Thursday, July 31, 2014

Something to Believe in...and Then Some

If you know me personally, you know my love for jewelry and gems is authentic. I create and sell because I'm passionate! I joined the Origami Owl (O2) team as a Designer because I truly love this company, their mission and values, and best of all, quality, customizable product line. If you've known me in the past year or two you've probably seen my physical transformation after making a commitment to be healthy. I share this journey with others because I BELIEVE in it. It has worked for my husband, me and friends....These things are not what this blog is about today. 

This morning while spending some quiet time I felt this twinge of conviction. Those who know me, and some who do not, expect some degree of me sharing about my latest jewelry, the latest O2 line, or my excitement about my fitness. Not everyone is as enthusiastic as I am about these things (that's an understatement by the way). Yet I will continue to share because that's who I am. I'm passionate about what I believe in.

Why then is it so hard to share the greatest passion in my life? The biggest transformation I've taken; the greatest blessing to happen to me! It's a personal and sensitive topic but so is weight loss. I am a Christian. I am not just someone who believes that Jesus walked this earth, died to save me, and rose again. I am one of those "Jesus Freak" Christians who are passionate about my changed life I believe what is written in the Bible is true whether politically correct or not. I am doing exactly what the enemy wants and hiding my light under a bushel (think the song, "This Little Light of Mine"). I do this subconsciously as well as consciously.

I have been given this new life. Not just figuratively but authentically. I should be sharing this excitement more. I AM A NEW PERSON since submitting to the God of this universe. The one who created you and me, and masterfully spun things into existence. Surrendering my life to Christ and accepting the Holy Spirit to guide me is something that is so hard to describe to others. It's something you have to know and experience personally to really grasp. It's revolutionary; life changing, empowering, comforting...

I love there is a a revival happening with the Body of Christ. That's Christian speak from us Christian folk as we're all given gifts whether servitude, teaching, etc.., each making up parts of a bigger movement. Being Christ-like to others is one of our missions . I feel like we're stepping out of the legalistic stuffiness of days old into a more authentic relational faith. One that acts and doesn't just speak. There is something stirring in me that wants to bust out and declare, THERE IS PEACE IN CHRIST, HE IS GOD AND THE ONLY ONE CAPABLE OF GIVING YOU ETERNAL LIFE. Whew, I did it. I blurted it right out! I have nothing to personally gain by sharing this truth with others. I love my friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances and I feel bad for ever making Embound, O2, or my journey on the TSFL program seem more important, or valuable than Christ! My humble loving Savior who gave his life for me as prophesied thousands of years prior, who lives, is my strength. He is the reason I move out of depressions, press on in health, and am able to love and forgive others in ways that were impossible for me before.

I'm sure this blog has made some people feel a bit uncomfortable. I really am sorry if it has. I feel uncomfortable too.

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes" Romans 1:16

Here's a poem I wrote many years ago I thought I'd share here:

Starting New

My scars tell a story
Of who I used to be;
A person who was hurting
Until Jesus set me free.

A void had once echoed
Deep inside my heart
Until one day I cried out
For a fresh new start.

I was tired of being lonely,
And feeling shame inside;
I seemed to have forgotten
It was for my sins that Jesus died.

How could He ever want me?
What value might I have
To a God who is perfect
That He’d want to take my hand?

After I’d repented
And followed my Lord’s lead,
I began to understand
He truly wanted to bless me.

Back then, my eyes were blinded
By sin and Satan’s lies,
Now I understand
All along He’d heard my cries.

Jesus waited hand extended;
All I had to do was give
My life into His keeping
Eternity I’d spend with Him.

Jesus gave me hope
Where I didn’t see a way
Now I feel real joy where there
Was once was grief and shame.

Yes, my scars still tell a story
But it’s conclusion is testimony,
Of my old life I have traded
For salvation and God’s blessings.

By MJ, Melissa J, AMomMJ c. '07

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

80 Pounds Lost, New Hope Gained

Hello, my name is Melissa and I'm successfully overcoming an eating disorder and finding health. I grew up as a healthy, well proportioned child constantly reminded of the starving children in Africa that could benefit from my uneaten food portions. While that didn't help me appreciate my canned green beans and pork chops with Shake and Bake, it did ingrain in me that portions on plate should be fully consumed. I don't fault my mom for this. She was doing what she had been taught to do by her mother--who found it critical one must eat their beets!

Fast forward to puberty. Clothes began to fit differently as my body changed. Rather than recognizing these new curves would one day be appreciated, I looked at it as I was getting fat in places. Combined with a genetic propensity for obesity, social pressure to wear a specific size (regardless of ones body type) and the continued "encouragement" to eat, I became overly conscious of my appearance.

My 8th grade year, after going through some life changing events, I began unhealthy habits, using food as a means of control. I gained weight in spite of my "dieting" efforts. When I reached 16 I was in a size 14P pants and large shirts. I was 131 pounds. I met my now husband then. I knew I didn't want to live as I was for the rest of my life. I stopped using laxatives as a purging method and suffered the results of my body trying to normalize. I put on 70 pounds that one year. I faced judgement about how the weight came on but I was too embarassed to share the real reason I balooned up. By nearly 18 I was enaged to be married and was over 200 pounds. I was happy, and appearance was no longer a primary focus, but the stress of life in those days hindered any motivation to get healthy. While I continued during this time to battle bulimia (no longer with laxatives) it did eventually come to a final stop. I truly feel God has set me free from this. I wanted to be a mom and this was not the example I wanted to set for my kids.

As we began our adoption journey, and 3 children later, I reached the heaviest weight I would see on my scale, 233 lbs. I had a BMI of 44.5. I was morbidly obese. People who don't know obesity might assume those this overweight are lazy or unmotivated. I'm sure I appeared that way. Neither was actually true for me. It took more effort  to get anything done than it would for most. I was constantly tired! Going up and down stairs had my heart working hard. I enjoyed walking but would get out of breath at any inclination. The stress of moving would make me cranky and on edge. I could justify that blizzard from Dairy Queen each night. I worked hard and that sweet treat tasted awesome! I was killing myself slowly with food. I was put on xenical then phentramine for weight loss with no good results.

As time went on, I began to have increasing issues with my stomach and hormones. My weight affected my hormone production. Because of the problems that resulted from this, I ended up having a hysterectomy. It's similar issues that have caused infertility in obese woman. My stomach size combined with stress was creating problems with gastritis and acid reflux. Nothing over the counter worked so I was put on prescription mediation.

In these days I was not disappointed in my appearance, rather my performance--or lack thereof. Maybe being discontent about the way my body looked would have been motivation to lose weight. Bulimia wasn't about losing weight for me. I used binging and purging as a means to control things in my past that were out of my control. Knowing this has helped me overcome. Perhaps that issue of control is still there; it's just now I'm choosing health as a means to deal with it.

HOW DID I DO IT? This is the number one question I've been asked. I'd love to say I found it in me to exercise and eat right. Nope, that's not how it started at all. I watched a friend of mine who was also morbidly obese get healthy. I listened to her and another friend tell me about the health program they did. I was totally skeptical. So much so it bothered me! Weight loss shouldn't happen so quickly, right? Then I had another friend start the same program and begin to lose weight. I recall really reflecting on my life and the direction it was headed. My reality was the fact I have 3 kids I don't want to leave motherless, an awesome husband, and as much as I was in denial about my poor health, I was slowly killing myself. I was only 35 and had already forfeited my uterus and was on the verge of getting surgery on my stomach area to relieve the discomfort the extra fat was putting on me. Not to mention the stress around my ribs. If this is what 35 looked like for me, what would 45 look like? 55? Would I see 65? I want to know my grandkids and great-grandkids!

I talked to my husband and told him I'd like to start the program and give it just 1 month and go from there. The first phase of the program included meal replacements that cost money. I wasn't sure how we'd afford the extra expense, but I came to the reality, I wasn't sure how I could afford NOT to do this. Since I wasn't buying snacks and other meals for myself, most of this money wasn't even an issue. I didn't require nearly as many trips to the doctor or medication refills so I saved money that way too.

The first week on the program was tough. My body was getting used to not having sugars like it used to. After about 4 days I felt an increase in energy. I drank my water as I was supposed to and followed plan. It was really that easy. This program taught me in baby steps all the while the weight flew off! Portioned meals in phase 1 meant I didn't have to calorie count or add points. I learned what a proper lean and green meal should be. I have always accepted my optional snack the program allows so I eat a total of 7 times per day; every 2-3 hours. Eating smaller meals frequently helps keep my blood sugar regulated. I don't feel over full but don't feel hungry. Eating a good share of protein helps with muscle retention and lower carbs helped my tummy shrink 13". As the weight came off I began to find joy in this journey of health. I read labels, eat more naturally, still eat smaller portions frequently so I don't get tempted to binge. I get this crazy desire to go for walks and even hike hills. I feel more alert and alive than I ever have. My husband was so inspired, he too joined the program and has lost over 70 pounds. The impact this has had on our marriage and family has been so great he has chosen to become a health coach to help others reclaim health for themselves.

As I write, I am 153 pounds at 5' 1". I am in a smaller size than I was 30 pounds ago! This is because I retained my muscle mass with this program. I have lost 13" in my waistline, 12" off  my hips, 7" off my thighs, 11.5" off my chest, and 3" off my upper arms. I went from a size 20 to an 8 in just one year.

If you are thinking dramatic weight loss and health are unobtainable, I understand. I was there too. I can testify to what this program has done for me, many around me, and offer you more information. There IS hope. It's not too late. I've had the honor of meeting so many men and women who have lost over 100 pounds without any surgery. I didn't realize it was possible to feel as good as I do. It is! This program isn't about just loosing weight. It's an optimal health program that anyone can benefit from.

I'm finding things I can do that many take for granted. I can wrap a regular bath towel around my body, cross my legs, sit with my knees to my chest and still be able to breathe... My romantic life has improved, I can walk longer distances, wear my choice in clothing, I sleep better, am less stressed out and cranky, my hygiene is easier to keep up...

And in case you're wondering, YES, this program allows you to consume chocolate!

If you are interested in reclaiming your health too, I would love to recommend you to my health coach for a free, no-pressure, no obligation health assessment to see if this program is a good fit for you.  You can find Bryan on Facebook  and connect with him via private message.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Latest Love: Origami Owl

When I first set eyes on images of Origami Owl's living lockets, I thought, those are adorable; I'd  interested in one. My former neighbor was a designer for the company and was planning a trip to Oregon from Texas. I thought it might be fun opportunity to gather with some friends and hold a party (which we call "Jewelry Bars" at Origami Owl). I fell instantly in love!

I learned through reading, the company is more than just adorable keepsakes and personal stories to fashionably wear. The company is more than a sweet story about a 14 year old entrepreneur who sold lockets to save money for her first car. This company (in addition to making money) is about being a "force for good"; paying it forward, making someone feel special, and shining some happiness in the lives of others.

Most of you may know I'm a gemologist and accredited jewelry professional with my credentials from the Gemological Institute of America. I've been hand crafting jewelry with silver and selling it in my EmBound shop since 2009 as well. Gems and jewelry are passions of mine. And while there are ample opportunities to sell through various direct marketing companies, I chose Origami Owl, also known as O2. What stood out about this company? One of my favorite things to do in my EmBound shop is fulfill custom orders. I don't just want people to own a pretty piece of jewelry. I want my customer's jewelry to tell a story. I love jewelry that is meaningful, versatile and beautiful. O2 is all these things.

O2 isn't just about lockets either. They have a tag line as well, which is a great way to express yourself, or add some expression to a locket design. Since these pieces are all customizable, the possibilities are virtually endless!

I love being an Origami Owl Independent Designer. It isn't just about making money for me; it's personal. I thoroughly enjoy meeting others and hearing their stories. Each locket can be as unique as the person wearing it. I've heard of lockets becoming memorials for special loved ones who've moved on, or becoming a place to capture dreams, or to hold representation for a mom of her children or family... It's most commonly things people hold dear to them.

If you would like to create a special piece for yourself or someone you love, please visit my online shop at If you would like to host a party to earn free jewelry in the Portland, OR metro area or anywhere in the US online, please contact me at that website too. I'd be sincerely happy to assist you in creating a custom piece for you or someone you love.

If you too would like to be a part of my amazing team and make some money over the holiday and beyond, I would be thrilled to mentor you. My mentor ID is #39828. The cost for your BEAUTIFUL kit is $149 and is below wholesale. Well worth the money for all you get!

For those wondering if I've replaced my EmBound shop with Origami Owl, the answer is no. These lines are still very different. I love that I can wear my O2 pieces with my EmBound jewelry as well as other pieces. Thank goodness the layered look is in!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cross Tattoos

About a year ago or so ago I was asked to help a customer design a small cross that would later be used as a tattoo. This inspired me to come up with several designs
The design my customer decided on was a modified version of the cross in the bottom row, second from the right.
Recently I was contacted by someone who liked one of my paintings and decided to get a tattoo based on it done on the back of her neck:

This last week my husband and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. We hit the local tattoo shop and I had one of my designs (refer to the first photo) tattooed on me.
If you are, by chance, interested in any of my cross tattoo designs, you are welcome to use them free of charge. I just kindly ask you send me a message with the photo of your completed tattoo and allow me share it. You can contact me though my art shop at

Friday, February 15, 2013

Over a Year? Really?

Chances are my writing will remain sporadic here. It's not because I don't have much to share! Last month after a couple years of hard studying and passing the strict mandatory 100% final, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has issued me my Gemologist Diploma. I have worked with gemstones most of my life though. I have a few short labs to take before I'm granted my Graduate Gemologist Diploma. In the mean time, I'm basking in the joy of accomplishment.

My husband is constructing into a hub for my three Etsy shops and as place where customers can contact me for gemological services. I'm really excited to have a central place to send people. In addition, I've gone to Moo and had

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Adoption Awareness Month

Years ago I used to blog on the topic of state adoption. I used to keep up with the latest statistics, resources. and laws. The past couple years, since the finalization of the adoption of our 3rd child, I've forgotten much of what I used to know and haven't kept up much on new laws. That's because I've been able to just step back and be a mom!

I first became curious about fostering and state adoptions from my old boss who was adopting her nephew. She shared with me the heart wrenching reality of the thousands of waiting children in the U.S. and the desperate need for good foster and adoptive families. I went home and talked with my husband about fostering and possibly being open to adoption. I was shocked he was so open. We then began the journey of trainings, background checks and a home study.

Our first son was placed as a legally freed adoption. This meant his birth parents no longer had parental rights. I wish I could say it was a quick process but it wasn't. From the time we started our orientation to the time he was placed, it was 19 months. Some families get placements more quickly, some wait longer. He came to us as a young toddler, just over a year old with these amazing big bright blue eyes. I missed so many firsts, however, 7 days after his placement we witnessed his first steps.

Our second son came to us as a foster placement at 5 months. His former foster mom was wanting to retire from fostering and Oregon's Department of Human Services (DHS) was concerned he would not be returned to his birth mother. Because of this, it was important to place him in a foster home who may be open to adoption, lest he have to be moved yet again. After praying, we felt a peace that we were the family to take that risk and love him as long as we could have him. This wasn't easy. Balancing loving your child unconditionally and guarding your heart in case you lose them is hard! But he was worth it. He is now ours.

Years passed and we were notified of siblings to our boys who were born. Some were adopted by a wonderful foster mom, and others went to live with another adoptive family who had other birth siblings.

One day we got notice of another sibling born. She was/is fully biologically related to our oldest son and therefore was placed as a kinship adoptive placement. We were notified right after she was born and asked if we would initially foster her until she was officially deemed adoptable--and this case would without doubt be going to adoption. Our daughter had more significant special needs than our boys had and her future was very uncertain. Still, there was an undeniable peace to move forward.

I've spent about 11 years co-facilitating support groups and advocating for children and their families both in local settings and online. The past few years I just haven't had the time I used to. With 3 kids, my school and my Etsy shops, I've stayed pretty busy.

Each one of our children are considered "special needs". Each had a rough start in life. I'm happy to say, in spite of this, they are healthy, amazing, lovable and loving children. My husband and I got to be the ones to witness them grow and thrive. As I've shared many, many times with others: I consider it a humbling honor to be entrusted with my children. I believe children are given to us by God, whether it be by birth or adoption, for a time and are a gift to be cherished. It isn't easy; I don't know anyone who has found parenting easy.

If you are at all interested in being a foster resource or even an adoptive placement, contact your local social/human services department and request more information. Please also visit, in no particular order:

North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Adopt US Kids
Heart Gallery of America

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oregon Sunstone Mining

Family vacation 2011 we decided to venture through Oregon's outback to mine beautiful Oregon Sunstone; an all natural labradorite feldspar sometimes containing beautiful copper shiller. It can be clear, yellow, with reds, or even greens .

We loaded up the RV, made sure we were topped off on gasoline, water, food, and our holding tanks were empty. I had no idea how important this would be.

Coming from the more densely populated part of Oregon (our city neighbors Portland), I had no idea just how empty parts of our state were. We were on probably 30 miles of dirt road before we reached Dust Devil Mine past Plush, Oregon. (I think it took Bryan a couple hours to wash all the dust off our RV once our trip was over.) Living in an area of vast greenery, I found the golden scenery beautiful and serene. Nothing but sage, hills and blue skies--oh yeah, and dirt!

We arrived and were greeted by the mine owners who instructed us in how to find sunstone rough. Shame on me, I should have used the sunscreen. I only lasted about an hour mining with my husband, my 2 boys ages 7 and 10 and my 3 year old daughter. Thankfully I was the only one who ended up with sunburn. My husband Bryan and I dug the dirt and sifted through material and found the sunstone fairly easily. Our younger son didn't even lift a shovel and found more pieces of better quality than we did.

When we were finished, we brought our material back to be inspected for quality pieces we'd then have the option of buying. We got to keep everything we found because nothing Bryan or I mined was of any real value.

I'd never enjoyed a shower so much after that dusty day. I enjoyed walking around the desert with my kids picking up pebbles here and there. Maybe they weren't worth much but the experience was priceless.

That night I heard my oldest son yell, "look at all the stars!". Never in my life have I seen so many stars. While my youngest slept, the remaining four of us went outside the RV and just looked in wonder at the beautiful night sky. My boys saw their first shooting stars that night.

After our visit to the Dust Devil mine, we went south to Davis Creek, California to collect obsidian, a natural glass. From there we went to Sparks and Virginia City, Nevada before heading home. Our 6 day adventure came to an end.

During the trip I was able to make some great faceted sunstone purchases from the Dust Devil mine which I'll be setting into jewelry and selling in my shop soon. I hope to visit the area of Plush, Oregon again soon.