more so because I liked the idea of it than having any idea the truth about who He really is. Throughout secondary school, I don’t think once I thought about my religious beliefs..not that I had any, but not that I wanted to find out or explore them either, it just wasn’t relevant to me (or so I thought…!). First year of college I was exposed a little bit more to the ‘real world’ and got a new sense of freedom which began to take me down the ‘partying/drinking’ ways of life. At the time this seemed, and was, the perfectly normal way to behave and I didn’t see anything wrong with it.

In March that year, my nan passed away. She had been ill for a while so whilst her death wasn’t unexpected, it didn’t numb the pain when the time came. My nan was also a Christian. Something which to this day I wish I had been able to talk to her about. In my naivety, although I knew she was a Christian, we had never talked about it. That night, my friend texted me telling me she was praying for me. Now not every testimony has a ‘lightbulb moment’, but for me, this was the beginning of my journey with God. I remember sitting next to my bed reading that text and just crying. Crying with grief, but also at a new and unfamiliar feeling in my heart. One that understood what ‘praying’ really means. My friend was praying to God for me and my family. I didn’t know God, but I knew that He wanted to comfort me. I texted my friend back asking to come to her youth group at Church, I’d been contemplating going for a while, but didn’t feel like I had a reason to go, well now I definitely did. One of my other friends had recently just become a Christian, so there was talk about it amongst our friendship group properly for the first time, I think ever. The way I describe my exploration of faith at this time was not on a personal level. Actually the way I felt was that my nan’s faith had passed onto me, and because she was no longer with us, I was to carry on her faith for her. I guess it was a way of grief and keeping her memory alive. Going to the youth group I remember the joy I felt upon walking into a room full of about 80 faces I didn’t know. There was a buzzing of happiness that I couldn’t explain. People I didn’t know coming up to me and hugging me, chatting to me, genuinely excited to see a new face in the room.

For the next couple of months I continued to go to the youth groups, slowly but surely learning more about God. Of course, aspects of it I struggled with, many I still do, but in my heart I knew I was on the path to finding the truth of life. I started attending Church too every now and then, and signed up to go on the Church’s youth group ‘Week Away’. Up until this point, I was learning more and more about God but I kept my faith as a side dish to my life, I didn’t visibly change the way I was living..secular ways were still quite appealing. At the Week Away was where ‘carrying on my nan’s faith’ changed to ‘becoming my own faith’. I realised God truly wanted a relationship with ME. I also realised God could not be my side dish anymore, but my starter, my main and my dessert. God was to be my life.

One year on, in March 2011, I got baptised with 2 of my best friends who found Christ around the same time as me. This was a particularly bold step in each of our lives as we all came from non-christian families. A lot of prayer went into the day of our baptism that our testimonies would be a real witness of God’s truth and love. Being the only Christian in my family was something I had found difficult, not because I felt judged or pressured not to pursue God, but because I so desperately wanted my family to find Christ for themselves and walk this journey with me. The openness and freedom my parents gave me to go off to church a couple of times a week is something I cannot be more grateful for. They could see the change in me, the internal joy and peace I had found, the change in my behaviour from secular ways to wanting to live for God. I had never been that bold in talking about my faith to my family because I didn’t know how. It felt inappropriate and uncomfortable and I knew they couldn’t relate to the experiences and feelings I was having. My family life and church life had become quite divided and it was something I really wanted to change. (Little did I know God’s plans to help me out with this one!)
At the end of my baptism, my mum and sister came up to me (in my already euphoric state) and told me that they wanted to go on the Alpha course that was about to start. I cannot describe the emotions that went through me at this point. Earlier that afternoon a conversation with my sister had left me in the frustration that she really didn’t want to seek God..and a mere few hours later she wants to start Alpha. Wow. The power of God, the power of testimonies that night in Church is a memory I will have for eternity. Literally.

I can say with the biggest smile on my face, and joy in my heart, that today, my mum and sister are both Christians. God’s saving grace and His unconditional love is something they are both continuing to learn as they press into Christ more. Within the space of 2 years, God had turned around my family from non-believers, to 3 more of his daughters finding and following Him. So now, I live in complete hope that God’s light will shine through us to my dad and my brother, and to many more people too. I went to the New Wine Conference in the summer, and my sister came with me on our Church’s Week Away. My mum and sister plan to come to New Wine next year. I cannot stop praising God for his works in my life and how they are spreading through my family.

So here I am now, December 2011. I came to study at the Arts University College Bournemouth in September, for the reason that I feel God wants me here. I want to be a shining light for Jesus Christ. The pressure to conform, the stress of balancing work with the busyness of day to day life, and the secular ways of uni are a challenge, but they are helping me to trust in God so much more, and I’m learning a huge amount more about myself and about God. The reason I’m here primarily isn’t to get a degree. It’s to radically love the people around me with the love that Christ has shown me, and the love that Christ has for others (John 13:34-35). God made Himself known to me, and I want to help make Him known to others.

”Lord you gave your life for me. So I will live my life for you. All because of your love.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=ekrKOYRZC0I

Colossians 1:9-12

”For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”

May God bless you in abundance, and may His glorious light shine upon you.

Clean Eating

Standard

I was asked to do a post on healthy/clean eating a while ago and apart from finding the time and brain power to sit down and write it, I’ve also been putting it off somewhat because there is just sooo much information out there, all with different ideas on how we should eat that I didn’t know what to write or which ‘one’ was right! However, I’ve come to the conclusion that given we are all individual unique people, with individual unique situations, we will all have individual unique diet regimes that suit us best. So, I’m going to summarise a few of the various different eating plans I’ve come across and it’s really up to you to try them out and see which one works for you. What I will say is that it does require a lot of will power and dedication, and you need to strictly stick to it (at least for the first few weeks/a month) if you want to see any accurate results. It is hard to begin with, but honestly it gets easier once you get going and you have nothing to lose by trying it.
So, I have had a diagnosis of M.E/CFS for the past 2 years, and it was through various recommendations from various health professionals I have seen to alter my diet to see if it could manage my symptoms. I can’t concretely say that my diet is the sole reason for the progress I have made because as any of you know with a chronic illness, there a bazillion different factors that play a part in recovery, but since starting my ‘clean eating’ diet at the beginning of the year, I have made more progress in the past 6 months than any other time frame since diagnosis.

The biggest overlapping suggestions I have come across with all these eating regimes is to cut out the CRAP. Caffeine, Refined sugar, Alcohol and Processed foods. You could have guessed that right? Caffeine in small doses, particularly found in green tea is fine and provides health benefits, and the odd coffee won’t do you any harm (unless it’s loaded with refined sugar, which it probably is…). But refined sugar, alcohol and processed foods provide no nutritional benefit to our bodies.
I was a HUGEEE cereal addict (I mean like 2/3 bowls a day, every day!), and when first told to stop eating cereal I genuinely had no idea how it would be possible. But it was actually the most profound diet change I have made, because (except for the first few days) I DIDN’T MISS IT. I was so amazed that I didn’t crave it like I expected I would, and I felt so much better in the mornings for having fruit and yoghurt with a sprinkling of granola or flaked almonds. The thing is, how I felt before was so normal, I didn’t realise how I COULD feel. So if you read this and think ‘I feel fine after eating cereal’, I urge you to give it up for a week or two and see how you feel in comparison. I thought I felt fine too, but I had no idea how much better I could feel by making a very simple dietary change.

Cut out the wheat and dairy.
I have been told by countless people that wheat and dairy (despite being the two biggest food group industries) are actually the worst for us, and apparently on some level, we are all intolerant to them (whether you realise it or not).
Wheat has been so refined that it no longer contains any useful nutrition by the time it reaches us, with the worst culprit being white pasta/bread/rice. There are plenty of alternatives, including spelt, buckwheat, brown rice, corn, rice flour, quinoa, potato etc, and whilst I’m afraid these do come with higher price tags, if your health improves/you feel better then surely it’s worth it?!
Dairy – MILK IS FOR BABIES. COWS MILK IS FOR CALVES, NOT FOR HUMANS. It’s incredibly obvious when you think about it, yet dairy is added into countless products (particularly those nasty processed,refined sugar foods that we shouldn’t be eating anyway). Again, there are plenty of alternatives – soya, oat, hemp, coconut, hazel, almond, rice – yes these also have higher price tags but when you realise how much better you feel it will be worth it. If you are in a tough financial situation then at least cut down (but think about all the money you’ll be saving not buying all the CRAP (caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and processed foods) and the cost will even out.

Of course, this gets a bit more complicated (or easier?!) if you have allergies/intolerances. I am intolerant to dairy, eggs, tuna. salmon, caffeine, alcohol, and I can only tolerate small amounts of soya. So for me, half of the things I was supposed to be giving up, I already had. which obviously made the transition less noticeable, but my additional intolerances to egg and soya have been a right pain in the bum I can tell you! Never the less, there is still plenty of stuff I can eat, although I am seriously restricted whenever I go out (as I follow a gluten/wheat free and refined sugar free diet too)! Also, I know this sounds craaazzy difficult/restricted, one thing I will quickly mention is that I don’t stick to this 100% of the time. I should, and I do notice the negative effects any of these foods have on me, but if I’m out, or just really craving something then I go for it, I think its better to do that than to give up all together if you have something you ‘shouldn’t’.

Oh yeahhhh, also PROTEIN is really important! Proteins are the building blocks of life.
‘The body needs protein to repair and maintain itself. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids.’

Protein sources include: turkey, chicken, lean cuts of beef or pork, fish/shellfish, beans (Pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, split peas, or garbanzo beans), nuts and seeds, soy protein, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, cheese/yoghurt (ideally NOT dairy though!), and there are many protein powders you can buy as well. (A lot of them a whey based, which is derived from milk, and have a ridiculous number of ingredients so I personally wouldn’t recommend them, you can buy pea/hemp protein powders though).

Right, this post is getting very long so what I’m going to do is give you the names of some ‘lifestyle plans’ (another important thing, DON’T CALL IT A DIET, this makes it sounds like a chore and you are much less likely to keep up with it) and you can google/research them at your leisure 🙂

Ayurveda
Ayurveda is based on the principles of three doshas. Doshas are the energies that make up every individual, which perform different physiological functions in the body: 
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/ayurvedic-diet-how-eat-your-body-type
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-1117/Ayurveda-Dosha-Types-for-Beginners.html

(I found this extremely interesting/relatable)

Alkaline diet

Gluten/Dairy/Sugar free diet (I know I mentioned this in my post but it comes up a lot and I want to reiterate it’s importance!)

Raw Till 4

Plant based

High carb/Low fat

Okay I think that’s enough information for one post! I follow some great Instagram accounts on a mixture of these ‘clean eating’ lifestyles, if you’d like the names of them leave me a comment or contact me through whatever means of contact you know me! 🙂

OHH and one last thing: I am not a healthy/nutritionist professional by any means, and this post is simply sharing my views on the whole clean eating fad. If you choose to try any of these regimes, (particularly if you have a chronic illness) I advise that you speak to your GP first so they are aware and can give you any medical advice/supervision you need.

Sophie 🙂 x

P.s. I have pictures of some of my own healthy creations on my Instagram, feel free to have a look – smileysophie2

 

Embracing Imperfection

Standard

I’m sure you are all aware of the #nomakeupselfie trend that has taken over social media for the past few days, raising awareness (and a hugeee amount of money!) for Cancer Research. It’s so nice to see how the power of Facebook/Twitter etc to send things viral all over the world can be used for positive things like this.
Anyway, the recent ‘no make-up selfies’ has inspired me for a blog post, so here it comes!

What bothered me about this trend was the number of captions I saw on these selfies with the person describing how much of a big deal/how hard it was to be bare-faced, and how ‘awful’ they look. It was a fresh reminder of how dependant some people are on make-up, so much so that they “can’t” go out without it. And what was very clear in these messages was that these photos would be ‘one-offs’ because it’s for charity and that the ‘normal’ wall of make-up would return soon after. That kind of dependence and insecurity about one’s self is genuinely very debilitating. And that makes me sad. Because none of these people are anything less than beautiful.
What comes immediately to mind for me is the quote by Drake: “Beauty isn’t about having a pretty face. It’s about having a pretty mind, a pretty heart, and a pretty soul.”
But society today has ingrained into us a belief that is entirely the opposite. We are inundated with images of photo-shopped and airbrushed women whom bear little or no resemblance to what most woman actually look like. So we scrutinise our bodies for the slightest imperfections, and associate that with a decrease in our sense of self-worth and deepen our issue with lack of self-esteem.

Now I don’t wear make-up very often at all (apart from the odd bit of foundation when I leave the house, but even then not always), so the prospect of doing a no-make up selfie didn’t bother me in the slightest, However, I am certainly not immune to self-esteem issues over my appearance, just like majority of girls. Whilst I don’t bother with make-up very much, whenever I take a photo of myself, I will spend forever taking numerous photos until I find one that I am happy for others to see and I have the “approve” thing on my Facebook so that I control what photos are linked to my account. We all do that right? Heaven forbid a photo of us looking anything less than perfect goes online and is seen by other people resulting in the end of the world. (I joke, but nevertheless it’s pretty much the underlying principle behind like 90% of photos that go online…)

There is the common saying that we are our own worst enemy. But you know what, we are all each other’s enemies too when it comes to the effect of social media on our self esteem. Whilst our focus is on posting the best, most beautiful photos of ourselves, we are fuelling the environment in which only these photos are worthy/acceptable to put online for others to see.
And I reckon most of us are unintentionally affecting other people’s views on themselves. I know I get insecure when endless streams of beautiful faces go through my news feed (forgetting that everyone else only uploads their best photos too) and end up feeling rubbish that everyone looks perfect ALL the time (when actually they don’t!). And then it struck me, what if other people get insecure with photos I put up? Not because I think I’m astonishingly beautiful, but because I ONLY put up the ones where I think I look good (and being my own worst critic, this most likely means other people will have a less harsh view than me!) and I realised I DO NOT want to be a part of that cycle. I would not want anyone to feel bad about themselves because they are comparing themselves to photos of me when I look my ‘best’ and most certainly does NOT represent what I look like all the time.

So, I’m going to make a conscious effort (and a public declaration so it seems!) that I will be more REAL and AUTHENTIC in images I post of myself. Instead of taking 20 different photos to get the best one, I’ll just take 1 and if I look a bit rubbish, SO WHAT?! I’d rather look not so great and not damage people’s self esteem, than upload only the creme de la creme photos of myself and risk the chance of anyone feeling bad about themselves from a 2 second comparison.

So, I invite you to join me on this journey of EMBRACING IMPERFECTION. I’m not saying you have to upload your worst photos,I just think we should all be a bit more mindful and authentic in the photos we post, aware that they ARE affecting other people whether we realise it or not.

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.
– Kahlil Gibran

Back To Blogging…

Standard

Well hello again!

It’s shamefully been over a year since my last post for various reasons. Alas, being New Year, I have decided to take it up again as I’ve been meaning to for a while. I’m not a fan of the phrase “New Year Resolutions” as we all know they pretty much never last, but that essentially is what this is. However, it’s not something I’m going to do rigidly and then get disheartened when I ‘break the rules’, but simply this is going to be where I blog as and when I want to 🙂

I’m changing tack to my previous blog topics and embracing the current season of my life that I’m in. I love journalling and I love reading back things I’ve written, so this is where my thoughts/analogies./life lessons will be recorded, but also where I will share inspiration from other sources. I am a particular fan of TED talks, so they will likely be the source of some of my blogs, and you’ll probably get a fair few video links along the way!

I don’t think I have much else to say right now, but I will be back soon (probably!) with my first proper blog about something that inspires and interests me, and hopefully will to you too!

Attitude of Gratitude

Standard

It seems today that we live in the mindset where people wrong us and life curses us don’t we? Most of us live believing we are the victims of life. We live with the expectations of what life should give to us and not what we should give to life.

The western world has grown to focus on what we should have, what we could have, what we don’t have, what we want to have. It’s easy to complain about the negative things of life. What we sadly don’t do enough, is be thankful for the good things in life, and the simple things in life. Why is it that we wake up feeling entitled to life, a home, food, employment, family, health, friendships, when over half the world fight for the above every day?
Because we take such things for granted. That is until something threatens them and we realise how much we blindly value these ‘simple’ things in life.

I’ve been drastically challenged over the past few months to adapt to this way of thinking. I didn’t realise how much I had, and how much I took it for granted until my life changed in a way that has given me a whole new perspective on life. I became ill over the summer, and as time went on I realised this wasn’t just a passing illness, but something which has meant I had to drop out of uni, forced to leave a life I had grown to love behind me. I’m not going to go into the details of my story because it’s not relevant, my point is that I have a choice in the way I respond to my situation. I can be bitter and angry at what has been ‘taken away’ from me. I can live from a place where I am basing my happiness on what I think I am entitled to, therefore feeling victimised that life isn’t living up to my expectations (and believe me, I spent the first few months of my illness feeling this way). Or I can be grateful and happy for what I do have, and appreciate the things that matter most. I can live from a place where I am not expecting life to be a certain way, but being thankful for what I do have, embracing each day with gratitude for it’s wonderful blessing’s that are often overlooked.

Take a moment now, wherever you are in life, however you feel, and count your blessings, not your troubles. Start with your glass of life empty and fill it with life’s blessings. Don’t expect your glass to be full and feel resentment when the glass is emptied through troubles. After all, “Expectation is the root of all heartache” – William Shakespeare.

We can choose how we respond to our emotions. It doesn’t always feel like it, and we don’t always want to, but we can. I’m not just talking about specific situations here, I’m talking about our attitude to life. Living life with a positive mindset, not a negative one. What we focus on is what we become. Life is full of happiness and sadness. But each allows us to measure the other. We appreciate happiness so much more when it is measured against sadness than if it were just a constant state that we knew no different from.

So why is it so easy to get caught up in the bad things of life rather than the good? Why is it so much easier to complain rather than to praise? Because it’s habitual. We’re accustomed to this way of thinking and it’s reinforced in the society we live in. Let’s change our habits. Let’s make praise and positivity our default, rather than negativity and disappointment.

We can choose whether we see life as a foe or a friend.

We can choose to take life for granted, or we can choose the attitude of gratitude.

The choice is up to us. The choice is up to you.