Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Year in the Life

                               

Time sure goes by fast! It's now been a whole year since I've written anything. Life has been...well there's really not just one word to describe what the last year has been like.

The highlights:

1) Last March I got a promotion at work. I'm so thankful and pretty honored, but so far it has been the most difficult work adjustment I've ever had. I always enjoy a challenge, and this has certainly been one. Learning how to balance supervising co-workers, managing a couple hundred volunteers, leading the upgrade of two totally separate ministry tools, making decisions and offering input for the future of the ministry. Some days I feel as though I've grown in leaps and bounds, other days I feel like an utter failure. But through it all I have seen the faithfulness of God as well as the love and support of friends and co-workers.

2) Last April I moved into my own apartment after becoming debt free. I have loved having my own space and the ability to have friends and family over. In September my apartment was broken into and my television was stolen. It could have been a lot worse, I am thankful I wasn't home and that they didn't take any else. But the break in itself caused a feeling of vulnerability whenever I am home and for that reason it's been a bit frustrating. Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary away from the stress of life. It is not supposed to be a place of fear. So, now that my lease it up, I will be moving in just a couple weeks to an area of town that makes me feel more safe and up to the third floor where I will once again be able to throw open the windows and enjoy the sunshine.

3) In April of last year I also took my first trip, as an adult, to Boston, MA. I was born there so I've been in the past, but I hadn't seen the city since I was about 10 years old. The trip was amazing! We (my friend Melody and I) saw a Red Sox game in Fenway Park, a lifelong dream of mine come true! We walked the Freedom Trail and toured Old North Church and Paul Revere's house. We had lunch at Cheers and walked through Boston Common. We toured the grounds of Harvard and took a trolley tour. It was a whirlwind of 3 days, but one of the best trips of my life. (Many thanks to my Aunt and Uncle that let us stay with them for free!) Since we drove right through the state of MA to get there, I also got to show Melody where I grew up! Since I moved away from MA when I was 10, she's probably the only friend I have who I've been able to do the whole "this is where I lived, went to school, the playground where I fell off a slide and cut my forehead open"...you know the important memories. One item off my bucket list complete.

4) The best church I've ever been a part of fell apart. As tough as my new job has been, this development was the hardest thing I experienced in the last year. I didn't know that events that were totally out of my control could break my heart so completely. I've debated whether I should write about this, which is probably the real reason I haven't written in a year. But it is a significant marker in my life and so I mention it briefly because it fills my thoughts often. My previous posts have probably shown how important my church family has been to me. This church was really the first time I truly felt completely at home; with a church family that understood me and accepted me as I am, yet also challenged me to do things outside of my comfort zone so that I could grow. I learned how to step outside myself and serve others whether the homeless, those in drug/alcohol treatment, or those just coming out of human trafficking. I learned I could use my gifts, like singing, for more than just Sunday morning; that there are lots of ways to minister to people with music. As someone who often feels out of place in many social situations, at my church and with my church family, I felt completely okay being me. While I've stayed in touch with several people from my church since it dissolved in December, I already miss what was. While God could surprise me, I have a hard time believing I will ever find anything like it again. Usually I believe that the end of something brings us to even greater things. I'm still struggling to convince myself this is the case here. And while I'm talking a lot about myself since this blog is primarily about me, I am also heart broken for others who were impacted even more than me. I know I still have more to learn, I know God is not surprised my anything and has a great plan for me. I continue to pray about what that plan is.

That is the last year in a nutshell. Because I want this post to be short-ish, I didn't write about everything I've learned as a result of these events. But I will leave you with this.

God is good all the time. He has been with me throughout every up and down, and waits patiently for me in the moments I am a stubborn daughter and don't feel like talking to him. I may not know what His plan is for my future, but I do know He has one for me. I am stronger because He is my Lord and Savior. I have a purpose because He is my father and King. I am a daughter of the Most High God. In the ups and downs of life, this truth never changes. Do you know Him? Do you want to?  If so, please visit PeacewithGod.net.

~The Real Me

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Identity

I am convinced it is not a coincidence that I got a flat tire today.

The first reason is because I reached my financial goal on Friday of DEBT FREE!! I should have been looking for something financial to come up that would throw a dent in that.

And secondly, my first thought was to miss church and take care of the tire rather than waiting until after. I am thankful that my ride did not feel the same way. I needed to be at church tonight. God had a message he wanted me to hear.

In our women's group on Wednesday nights, we are doing a 5 week study on our identity in Christ. It's interesting that I am a table leader for this study because I am far from being a leader on this particular subject. Of all the things the Bible teaches about regarding our relationship with Christ, I probably struggle with my own personal identity in Christ the most. Oh, I believe it for everyone else, but for myself I find it is a struggle I wrestle with often.

Years ago, in college, I remember this struggle clearly. And on days where I need some help remembering my identity, I can still hear my sweet friend Christina's voice as she lifted up my chin and said "lift up your head, you are a daughter of the King."

Psalm 139 says God knows my every thought before I say it out loud. He sees everything about me. He knows me deeply and intimately because he created me. All of my days were ordained. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

These are beautiful words, but at the depths, they are hard to grasp. It's hard for me to see myself this way, or to imagine that God would. I see myself through the eyes of the world, and through the way I perceive others to see me.

Don't get me wrong, I acknowledge positive qualities in myself, I'm not saying I think I'm a bad person or worthless or anything like that. But if I'm being honest, in those deep places of my mind, I don't quite get it yet. How can God know the craziness of my thoughts and my selfish ways and still see me as wonderful. How does he see me as beautiful. And even when writing that, I feel guilty. Because that is like saying he created something imperfect, which I know he doesn't do. So I should see myself as beautiful and wonderful because He made me and He doesn't make mistakes.

And so it is a battle. Which means I need to be listening to messages like we had tonight. Messages that acknowledge that this battle exists.  Messages that remind me who I am in Christ. Messages that teach me how to put on the armor of God so that I can fight the battle and win. Messages that remind me who God is.

So my stupid tire didn't win tonight. I went to church anyway and heard the message I need to hear. Does it solve everything that is in my heart tonight, no. But joining with a group of ladies and learning about the Word of God helps to work a little deeper into believing the things God says about me. And equips me a little more to fight the battle.

This is the kind of week where the phase that makes the most sense is "The struggle is real."

Matthew West- Child of the One True King

-The Real Me

P

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Life...a Year Later

It's pretty amazing what a difference a year makes. I started this blog exactly one year ago. I didn't even plan this, I swear. 

Saturday was February 14th, that's right Valentine's Day. Before you switch the page because you can't stand to hear me complain again, it was a really good day. Not because I was with the man of my dreams or anything like that, but because I spent the day with friends that love me and was remembered by people who care about me. I have more people like that in my life than I deserve and I need to remember that during times when I am self-centered and whiny...which has pretty much been my mood for the past month. 

The last 6 weeks have been a bit of a tornado; both professionally and personally. Since the professional part is more fun, I will start with that.

Two weeks into the new year the director of my department called one of his famous meeting that no one wants to attend because it always means someone else from our work family is leaving. This time the leaving family member was him. Since then it has been a whirlwind of "structural changes". Change-that word that no one likes to hear, but this time, it has turned into a positive change for me. My direct manager was promoted to our new director and because of a current organization hiring freeze, this requires a significant department change...allowing for the promotion of three of us to supervisors. Starting yesterday I became the new Chat and Discipleship Ministry Supervisor for Internet Evangelism. I know that in the coming weeks...months...I will have a lot to learn, but I'm very excited and honored to lead this team. Supporting people, leading them, helping them succeed, is probably my favorite part of working on a team. I am excited to see how these changes impact our team (not just my change, but all the others too) and grow our ministry. 

On the other side, I'm still struggling through the personal side of my life. Frustrated sometimes with where I am at this point in my life. Lonely and insecure with myself. Struggling to understand or rather trust God's plan for my life. Making the best choices I think I can make and hoping I'm on the right track. But sometimes I just feel stuck, watching others move past. Part of me is hoping that when I move to my own place (happening soon) I will feel more establish, more settled. But another part of me knows that I must learn to be content no matter where I am. 

At the encouragement from one of my bible study leaders, I've started listening to an audio of John 15 from the Bible every night before bed. This is in place of my normal 30 minutes of love songs with Delilah. Listening to John 15 seems to be more beneficial for my head space. This chapter of John is packed with a whole lot to learn and I'm still working on it. Here are a few thoughts:

Verse 4: "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine."
     Trust- I must trust Jesus in order to remain in him. I cannot "bear fruit" or operate in God's goodness by myself. I can do nothing fruitful on my own. Sometimes I find myself feeling alone. In those moments I need to question myself...am I currently connected to the Vine? or am I going it alone? Too much independence is not always a good thing.

Verse 16: "You did not choose me, but "I chose you" and "appointed you" so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last..."
     God chose me. He appointed me. For a purpose. For HIS purpose. God help me to live out your purpose and the bear good fruit that will last beyond myself.

And because life is all about change...there have been changes at my church as well. Starting with the name. It's funny, you wouldn't think the change of a name would be a big deal, but I internally reacted a little more than I thought I would. But then again, when you think about it, names mean a lot to us. Take your last name, it more than just a name, it represents family. When a woman gets married she takes the name of her husband because she become a part of him. I started attending UpsideDown Church about a year and a half ago. The name referenced Acts 17:6 These who have turned the world upside down have come here too." The vision behind that name is what drew me to the church in the beginning. Reaching people in a real, relevant, and radical way. Outreach, loving change in our city. And once I joined, UpsideDown Church became my family. Now, realistically speaking, the vision of the church (to reach people) and my family, is not changing, but the name is. We are now Pathway Church of Charlotte "to point people to Jesus Christ, the only pathway leading to abundant and eternal life"; and I'm slowly embracing it. (I'm good with change most of the time, but not all of the time.) Other changes have come as well, but that is for another day.
Oceans (where feet may fail): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoZE2RsthRg&list=PLGzTpX4txyFD1-TbSZrRYNlShoiYzrnwA&index=6

Friday, January 30, 2015

My Heart As A Taylor Swift Song

If my heart was a Taylor Swift mash-up song it would go something like this:

And all I've seen
since 18 hours ago
is green eyes and freckles and your smile in the back of my mind making me feel right
I just want to know you better know

We are alone with our changing minds, 
We fall in love till it hurts or bleeds, or fades in time
And I never saw you coming, 
And I'll never be the same

Loving him is like trying to change your mind, 
Once you're already flying through the free fall
Like the colors in autumn, 
So bright just before they lose it all

I guess you didn't care and I guess I liked that, 
And when I fell hard, you took a step back, 
Without me
And I might be okay, but I'm not fine at all

I bet this time of night you're still up
I bet you're tired from a long hard week
I bet you're sitting in your chair by the window looking out at the city
And I hope sometimes you wonder about me

And I just wanna tell you it takes everything in me not to call you
And I wish I could run to you and I hope you know that
Every time I don't I Almost Do

In my dreams you're touching my face
And asking me if I wanna try again with you
And I Almost Do
And right before your eyes
I'm breaking
No past, no reasons why

All lyrics taken from the Taylor Swift "Red" album

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Welcoming 2015

I guess this will be the last post of 2014. This year has been a year of learning, joy, growth, and heartbreak several times over. But I survived and I'm a better person because of every situation. I have learned so much about myself. I'm thankful that I'm a work in progress, and I'm learning to allow myself the grace to be just that.

I started this blog in February and I'm so thankful that I did. It's been freeing to share my thoughts and feelings. It's also been terrifying at times. The are a few posts I'd love to take back, but I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't do that. I want to live a real and authentic life and so I don't filter my thoughts here. I believe through every embarrassing or awkward thought, I may be speaking something that someone else might need to hear.

Overall, 2014 was a pretty incredible year, and so I don't look at the start of 2015 as being a fresh start, but rather a continued opportunity to live the life God has blessed me with. Are there changes I'd like to make, yes. Are there dreams I'd like to fulfill, absolutely. I am thankful for what I've been through and excited for what is to come.

Some basic goals for 2015:

1) My 2014 "life song" was Brave by Sarah Bareilles. That was interesting to implement. I actually attempted to "say what I want to say" several times this year for better or worse. I can have a tendency to be shy..or fearful depending on how you look at it. The moments of bravery proved interesting at least. I'm not sure if it was always a good thing, but I learned some things. I'm thinking my 2015 song of the year might be "Shake it Off" by Taylor Swift.

2) Conquer the mental side of this weight loss thing. This year my job hired a health coach for employees. I have committed to meeting with her regularly to set goals and have some accountability. If I can work through the mental barriers, I'm confident weight loss goals will be met in 2015.

3) DEBT FREE IN 2015!!! It's looking like April. I'm so excited to complete this goal. It's something that's been hard, required me to make sacrifices, and I'm proud of what I'm about to accomplish.

4) Personal spiritual growth and a deeper relationship with God.

5) Leadership- goal for this year is to stop and think before reacting. I learned a lot this year about how to work with people that aren't as easy to work with. But I desire to get better at working through things while avoiding the initial negative reaction.

6) Self-worth- Make it a point to look my best in every situation. See myself how others see me and how God sees me.

I pray 2015 will be your best year and my best year yet!!! Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

In That Place Once Again

"So I wait. And I pray. And I wrestle. And I dream. And I hope. And I fear. And I wonder. How far away is my someday?"

I wrote this in a post from April. I found it while I was reviewing my 2014 posts. I am in this place once again. It hurts more than before.

How does it feel when you think you might have found that "someday" and it appears you are wrong again? For me it feels like I can't take a deep breath and there is a rock sitting in my throat making it hard to swallow. Tears randomly appear in my eyes and conversations play on repeat in my head. 

I will get through it, I always do. "Let's be friends" is the story of my life. But this time feels different. Because this time it wasn't forced. I was me all the time. I thought like me, I talked like me, I wasn't nervous or self-conscious. It was real. It didn't come all at once, but grew moment by moment. And I could see it, the future of what it could be. I can tell that he accepts me for who I am. And I cared for him more with every new thing I learned about him. I was honest. He was honest. Yet, once again I am wrong. How can one person be wrong so many times?

I was told once that "you'll know when it's right." I'm not sure I can believe that anymore. 

Most of what I feel, I still can't quite find words for. It will take some time but we will move forward. I will fake the confidence for a while and then we can still be friends. But right now it hurts and I can't do anything about it.

Lover All Alone -Clay Aiken

Maybe I've convinced myself I've really been in love
And I've been wrong all along
For all I know the feeling and the picture
That I've tried so hard to find isn't mine

Could be it's all just a waiting game
Wanna share my everything

And on my own it's hard to tell my heart it will be alright
This love it holds will one day find a home
As hard as love can be, it's harder still it seems
To be a lover all alone without love

Picking up the pieces makes me wonder if
I only built it all to watch it fall
And the faster it can go away it means the less of me
Has gone to stay and I'm okay

But a lonesome tomorrow comes anyway
I'm alone for another day, another day

And on my own it's hard to tell my heart it will be alright
That this love it holds will one day find a home
As hard as love can be, it's harder still it seems
To be a lover all alone without love

...

This is the closest expression of how I feel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WY69CiNfWok&list=PLGzTpX4txyFD1-TbSZrRYNlShoiYzrnwA&index=2


Christmas...Part Two

I spent a lot of December volunteering in several different ways. I don't share this out of pride, but because as I reflect on the last month, I realize that this Christmas has been more special to me than many that have come before.

If you followed my blog this year, you will know that the word love has been my life word for 2014. I started the year with a resolve to find out what it means to be loved by God and in turn express that love to others through action. While I still feel like I have so much more to learn, I do feel like I have gotten to know God's love for me in a more complete way. I also know that serving others and expressing God's love through action has been more real to me this year than ever before.

I could share a lot of stories of this fact from months gone by, but I really just want to share two that occurred the week before Christmas.

Even though my schedule was already pretty full, I was in search of some real Christmas tradition. Things that reminded me of my youth when Christmas was magical. I've always loved Christmas, and this year I was in search of that thing that would light up my eyes and heart like a Christmas tree. I found that particular thing when a friend told me that his church still does Christmas caroling every year and invited me to participate. I realize for most people, this would not cause a jumping up and down with excitement kind of moment, but I love singing, I love Christmas carols, and I love seeing the joy on people's faces in the moment when you walk up to their house and start singing of the birth of our Savior. I remember doing this a few times as a kid...I don't think it meant as much to me then, but it is something I knew I had to be a part of.

This church does Christmas caroling right! I was impressed with the organization and participation. I was impressed that this is a steep tradition that several church members take part in. I was heartened by the family atmosphere and the understanding of importance this small gesture is to those who have given their lives in service to their church but who can no longer attend as they once did. You see, we weren't just caroling to random houses on random streets...but to church members who are too ill attend church on their own. Church members who were children's leaders or choir members. People who have made the church what it is today. While I was an active participant in the caroling (a-wassailing if you will), since I was a stranger to everyone there, it gave me a backseat role to observe. It was touching, and it reminded me that this is what celebrating Christmas is all about. Spreading the love of God and reminding people that HE loves THEM. I feel honored to have had the opportunity.

Since April my life group spends one night a month having our meeting with several ladies at the Dove's Nest (a recovery program connected to the Charlotte Rescue Mission). Before we started doing this, I had not really heard of the Dove's Nest before, I didn't know what it was, or what it means for the people who live there. These ladies have impacted my life this year. Spending time with them has become one of my favorite Monday's of the month. They are loving, sweet, determined ladies who have great futures ahead of them. This past Monday we got to celebrate Christmas with them. Each month the ladies of my life group have taken turns leading the devotions and activities using their own special God given gifts. A little unsure of myself or what I have to offer, I had yet to lead anything. Then, last month, one of the Dove's Nest ladies in visiting our church realized that I sing and requested that we do that sometime while we are with them. So, stepping out of the little shell I like to retreat to, I decided I would do a song for Christmas and volunteered myself to do just that. But a song is just a song unless there is meaning behind it, and as we planned the rest of the time, I was really feeling there was a special message God had for me to share. The song that came to me was Breath of Heaven, and the message that followed loudly in my head was the power of the Holy Spirit. "Breath of Heaven, hold me together. Be forever near me, Breath of Heaven. I am frightened by the load I bare. In a world as cold as stone, I walk this path alone. Help me be strong." The Holy Spirit IS breath from heaven. He is what helps us through, He is what walks our path with us holding us close and keeping us strong. He is the same Holy Spirit that the Bible says overshadowed Mary during her pregnancy with Jesus. (See part one of this blog for full devotion). Not only was this message fitting to me this week as I walked through some personal struggle, but more so I believe it was a direct word to someone in that group of ladies. I pray she heard it, I pray she understood God was drawing her to himself...whoever she was. Sharing life and love mutually as women...this is what Christmas is all about.

I am continually reminded that I am blessed beyond measure. I have three families that love me; my work family, my church family, and my birth family. All are special to me in so many ways. This Christmas I praise God for the love that he gives here on earth that reflects His love for all His children.