Thursday, April 3, 2014

Do You Know?

How well do you know me?

I bet you know that I am a big book nerd.

I bet you know that I love my job and the girls I get to work with.

I bet you know that I am crazy about my nephew.

I bet you can figure out that Jesus is important to me, that I am really goofy, and that I love all things Disney. 

What you may not know is that I have an illness. It is a serious illness that at times can be life threatening. It is an illness that I have struggled with for a large portion of my life. Sometimes it is bad, but sometimes it seems that I am in full remission. It is an illness that requires medication and a lot of self-care. It is an illness that I may never be healed from. It is an illness that so many call a joke because there is no test for it and no case looks the same. The disease I struggle with is mental illness.

My illness has been so prevalent in my life that I have made it my mission. For the past 6 years my every working moment has revolved around mental illness. I know it is real, because I lived it. I know it hurts, because I have had moments that I wanted to die. I know that there is hope, because I survived.

I have not been set free from all of my struggles, but I indeed am free. I am free from my suffering because a sinless man took His love for me all the way to the cross. Now, even in the center of a mental illness storm, I find hope, peace, and purpose. My hope is in the Lord that He will never leave me nor forsake me. My purpose is also in Him that He will work all things for the good of those who have been called according to his purpose. My peace is the peace that Jesus left for us, that which surpasses all understanding.  And I can do ALL things through Him that strengthens me. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

A New Beginning

This morning my devotion started me in the first chapter of Genesis. I put this devotion off a week ago because I was doubtful that I would find any new revelation here. I mean how many times have I read that chapter already? It is always the same—significant but familiar. This morning I was compelled to pick up the book again. I turned my Bible to the page, began to read, and BAM a new beginning. I was literally stopped at verse 2. I could not read any more. There was something there that I had never seen before.

The verse reads, “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” I have never thought about the picture that this verse paints for what God does in each of our lives. Without him we are void. Without him we live in darkness—even in our deepest parts. But even when we are formless he is hovering right above. Wow! I have a vision of what I think that creation looked like (finite as it most definitely is) and it is amazing! So I take this vision and imagine God creating my soul out of nothing. I picture him taking a heart that was void and breathing life into it. I see where darkness was and where light now lives. And he saw that it was good. He saw that I was good and you are good. He was pleased.

Try reading the verse out loud but instead of earth say your name. Then read a little more into the chapter to be reminded that God created male and female in His image, and he liked what he saw. It is so amazing that a God that spoke the world into existence also lives inside those that love him and are called according to his purpose. How can I doubt His work in me and in the world around me? How can I question what he is calling me to do? This world is no longer void and neither am I. With Him, neither are you. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 What a Year

2013 was a very big year for me. A lot happened; some good things and some bad things. I think that it is safe to say that after this year I will be forever changed.

I started this year finally taking my LPC licensing test and passing the test the first go round. Praise God!!!!! I dread that test for 3 years and I am so thankful it is over. Lord willing, I am done with taking major test in my life. I am so over studying for test.

One of the major things that happened was losing my Mamaw. She got sick at the end of March and passed away on April 18th. It was hard. I love her so much. She has been a very important person in my life. She made so many sacrifices for me. She was a wonderful Mamaw. I can’t ever remember her being mad at me or me being mad at her. She was gentle and loving always. I had the privilege of spending the night in the hospital the night before surgery. It was a hard night. There was a lot of pain for her, but she remained sweet and a little sassy. She made me laugh several times during that very long night. My aunt and I were the last two to “spend the night with her”. She was in ICU for the rest of her life. It was hard for me knowing that she would probably not make it. But I am so glad I was there. And when Jesus came to call her home I was praying her into heaven and she was surrounded by her children. I got to pray at her funeral. She wrote the family a letter and she asked us all to meet her and Jesus in Heaven. We have had a lot of first without her this year: Mother’s Day, her birthday, my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I miss her terribly. But I am comforted to know she is home with Jesus, and that is exactly where she wanted to be.

I also had a major career change. After 4 years (1 internship and 3 as counselor) at Brentwood Hospital God called me to move on. When I started working at Brentwood it was my job dreams come true. In school all I wanted to do was work inpatient psychiatric. Well I did it. It was not always easy, but the exposure and experience I gained was priceless. I was not even looking at moving on. I had actually considered sticking around for a position that would open up in a few years when someone retired. But God opened a door that I had to go through. I am still a counselor, but now in a very different setting. I am at a Maternity Home. It is a Christ centered ministry serving unmarried pregnant females from ages 11-23. I am absolutely in love with all my new coworkers and the girls I am working with. The best part is I get to talk about Jesus, all day long!!!!! Since I got here in June I have had amazing growth personally and professionally. I cannot wait to see how God moves in this ministry.

I have gotten to be a part of a new ministry launch. It is a monthly worship experience for women of all ages from different churches in our area. It is really cool way to connect with different women. The older I get the more I want to spend time with women that have experienced more life than me. I want to soak in some of their wisdom. I also have the privilege of posting on social media for the ministry. It is no secret that I love social media and have prayed for God to use it for his glory. This opportunity has been a gift for me. Through this I have also gained a spiritual mentor. I don’t know why I waited so long. My relationship with her is pushing me to dig deeper and grow. I know she will be honest with me. I also know that she will continue to push me out of my comfort zone. I really need that. I can’t wait to see what happens now that I have this coach/cheerleader in my life. Plus I just love being with women that love God!!!!!

The most exciting thing that happened to me this year is that I became an aunt. My sister gave birth to a healthy happy baby boy on September 6, 2013. His name is Tayton Dale and I could not be happier that he shares my name. I love that little boy so much. I can honestly say that I have never loved someone the way I love him. He lights up when he sees his Tia and his Tia lights up when she sees him. He is so much fun. I cannot get enough of him. I love watching him grow and learn. I love to hear him laugh. His whole little body shakes. He has the most precious smile. And boy does he like to babble. I have no idea where he gets it from. J He is the spitting image of his daddy, but when people say he favors me I feel warm and fuzzy all over. I cannot wait for all the years ahead where I can spoil him rotten.

The biggest thing that has happened has to do with my decision to move. I have lived in the most perfect home for 3 ½ years. I loved everything about it (even the rent). It was the first place I felt at home in a long time. It was mine. I loved living alone. I enjoyed having my own private corner of the world that I didn’t have to share. Well God sure did come in a change that. Through those God size changes I now have a roommate. I moved in to a friend’s house the week before Christmas. But being roommates was not the intent of the move. Although it is a nice perk. My friend and I have decided that we are going to be Foster parents. We will be a specialized foster home. The way that we got to this decision is an amazing testimony in itself. It will require its own post. We will start our training in January and hope to have a child by March. It is such a big decision to make, but we are both very excited to see how God uses us. 

Reading over this post I am again amazed at what God has done in this year. 2013 was surely a great year. Looking back over the past 5 ½ years each year continues to get better. So I cannot even imagine what God will do in 2014. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Great Calling

When I was a kid I remember learning about missionaries that were called by God to go to these very remote locations to spread The Good News. From that very young age I remember the fear that if I “surrendered to the ministry” God would make me marry a preacher move to Africa. I remember that there was always some importance and mystery about this “calling” that only certain Christians had. I would like to say that I out grew these thoughts quickly, but I still had them into my early 20’s. I was still afraid of the preacher and Africa (mostly the preacher husband), but the thing I thought about the most was the calling. Would I be called? How would I know? When would happen?  I felt like being called was like being a member in this special secret club, and if this was an elite group of Christ followers I wanted in. (Without the preacher and Africa preferably) I wanted in more for what the club would do for me and less about what I was willing to do for God.

Now, many years later, things have finally changed. I no longer have a fear of being sent to Africa or marring a preacher. (I may even prefer the later) I recently was gifted a job with a local ministry. Before things were finalized I thought, “Is this the call? Am I finally surrendering?” I’ll be honest I didn’t feel any spectacular. I was excited, but I didn’t feel any different than when I accepted my job at the hospital. I didn’t feel any more pressure than normal. I didn’t feel a greater surrender. I still loved God. He still loved me, and my work was still his work. Of course I just accepted this new understanding. I never questioned “God are you sure they want me? Are you sure this is it? Did I surrender wrong?” Ok part of that last sentence is not true. I did have questions and I did have doubts.

This morning during a conversation (about a completely unrelated topic) that I had with HOH director she said something that made it all click. She said, “This is our Africa.” Insight filled my thoughts. There is no “special” calling. We are all called. Some people are called to faraway places, but the majority of us are called right where we are. We are called to our work places and our communities. We all are called to surrender our lives to God right where we are. This is the great calling and as Christians we are all accepted into the “special club” of the redeemed. What did all of this insight bring me? Gratitude! I am not be a preacher’s wife living in Africa, but I am right where He wants me to be. 

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:12

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

One Body

I like when small things work together to make big things, for instance a choir, symphony, or dancers. I love when plants are arranged to make patterns. I enjoy the sounds and formations of a marching band, and I think those pictures that use hundreds of small pictures to make one big picture is super neat. Cheesy maybe, but I have to admit that some times these things bring tears to my eyes. I think that my fascination comes from the joining of things that can function completely on their own, and by this something greater is created.

This morning, on the interstate, I saw 2 lanes of traffic, one with 2 cars and the other with 3, merge together simultaneously. The 3 cars merged in between the 2 at the exact time making two lanes of traffic one lane in just the precise amount of time. The movement could not have been planned better. Now in this instance I did not cry, but it brought a smile to my face. Of course the visualization did not stop there. It sent my brain on a rampage. I started thinking about how God meant for Christians to come together to form the church. The Bible makes the analogy of us joining together to form the body. I love that imagery. (I could write an entire article on this alone but for now I will stay focused) 

In Romans 12:5 Paul says, “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” He is saying that it takes all of us to form the body and the body needs each part to function properly. We were all created for a purpose within the body. If I am an eye all I can do is see and if you are an ear all you can do is hear. But together we hear AND see. When we are all doing our job together we compliment each other. Together, in Christ, we can accomplish great things. But my question is, “are we doing this?” 

Do we work together or against each other? Do I think everyone should see and you think everyone should hear? Far too often I think this sin filled world clouds our judgment with our selfish desires—our desire not God’s. We condemn and judge our brother and sister. We think our way is the only way and everyone else must be doing things wrong. We shout the faults of others publicly. Our words and actions breed less love and more hate. I know I am guilty of all these things and more. 

What good is all of this information if I can only see what is going on? (Maybe I am an eye) What I have trouble with is figuring out what to do with it. I need the rest of the body to help me. We need each other to be the church. No one can do it alone. So my question for you is “how can we start a movement to form ONE BODY?”

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Counting Hairs

Lately I have put some effort into understanding the truth of God’s love for us. One reference that sticks out to me is that God knows the number of hairs on our head. Just stop and think about that--all the hairs on your head plus all the hair on everybody else's head. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of hair. It would take entirely too long to count them all. I saw a place that states that there are about 140,000 strands on a head. Wow! I think about all the people that I love dearly and I have to admit that I have no desire to count their hair. I wouldn’t even want to if my life depended on it. He also knows about all the hair we have lost. Why would God want to keep track of all of our hair? Why does he even care? It is because he loves us. He loves us so much that he knows the number of hairs on our heads. It is so big that trying to figure it out can become overwhelming. Understanding the enormity of God’s love is so hard to do. Our finite human brains will not be able to figure it out this side of heaven. But at least we have something to compare it to. So when you are feeling unloved or discouraged try counting your hair until you just can’t count any more. What helps you to understand God’s love?  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What's Love?

I am one of those girls who is fascinated with love. A hopeless romantic? I don’t know? Maybe. For as long as I can remember I have had this fascination of what love was supposed to look and feel like. I have had a few boyfriends and even been in love once or twice. Romantic love seems to be something that I have spent numerous hours contemplating. The one thing that I have learned is that what I have had has never been enough. When I had this love I always wanted more. It never lived up to my expectations. The love that I had never saved me or completed me like I thought it should. It kept me wondering, where did I go wrong? It wasn’t until my mid 20’s that I realized that what I was looking for could not be found in just any ole man. What I needed, and continue to need, is a Savior. There was a Jesus size hole in me that no man can fill.

But my love struggle did not stop there. In my finite human brain I cannot comprehend the love of Jesus. I don’t deserve it, can’t earn, and can’t get rid of it. So I ask, “Is this too good to be true?” See what I do is try to see Jesus’ love the way I have experienced love—which has been imperfect and unsatisfying. I also struggle with the fear of God’s condemnation and Old Testament-e things(but this is a topic for later discussion). So basically what I am telling you is I struggle to understand the whole “God is love” thing. How am I supposed to understand God if I can’t even understand love? (Queue the dramatic show of exasperation) I have this note card above my desk at work with Paul’s famous love chapter (1 Cor 13) that keeps me in check when I am feeling unlovely. This week a light bulb came on in my head. The verses not only define what love is, but they define who God is. God is patient, God is kind, God keeps no record of wrong, etc. God’s love cannot fit in the box that I built to define love, because God’s love is nothing like that love. God’s love for me is nothing I will ever be able to give or receive from anyone else. I don’t think that I will even truly understand this love (at least not this side of heaven). So I think that I will finally be able to stop trying to figure love out. If I love or am loved in His image then I am on the right path. My peace will not come from a full understanding. It will comewhen I put my faith and trust in Him and His love.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I Forget

Yesterday I got to have coffee with two women that I had just met. They are both older—around my mom’s age I would guess. They are both Christ followers and the conversation was amazing. At the end of our meeting they stated to me that they admired how confident I am in Christ. I think it was probably one of the best compliments of my life, but to be honest, I was shocked.

See I don’t see myself as others do. I see an insecure, unworthy, unqualified, and at times emotional unbalanced woman. If I am being really honesty, I sometimes have a hard time calling myself a woman. Sometimes I still like a struggling young adult fresh out of adolescents. I am so hard on myself. I may be harder on myself than anyone else ever will be.

I forget that Jesus see’s me so very differently. I forget that I am washed by grace as a daughter of the one true King. I forget that He knew me in my mother’s womb. I forget that He knows the numbers of hairs on my head. I forget that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. It is easy for me to point out good qualities in others, but not in myself. My prayer now is that I start to see myself as God see’s me. Someone that He loves so much He sent His Son to the cross to die for my sins so that I can spend eternity with Him. That is who I am and who I want to be.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Not Ready Yet

I am a journaler. 
I love journals. 
I love to get everything out at the end of the day. 
It is a release of emotions for me. 
When I get done journaling, 
 I feel the weight of the day is lifted. 
I try to journal daily. 
Even if it just one word or one sentence, 
I try to get it out. 
But lately I can't journal. 
I haven't journaled since March, 
and I have so much that I am carrying around since then. 
So much to get out. 

In March my Mamaw got sick. 
Very sick. 
She had surgery and was in the hospital for a while. 
After surgery she was in ICU for about 2 weeks (I think).
And after almost a month of fighting she died. 
It was hard. 
It is still hard. 
And I can't journal. 
I am afraid. 
 I know when I do it will hurt. 
Just writing this now hurts. 
I miss her so much. 

During my Mamaw's sickness, 
 I experienced some life changing moments. 
I experienced things that I have not ever experienced. 
I lost one of the people that I loved the most. 
And I know she loved me unconditionally. 
I know that when I finally journal after the pain comes relief. 
I am just not ready yet. 
I know she would want me to write. 
And I will, just not yet. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Anti Gossip

I have to admit that it sucks me in time after time. It even sneaks up on me sometimes. I think that I am actually doing something good in “venting” my frustration or getting informed on what is going on around me. I guess it is not a big shock with the society we live in. We have weekly magazines published to tell us all the latest buzz of celebrities and their day-to-day lives. I try really hard to distance myself from gossip until boom I am right back in the middle of it again.

Tonight I met with my weekly Bible study group and we did something a little different. We talked about people that weren’t there. We even talked about each other. The thing that was different was that we only said good things about every person we talked about. It felt good to hear people say nice things about me, but that wasn’t a big surprise. The thing that shocked me is how good it felt to talk about those other people. We really focused on the things that we loved about them. It was awesome.

It has made me stop and think. What if we did that often? What if we did it in work settings? With our friends? With our families? What if we pointed out peoples good qualities instead of their faults? What if we built people up instead of tearing them down? What kind of difference could we make if we spread love instead of hate?